Seven years ago Fran and Alex were very much in love. Yet because Alex was only a younger son with no prospects to speak of, Fran’s family pressured her into breaking the engagement and marrying a rich, titled man instead. Filled with bitterness, Alex left England for the New World.
Now he is back, more dangerous and more cynical than ever before. He has found fame and fortune as an adventurer, traveling the world from America to the Near East and writing about his travels for Allan’s Miscellany. He has come to London to drum up interest for his friend’s archeological excavations. Soon, he finds himself the darling of London society, admired by men, wooed by women.
Fate has not been so kind to Fran. After a disastrous marriage, which has left her with deep emotional and physical scars, she is widowed and now lives in genteel poverty.
By chance, Alex and Fran’s paths cross again. They have both changed so much, and past betrayals and past hurts still divide them. So surely there can be no second chance for their love…
About the Author
Evading a carriage, Alex dashed through the rain across the slippery road and towards the entrance door, where he collided with another damp person. And a lady at that.
Damn impolite, Crenshaw.
“I do beg your—“
The lady looked up, hazel eyes widened with surprise, and as their gazes met, he felt as if she had punched him in the gut.
Tendrils of sodden auburn hair had escaped from under her widow’s bonnet and clung to her cheek. In contrast to the evening before, her skin now glowed rosy, and indeed, she almost looked like the girl he had known.
His insides clenched unpleasantly.
Gritting his teeth, he inclined his head. “Lady Clifford.” Which made him sound like a fool—a fool who stood gaping in the rain at that! “Frances,” he said and opened the door for her, indicating she should proceed him inside.
It gave him opportunity to assemble his scrambled thoughts.
And to study the neat indentation of her waist in the tight-fitting black pelisse she was wearing.
“I am most sorry I nearly bowled you over just now,” he said once they were inside the shop. He felt strangely reluctant to just let her slip away, even though that would have been much safer for his peace of mind, of course.
Not that he had ever behaved wisely around this woman. So why start now? he wryly asked himself.
She brushed raindrops from the sleeves of her pelisse, brushed at the wetness on the skirt of her pelisse and her dress, and seemed rather reluctant to meet his eyes. When she finally did look up, the rosy hue on her cheeks had deepened—whether from embarrassment or from the warmth inside the shop, he couldn’t tell.
A smile trembled around her lips. “Don’t think anything of it,” she said softly. “We were both eager to reach somewhere dry.”
As if she had suddenly become aware of what she was doing—smiling at him—the smile abruptly disappeared and she looked away again. She hugged her middle with one arm and rubbed her other hand over her wrist.
She looked…weary. And uncertain. Surely some degree of embarrassment was to be expected when one bumped into the man whom one had jilted seven years before in favor of a far richer man, but…
Suddenly her hand fluttered up to her chest, hovered there for a heartbeat or two, before, with a small sigh, she let the hand fall down to her side.
He had known the old Frances Harrington. Indeed, once he would have readily agreed that he knew her better than any other person in this world. Miss Frances Harrington wouldn’t have avoided his gaze; she would have fearlessly faced the challenge this surprise meeting presented.
This woman, by contrast, was so evasive and self-contained it was scary to think she used to be that other Frances Harrington, the girl he had known.
Last night he had already noticed that Lady Clifford held herself back and kept to the background.
What the devil, he asked himself, had happened to Frances Harrington?
Award-winning author Sandra Schwab started writing her first novel when she was seven years old. Thirty-odd years later, telling stories is still her greatest passion, even though by now she has exchanged her pink fountain pen of old for a black computer keyboard. Since the release of her debut novel in 2005, she has enchanted readers worldwide with her unusual historical romances.
She holds a PhD in English literature and lives in Frankfurt am Main / Germany with a sketchbook, a sewing machine, and an ever-expanding library. Her new series about the fictional magazine Allan’s Miscellany combines her academic research on Victorian periodicals with her love for story-telling.
Honestly, I didn’t know what to think when I picked this book to read. I had never even heart of Ms. Schwab until now. Big mistake, huge mistake on my part. I adored this book. Everything about it. In fact, don’t be scared that it’s a series. It stands on its own. No need to read the others. But of course now I will read the first 3 in the series just because I loved the time period and Ms. Schwab’s writing. She did her research and it shows.
Plus, I loved the title of the book. Devil’s Return…sounds like the biggest rake but he wasn’t written that way. I loved him. Sure he got dumped by Frances and then he left England to become the writer/explorer but deep down he still had feelings for her. And then when he found out what really happened to her during his years abroad? He wasn’t a douche. He cared and went to find out himself.
Frances was a great character too. Written with so much emotional depth that at one point, I really wanted to slap her sister upside her head. Such hatred for Frances despite what she had gone through. I’m glad though that Frances brother-in-law took up for a her a bit. She didn’t deserve the treatment from her sister that way.
I won’t give away what Frances endured but let’s just say it was horrible. I can’t imagine having to go through that. Plus, her love for Alex never died.
If you are looking for a great historical read about a second chance romance, Devil’s Return is for you. It’s a sweet romance and a look at how medical practices have changed from “medieval” as Bones from Star Trek would say to what we take for granted now.