A Lord Apart by Jane Ashford
Though this is the second in a series, it can absolutely be read as a standalone, since there’s only one character really in common with the first book. There’s some intriguing themes explored here about the different types of abuse a person can suffer; Daniel, while never physically abused and always receiving food and shelter, was completely ignored and unloved by his only relatives, his parents. Now they’re gone and he’s inherited a viscountcy he’s utterly unprepared to manage. Stranger still, part of his legacy has been left to a complete stranger, and neither he nor Penelope Pendleton have any idea why she’s been willed Rose Cottage.
For Penelope, the inheritance is a lifeline. Running afoul of the government because of her brother’s seditious activities and left penniless after his death, she’s grateful just to have a home. She and Daniel become wary friends first before the relationship gradually becomes more.
There were some really poignant moments as Daniel in particular had to unpack his feelings about his parents, and some revelations uncovered which changed some of the things he felt about his parents but ultimately didn’t negate the way he was actually treated, a point which was emphasized and really struck a chord with me - you might feel you have good reasons for doing something, but your reasons don’t really matter all that much to the person who got hurt by your actions. And in the end, we don’t always get closure. Sometimes, all we can do it move forward, vowing to be better than those who came before and learn from their mistakes, and that’s the path Penelope and Daniel ultimately have to take.
This is no fairy tale, despite the requisite happy ending. It’s a story of two people with difficult pasts finding in each other both comfort and a path forward. All of this leads to a story which feels very real and honest, despite the historical setting, and I have no hesitation at all in giving it five stars and recommending it as a thoroughly engrossing read.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.