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Seven Nights to Forever by Evangeline Collins

Friday, November 04, 2011

Seven Nights to Forever

Evangeline Collins
Historical Romance
Published in 2010

H/h - James Archer/Rose Marlowe
Setting: London, 1819.

Read in Nov, 2011.
My rating:

                                                                      [spoiler alert]

I’m not a huge fan of mistress/courtesan heroines and if she’s a very seasoned one, like been-with-hundreds-of-men type, I don't really connect well with her. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman and I don’t condone prostitution. Rose was someone like that. I had troubles connecting with her, too, yet I appreciated her courage and the fact that she wasn’t as jaded and hopeless after such a long time. James was every girl’s man of dream type guy and I simply adored him. He was so nice and good, what can I say, he was kind, responsible, very compromising yet understanding, always thinking about his family. He was a commoner and a hard worker to boot! His troubles in life only made me sad, that a man like him is suffering so for no reason at all. This book, like Her Ladyship’s Companion, deals with infidelity, something I totally hate but there were reasons behind it and you just CAN’T fault the H/h for falling for each-other in the end.

James married an aristocratic, cold b*tch because his father wanted him to. He was thinking of his only younger sister, whom he loves very much. He’d do anything to help her way in society. James own a workhouse that deals with ships bringing in various materials. And yes, he’s filthy rich. But that doesn’t matter to the Ton people so he’s not really welcome anywhere, not even with an aristocratic wife. His wife, the slutty b*tch, can’t stand him, thinks of him as dirt; something so loathsome that she can’t bring out a word that isn’t utterly vile and biting towards James and his station in life. Yet she married him, a marriage of convenience, to save her lord of a father from humongous debt, with a promise to help Rebecca, James’s sister, a smooth intro into the Ton society. From their wedding breakfast, the b*tch made sure that James never try to consummate the marriage and then proceeded to take lovers after lovers and show them off to humiliate James, to remind him how beneath her he is. She also made him promise to never to take a mistress or go to a brothel or else Rebecca will never see the ‘polite’ society ever in her life. It’s like James has to stay true to the marriage and in the process show that he wants her but she doesn’t give sh*t about him. I mean I want to kill the b*tch! I was so mad every time she opened her mouth to James and made all sorts of biting, snide comments. James, thinking of Rebecca and their father, never talked back, instead buried himself into his work. They only act as husband-wife when they’re in a ball or something so that no one guesses the truth of their marriage and it’s mostly because of the b*tch’s convenience. But after 3 years of being true to such a sham of a marriage, it’s become too much to deny the physical need anymore. One night, after coming out of his warehouse where he spends almost all day (sometimes even nights), he decides to pay a visit to Madame Rubicon’s fashionable brothel, which he sees everyday on his way home. We’ve already met Rubicon and her brothel in His Ladyship’s Companion so it was quite interesting for me to visit the place again. After debating, then feeling guilty and a bit apprehensive at the same time, James finally gives in and promises himself it’s just for one night. Rubicon welcomes him with a broad smile, promptly understanding that he’s wealthy, if not an aristocrat. Money is everything here and she does promise her clients quality service and goods! So, as per James’s request of a dark haired, not so thin-type woman, Rubicon can only think of the most sought after girl in her brothel, Rose. James doesn’t know what to expect but Rubicon informs him she’s an incomparable with her beauty, charm and skills and she comes quite costly to say the least. But James doesn’t care, as long as he gets whatever it is he’s wanting. I say ‘whatever’ because he thinks he wants sex but inside he’s still not sure if he wants to get on with it. I so understood his dilemma. He wasn’t the sort of man who takes his marriage vows lightly, never frequented brothels like the other men. Rubicon gives him a glimpse of Rose through a hidden hole in a hidden corridor. One look and James can’t breathe. She’s everything he’s ever wanted and then some more so he agrees to her services. So Rubicon leads him to Rose and makes an introduction. James is kinda tongue-tied at first but soon, they talk and talk... hold hands and talk about mundane things which leaves Rose, who’s very unused to a man (maybe never) just wants her companionship and nothing else, completely baffled and a bit awed as well.

