Robert is nothing if not complicated, and though he is the brother of a viscount, he rarely goes about society, and finds the weather and hat fashions ludicrous subjects for discussion. Robert is attracted to Lucinda's unpretentious ways, her serenity and her kindness. When she chooses someone for her love lessons, Robert offers to help her deliver her lessons, but sets out to convince the woman he has fallen for to take a chance on love ... and on him.
As much as I liked "The Rake" and "London's Perfect Scoundrel", this story was my absolute favorite. Robert exemplifies all that is the tortured hero, and my heart went out to him time and again throughout the series, but especially during this story, when we finally find out what happened to him while he was at war. After returning home, he was never the same, and everyday was a struggle to keep the dark panic at bay. In his mind, it would have been better if he had died.
Lucinda has her life all planned out. She decides which gentleman she would like to teach her lessons to: Lord Geoffrey Newcombe. She already knows that he would make her the perfect husband, thinking him handsome, amiable, and comfortable. The practical Lucinda is quite content to have a safe, uncomplicated marriage, and Geoffrey is exactly the type of man she's looking for. And the fact that her father, the General, heartily approves of him makes him even more of an ideal catch. Things are progressing nicely, and even the unlikely attentions of Robert Carroway, who has offered to help her carry out her lessons, seem to be helping her cause. Geoffrey begins to see Robert as "the competition", and is more attentive than ever.
Robert has been in darkness for several years. After returning from the war and the horrific acts he's witnessed there, he is like the walking dead. Even his own family, who are deeply concerned about him, cannot break through the wall of silence he erects whenever they try to get him to talk about what happened. The only soothing thing in his life is Lucinda. For some reason, this young woman makes him forget about his constant nightmares, and to be in her presence is like basking in the sun; she is warm, alive, and the only person who doesn't act like he'll break down at any moment.
I loved watching Robert and Lucinda together. She brought out a softer yet also a more daring side of him. She challenges him without trying, and he finds himself reacting to this need he has to prove himself to her. Robert is as complicated as you could get, the total opposite of the type of man she wishes to marry, but when she's with him, everything else disappears. Even the perfect Geoffrey pales in comparison. As for Robert, it's Lucinda's practical and matter-of-fact nature that helps to heal Robert moreso than her sympathy. Robert can be himself around her, can argue with her and kiss her, and still know she'll be his friend, no matter what. This knowledge allows him to do all the things he's been avoiding for the last several years, and finally rejoin society and start living again.
Of course just as things are going so well, Robert's past comes back to haunt him, and could potentially damage Lucinda and her father in the process. They both try to do what's best for everyone and stay away from each other, but realize that they would rather fight this together than apart. Love is like that.
If you've not read this book, or the previous two, I encourage you to do so, especially if you love historicals. Simple, straightforward, lovely romances. That was what I was looking for, and thankfully that's exactly what I got in return. Yes the source of Robert's trouble was incredibly predictable - not a lot of mystery and subterfuge here - but that's a minor point when compared to my overall reading enjoyment. I'm a big believer in comfort reads of all kinds, in this case that of the "knowing what to expect" angle. Nothing wrong with that. Not all predictable reads are exactly likable, but that's not the case here. I liked each one, more than the last. I'd definitely give Suzanne Enoch's books another try.