The second book in Anne Gracie’s Devil Riders series is the story of Harry Morant and Lady Helen “Nell” Freymore. Though born in wedlock to a housemaid and village blacksmith, Harry is actually the biological son of a cold, cruel Earl and known throughout the ton as his bastard. Tossed aside as a child and callously used by the ladies of the ton as a man, he yearns for a family of his own but has no interest in love. He has known love’s betrayal and has no desire to experience it again. When Harry first encounters Nell in a rainy forest no words are spoken but through his kindness and with their eyes, much is said. She is huddled on the back of a cart; soaked, muddy and exhausted from a futile search for something precious that was stolen from her and from the death of her father, after his stunning betrayal. When next they meet, Nell is reeling from being told that she is homeless and penniless, her entire heritage having been gambled away by her late father. Harry, who coincidentally has bought her home from a London law firm and plans to use it to realize his dream of breeding and training thoroughbred racehorses thinks to offer employment to this young woman who has captivated him but inexplicably finds himself asking her to marry him instead. She, of course, refuses him, both because she is certain the offer has been made out of pity and because she is desperate to seek a way to return to London and continue her search. Fate intervenes once again with a chance encounter in Bath. Harry is determined to not let Nell walk out of his life and, with his aunt’s help, sets about convincing her that she needs him to take care of her and help her in her secret quest. By this time the two are beginning to fall in love with one another though, because of their pasts, neither recognizes the feelings for what they are. Nell has never known unselfish love and has been betrayed by her irresponsible father, the one person who was supposed to love and protect her but in his misguided attempt to help her has ripped her heart to shreds. She is leery of men, for reasons known only to her and, of course, there is her secret – a scandalous secret she is sure will turn Harry away from her.
I have already read this book twice and I know I’ll return to it again and again. Anne Gracie has created a deeply emotional, at times heart-wrenching, journey for these two people who must learn to trust one another with their deepest feelings and darkest fears. I cried when Nell finally shared her secret with Harry but I rejoiced at the gentleness and understanding in his response. My heart shattered when Harry wasn’t able to protect Nell from the worst heartbreak a woman can know but I trusted Gracie to guide them through the heartbreak to a place where they were both whole, and healed, and able to, finally, know the beauty, strength and pure light of love, and she didn’t let me down. Villains are vanquished, old wrongs are righted, families long torn asunder are finally mended and a miracle brings joy and hope to all. An array of secondary characters, many of whom were introduced in The Stolen Princess, only added to the pleasure of the story and, as a bonus, seamlessly woven throughout the chapters of Harry and Nell’s book is a sweet courtship involving two of my favorite secondary characters from this series.
His Captive Lady will be released September 2, 2008. I highly recommend it.