Rose has been doing this from quite an young age after her father died leaving her and her younger brother Dash a teenager, in huge debt. She had beauty and grace, with education but a lot of money was needed at that moment without anyone to help them. Dash’s guardian, her uncle, lives in America and being a jacka$$ and a spendthrift like their father, she knew he’d be of no help. So she went to London to do the only thing that would bring her loads of money in a short time. Umm, I didn’t like it of course but that’s how her life as a mistress started. After two protectors, where one was married so she left him after finding out the truth. The other used to physically assault her in anger, she decides she won’t be a mistress anymore. Then she came to Rubicon and made contracts with her; 7 nights of each month in her own reserved room. Her patrons would be wealthy people who could pay the exorbitant price of her services. In return, Rubicon would give her safety (she needed it for running away from the 2nd protector) and cater to her whims. Rose has proven to be worthy to Rubicon over the years. She’s always on schedule every month and men don’t leave unhappy after being with her. The other 3 weeks, Rose would tend to her country house, the Paxton Manor and pay bills that include Dash’s own expensive ones. Every month he’ll have this or that made, like any young buck who knows he’s got an inheritance. So, yes, Rose never told a young Dash, who worshipped their father, the truth of his inheritance. She paid his bills of Eaton and now in Oxford too. She gives him allowances and saving financially ever encumbered Paxton Manor because it’ll be Dash’s someday. Dash never asked her anything taking it all for granted, thinking all the money is coming from his inheritance. I mean, wow. I couldn’t believe it! That was so over the top! She’d whore herself (and still doing so) to let her brother live the life he’s supposed to live? WOW! So now that he’s 18, I didn’t like that she was still coddling him, never letting him know, never discussing the fact, hoping that he’ll never ever know. I had questions, like, even though Dash didn’t frequent London, wasn’t she scared that someday he’ll walk through the red double doors of the Rubicon’s and see her there? When the story starts, Dash already left Oxford and was planning to stay in London. He’s started gambling (which at first, Rose suspects) and buying more and more expansive things such as new carriages and so on. Rose would find it extremely difficult, both physically and mentally, to go through the ledgers, knowing there might never be a day when she’ll find that money isn’t as immediate a necessary as it is now. Her father’s debts are already paid and now it’s Dash. So, she’s back again, this month even though she loathes every minute of it and Rose knows there’s nothing to be done about it anymore.

Now, this stranger is so very different from the other men she’d serviced. Rose can’t quite believe it. She guesses correct that this man might be married, albeit unhappily and not someone to cheat easily. Her instincts tell her to stay away from him but something inside her gives in. he’s tall, dark, big and handsome. It’s fairly seen that he’s used to with manual work, yet if he’s secured her services, he must be very wealthy. Though Rose at first tries to encourage him (as her routine) to take it to the next level, she soon understood he won’t, not yet. Then she begins liking their conversations. The 1st night it’s only talk, holding hands. It felt so marvelous and so... natural. She was hoping she’d see him again. The next evening, James is quite distracted at work (something that never happened to him) and can’t help thinking of Rose. Though he knows what she does as a living, James has no ill thought towards her. He likes her a lot, as plain and simple. He wants to go back and he does. Rose, for the 1st time in her courtesan life, doesn’t dread the evenings anymore. Soon enough they kiss and touch after Rose gives James a good body message (a scene I loved). On the 3rd day, James asks her to accompany him to Serpentine, a place Rose said she loved to visit in the odd hours (when many aristocrats aren’t seen). Reluctantly, Rose agrees because she still is a bit traumatized by the abuse she’d suffered in her 2nd protector’s hands. It’s not really explored in details but little musings from Rose’s POV. Rose also, it seems, can’t say ‘no’ to James. Everytime she hesitated, James’s eyes would cloud with rejection and hurt. Having some idea of what kind of a man he is, I could totally believe Rose’s unwillingness to hurt him. I totally loved this from her, that she knew James needed her (of course, she too).

