Publish date December 2017
Mass Market Paperback $ 7.99 (Currently on sale $5.98); E-book $6.99
The first book in The Spinster Heiresses series, If Ever I Should Love You, is a story of two people reunited after several years apart. I voraciously read this through this the first time and had mixed feelings about the lead characters. With this is mind, I re-read Roman and Leonie’s story again. This time around my feelings solidified into something worth talking about.
The reader enters the story with Roman inheriting the title of Earl of Rochdale and all the encumbrances which go with it, in this case a mountain of debt from the previous Earl. Naturally, one needs to marry money to get out of said debt. With only a few choices for a quick infusion of cash, the name of an heiress Roman used to know comes up, and he decides quickly this will be the heiress for him.
Roman is the quintessential man of honor; tall, handsome and mysterious; intriguing due to the rumors of a past indiscretion which stalled his military career. While Leonie, to the outside world, is the perfect debutant, with the exception of her ‘exotic’ looks and rumored history of leading two mean to dueling over her. Maxwell has Roman describe Leonie as “mercurial”, and “the mind of barrister”. Thankfully, in true Maxwell style, Leonie’s personality stays with this description throughout the book, forming a formidable female character despite a disastrous, life-changing event when she was 17 years old. I prefer for the reader to find this out themselves, so I won’t mention the event, but let’s say ‘the event’ was brought to the reader’s attention delicately, meaningfully, and for Leonie– poignantly.
At the tender age of 17, Leonie also learned to overcome the event by ‘taking a nip’ of brandy [or any other spirit]. During the first reading, I wasn’t sure I liked considering her an alcoholic, as Leonie isn’t a stereotypical drunk the the way we know being an alcoholic is today; she takes a sip here or there, but not full swigs of alcohol which deaden all senses, but enough to ‘take the edge off’ from her rising fears. During the second reading, I was much more sympathetic to Leonie’s plight, finding her a well rounded character whose struggles are real; a woman who must learn to fight her cravings when faced with fear, shame, or disappointments.
Roman’s character during the first reading I thought was a little too perfect [and I thought he thought so too]–which annoyed me. Yet, during the second reading, Roman’s flaws showed up in a back-handed way. While Roman means to do no harm by helping the young Leonie, in reality, he inadvertently stunts her emotional growth; meeting with the older Leonie, he’s more like a bully in the way he steamrolls over her wants/desires. In Roman’s mind, he’s the sucker for falling for Leonie all over again and can’t keep from loving her [and forgiving her], yet he holds Leonie to a standard she can’t reach (for me, this was bully behavior).
Leonie’s struggle with alcohol is real, and Maxwell does an excellent job writing Leonie’s plight, recognition, and struggle to overcome her dependence on spirits. What redeems Roman for me is his family; when Roman opens up to his stepfather, David, about Leonie’s drinking problem, I love that David gently reprimands Roman by saying “you may have unwittingly given her a burden that she has found too great to bear.” YES! From this moment on, I’m more in ‘like’ with Roman as his words and demeanor toward Leonie changes from selfish prig, to a caring, supportive husband.
If you’ve read this book and had mixed feelings about it, I’d recommend reading it again–slowly, as Maxwell’s depth of characters for If Ever I Should Love You is deep. If you’ve not read this book–I highly recommend you do as there is substance in this work.