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Publisher's Summary

Known as the despair of the Davenports, Reginald is a disinherited, disgraced alcoholic who is headed for a bad end - that is until the new Earl of Wargrave gives him one last chance at redemption by letting him take his place as the heir of Strickland, his lost ancestral estate.

Masquerading as a man in order to obtain a position as estate manager of Strickland, Lady Alys Weston came to Strickland after having fled her home, her wealth, and her title due to betrayal and despair. She vowed never to trust another man, but when the new owner appears, his dangerous masculinity threatens everything Alys holds dear, awakening a passion that she thought she would never feel again - a passion that will doom or save them both.

©1998 Mary Jo Putney (P)2017 Dreamscape Media, LLC

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At Last: A Worthy Narrator for this MJP Classic!

Fabulous. If you like this book, I highly recommend this audio version by Mark Meadows. If you haven't yet read this book, ditto. It's one of the classic historical romances of all time.

Alys Weston is running from her past, and Reggie Davenport is fleeing his future. Fate brings them together on Reggie’s Dorset estate, Strickland.

It’s uncommon, to say the least, for a woman to be an estate steward, yet Alys has been able to pull off that job for four years, communicating with the absentee owner in writing. When Reggie’s cousin, the new owner, gives the estate over to Reggie, Alys sees her idyll coming to an end. Yet, when the so-called despair of the Davenports arrives at Strickland, he proves to be surprisingly open-minded and impressed by Alys’s success; he keeps her on as the steward.

Reggie is a rake of the first order, but more than that, he’s a drunkard who, at the age of thirty-seven, has begun to suffer blackouts. Even he has become convinced that his life is on a dangerous trajectory; a voice in his head keeps telling him, “This way of life is killing you.” He believes that Strickland may be his salvation.

Alys and Reggie gradually become friends, and though they are attracted to one another, nothing more than a few kisses are exchanged. When a fire destroys the steward’s house, Alys and her three young wards move into the main house, and Reggie begins to know the joys of a family for the first time in his life.

But Reggie’s real problem is his drinking, and a great deal of this story revolves around his efforts to first get it under control and later to stop altogether. It’s heartbreaking to watch him try and fail and try again.

Mary Jo Putney does an excellent job portraying the inner demons that plague Reggie, and at the same time, she doesn’t succumb to the temptation that some writers might feel to make his recovery all about his love for Alys. Reggie is getting sober for himself, not for someone else. And while Putney does lapse into a bit of AA one-day-at-a-time-speak occasionally, she is able to keep the story from sounding too modern.

Although Reggie is the star of the book, Alys makes a wonderful heroine. She is intelligent, capable, and a fierce guardian of her young wards. Indeed, she’s so busy running things that she doesn’t even realize how attractive she is. But Reggie does, from the first moment they meet when she is wearing breeches whose close fit drives him to distraction.

There are plenty of humorous moments, an engaging cast of secondary characters, and a couple of secondary romances. And I particularly enjoyed how Putney handles the epilogue: after Reggie and Alys marry, the other characters are shown reacting to the news, wrapping the whole story up quite nicely.

I first read this book several years ago, when I was new to historical romance, picking it because of its high Goodreads ratings, its having won the RITA in 1990, and its ranking in All About Romance’s Top 100 romances of all time. All these accolades are well and truly deserved.

Now, at long last, an audio version has been released, read by a veteran but new-to-me narrator, Mark Meadows. I had been told that he is in the Nicholas Boulton/Alex Wyndham league, and those of you who regularly read my reviews know what that means. He is really good! Meadows perfectly captures Reggie's weariness with life, as well as his growing feelings of hope as his demons recede. Meadows also is excellent with female and children’s voices, as well as the Dorset dialects. His performance is so good, it’s easy for the listener to forget that there is only one person performing all of the parts. He has more than seventy audio titles to his credit, but this is the only historical romance. I can only hope that other romance authors use him for their books in future.

Whether reading or listening, this book is one that all historical romance aficionados should experience. I would give it ten stars if I could.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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A 10 star book

This is my first book by Mary Jo Pitney and I am now a die hard fan. Amazing storytelling, superb writing and a very well developed storyline and character design are some of the qualities displayed here. I do hope you purchase and enjoy yourself by getting lost in this fascinating tale of insecurities, dependencies and love.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • A.
  • Merritt Island, FL, United States
  • 07-21-17

Enjoyable read

It was a fun read. Great lesson in controlling Reggie's alcoholism. Just seeing him work thru that problem was worth the read.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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overall quite good

good story and likeable characters. reader a little distracting with long pauses at the wrong times.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Sweet Story. Great Narration.

The love story between the secretive Lady Alys Weston and the alcoholic rake Reginald Davenport was a surprisingly sweet, almost innocent tale. That Mary Jo Putney was able to make an alcholic both a sympathetic and likable character is pretty impressive. And the two lead characters have really interesting back stories that help explain how two seemingly opposite people come to have so much in common. Like all good romance novels, this book features more than one subplot to help keep the reader's interests.

Mark Meadows did an excellent job as narrator. I readily admit that I don't normally like male narrators for novels. But Meadows truly brought these characters to life.

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Perfect.

One of the best historical romances that I’ve read. Utter perfection. First class writing and narration.

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what a great story

I am so glad I happened upon this story. I have found a new author to follow and of course the narrator was brilliant.. enjoy

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Wonderfully intricate story!

What I love about Ms Putney's books are the richness of the characters, and the well-developed intricacies of the storyline. I also appreciate the fact that her stories are not inundated with a barrage of fowl, irreverent language and fraudulently placed gratuitous physical encounters for the sake of having them; rather they are appropriate, meaningful and captivating.
This story was wonderfully narrated in a way that made you feel the characters were alive and right in front of you.
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