In the darkness, near Serpentine, is where they first make love. I loved it so much, how Rose was unwilling at first because she didn’t have any protection and James keep saying, do you trust me? The next day, as Rebecca arrived for her season and James had to accompany her and his wife to some ball, he was late. Rose was hurt, thinking he wouldn’t return now that he’s gotten what he wanted. She is truly heartbroken. She retires for the night begging off sickness. James does come late at night, only to be denied. He’s pretty sure Rose’s with someone else and knowing how illogical it is, he’s still mad angry and jealous. The next day, Rose was heavy hearted knowing she’ll never see James again, with all sorts of confusing thoughts going through her mind. But James comes to her, giving Rubicon a hefty some of money in exchange for 3 consecutive nights with her. She is very happy to see him, yet notices that he’s clearly unhappy. Well, you’ll have to read the book to know what she did to make James lose control (something thoroughly naughty, the poor guy didn’t stand a chance :p). Then she confesses she wasn’t with anyone else and James tells her what happened. And then, for the next few days (as long as Rose’s here), it’s like heaven for both of them. James can’t get enough of Rose and returns for it while she can’t help but hoping for something more from this illusion, knowing how impossible that is. As I said, Rose wasn’t that jaded. She still had those young girl’s dreams alive inside her and James’s is the type of guy every girl hope to find, except stupid sluts like his wife that is.

In between we meet Timothy, a male prostitute of Rubicon’s place who has a dark choice when it comes to catering his clients. And he services to both male and female apparently. He’s very good-looking and a good friend to Rose. There’s nothing more than that. Timothy helps Rose to investigate what Dash’s been up to in London, and soon she finds out what she’d been suspecting so far. She sees Dash in his apartments but he’s rude to her when she starts asking questions. She and Timothy once meet Rebecca and James in Hyde Park. Rose can’t suppress her joy seeing him and James did introduce her to Rebecca. Anyway, Timothy did play a good role in the later parts of James and Rose’s relationship. I also suspected that he harbored some kind of feelings for Rose. Then as Rose’s time in the brothel ends, she informs James she can’t see him. James, at first, misunderstands but she explains her schedule to him. James realizes now why Rubicon didn’t agree to the week he’d proposed originally to be with Rose. Then he asks Rose to come away with him for a week to a country manor he owns and from all information I gathered, a place he treasured above all; a place where he’d retire from time to time to escape the realities of his life. Only Rebecca has been in Honey House and no one else. Rose at first hesitates but James was desperate to spend more times with her so he throws in a large amount of money. Against all the surfacing guilt and Dash’s debts looming over her head, Rose agrees. But of course, I didn’t believe she agreed only for the money. She wanted to be with James and didn’t want to hurt him. She also agrees to James’s other propositions for new dresses and so on. Timothy was a bit worried about her but Rose assures him she trusted James wholeheartedly.

On the day of their journey, while talking to Rebecca, James kinda gives away his secret. He knows his wife can’t know about it, neither do Rebecca. But, his sister doesn’t mind as she’d already seen through the façade of his marriage. Soon he and Rose are off to their destination. Though Rose had some apprehension as to how the small staff of Honey House would look at her, soon she realizes her worry has been for naught. And their stay there is idyllic... almost that is. The nights are spend with hot steamy love making but at daylight, Rose can’t help falling a little hard for James and all the conflicting thoughts come rushing in. The futility of their situation is too glaring, I wasn’t sure too, how this will resolve, just as Rose. And for all his kindness, James never said he felt anything deeper than lust for her. Then there were little misunderstandings, stemming from their vulnerabilities and a fear of rejection from both sides. James was more vulnerable and showed it more often yet I couldn’t help but feel like hugging him tight. One occasion was when Rose did something special for him, James can’t help but think of her former clients. He can’t help but be jealous and possessive and ended up being a jerk to her. Also there’s this yearning from both sides, to be each-others ‘first’ and then feel frustrated, knowing how useless this wish is. But no matter what, they’d work on it together and I liked that they didn’t let anything keep them from taking this little peace of heavenly existence they shared for such a short time. Love scenes were hot as usual, with us seeing a very carefree and sexy side of James that only Rose can bring out. And then, one day, after 4/5 days together, when she and James were talking in study, James mentions his talk with Rebecca as one of her letters arrive. He clumsily slips that it was uncomfortable to talk to her about this but I didn’t think it was intentional from his side. But this struck a hard and discordant chord in Rose’s mind, to show her glaringly how not perfect their relationship is and what she really is to him. One of their contracts for these seven days that Rose can leave anytime she wants to. And she makes use of that, deciding to leave at that moment. James is totally taken aback, not knowing what went wrong. Oh, I couldn’t but be sad for them both. He’s hurt yet talks to her, trying desperately to make her stay. Rose, knowing she’s fallen hard for him, gives in. Life’s good again but only for a little while. James gives Rose a gift, a piece of jewelry. At first, for good enough reasons, Rose didn’t want to accept but James very sweetly tells her that “she has his heart” as the pendant was heart shaped. Rose gets the meaning behind it and utterly joyous to know James loves her.

But, on their last day together, James keeps thinking how to keep Rose all to himself. In the process he mucks the whole thing out. Of course, the logical solution was to keep her as his mistress. He proposes to help out with all her expenses, which includes Paxton Manor and Dash and she could have Honey House. James is pretty sure she’d agree but oh no, she doesn’t. In no certain terms, Rose announces this is the end between them. I totally agree on reasoning to why she decided to end this. She loves the man and it’s all or nothing. But, their situation is so hopeless, ah... EC is brilliant in creating such situations. I wasn’t still sure how they’d go about from here. James is hurt by Rose’s rejection; Rose is hurt by James’s proposition. Back in London, they part in front of Rubicon’s, miserable and aching. One look at Rose and Timothy knew what might’ve happened but he proves to be a rock for her, as always. Rose goes back to her home and decides to tell Dash everything, no matter how difficult it might be because she knew she can’t carry on with her profession anymore. She writes two letters; one to Dash to come home ASAP, another to Rubicon with her resignation. Meanwhile, Rebecca kinda makes a mess by blurting out James’s excursion to her sister-in-law. James was living his mechanical life again, knowing he can’t see Rose anymore. Soon, his wife summons him to give him a piece of her mind about his recent trip. And lord, she was SO nasty! She demeaned James again and again, even with the mention of his onetime desperate attempt to make love to her and failing miserably underneath her cruel scrutiny and venomous tongue. I wanted to strangle the b*tch. You can’t help but feel protective towards James when you see what he’s gone through to make others happy!

This is how I was feeling then! 
My thought: what did you just say b*tch?!
But he takes the rein in hand in the middle of the b*tch’s poisonous tirade when she threatens Rebecca’s ruin. And then he makes some life altering decisions for himself, Rebecca and yes, for Rose too. He visits Rubicon’s again, only to find Rose has resigned. We see Timothy again, in his ‘place’. James asks him her whereabouts, confessing his feelings. Timothy helps him with her address. Here, I thought Timothy DESERVES his own book. He’s such a suffering soul who needs a soft, feminine touch. So would he? Lord, I’d LOVE to read that. I actually kinda thought there might be some possibilities. I sure hope so!

But, I was disappointed that there wasn’t an epilogue, with an abrupt end. I wanted to know their life after all the troubles went away. I also thought after the years of pain she inflicted upon James, the b*tch gave in a bit too easily. Then, Dash’s acceptance to Rose’s income, I thought too easily as well. And, I’m not happy that there are no announcements of upcoming books in GR or in EC’s website. Why? I really feel like reading more! Ugh, have to wait and see I guess. Meantime, Seven Nights to Forever gets a perfect 4 from me.

Update on 31/7/12: I’ve just been confirmed that Ms. Collins is working on Timothy’s book. I know we have to wait for... I don’t know how long, but I’m very happy anyway! :D


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