No Longer a Gentleman is the fourth book in Putney's "Lost Lords" series, though it could well stand alone. It is also the best book Putney has written in years. The above synopsis is fairly accurate (isn't that a treat?) and so I won't repeat it here. I'd much rather talk about the tortured Grey and Cassie and how they heal and redeem and fulfill each other.
When Grey was imprisoned in a French dungeon, he was a carefree, golden boy of 20. Ten years in solitary confinement has, of course, changed him, and No Longer a Gentleman chronicles his return and adjustment to being in the world again. It is a thrilling and harrowing journey and Mary Jo Putney shows us that journey in vivid and empathetic detail.
Our story begins with Cassie Fox, English spy in disguise as an old woman, freeing Grey from his prison.
He scrambled to his feet, feasting his eyes on the sight of another human being. Better yet, a clean, normal woman. He impulsively wrapped his arms around her and crushed her warm body into an embrace, his heart pounding.
She swore and shoved at him.
"Please," he said, his voice shaking. "I've been so…so hungry for touch. Only a moment. Please!"
She relaxed and let him hold her. Dear God, she felt good! A warm, breathing woman with a sweet old-lady scent of lavender that made him think of his grandmother. He never wanted to let her go.
Though it takes a while for Grey to see through Cassie's old lady disguise, it doesn't take him long to appreciate her intelligence and kindness, and for his libido, which has been shut down for ten long years, to come back into roaring life. They become lovers as they journey through the French countryside, evading captors on their way to England and freedom.
Cassie, half-English and half-French, was caught in France when the revolution broke out and saw her family slaughtered. She spent two years in prison as a teenager and so is in a unique position to know what Grey is going through. Grey's is a slow journey back to normalcy - if normalcy is even possible - and through it all, Cassie becomes his anchor, the only person with whom he feels safe.
Grey and Cassie had agreed that afternoon that for discretion's sake, they should sleep in their separate rooms. But in the dark hours after midnight, Grey's resolve snapped when a nightmare of darkness and desolation yanked him awake.
Shaking, he crossed the corridor to Cassie's room. She woke instantly, as a good spy needed to do, and equally swiftly recognized her visitor. Silently she extended a hand. He took it gratefully and slid into the bed next to her.
In her arms, he slept.
But, Grey also gives to Cassie who, after the trauma of her childhood and what she had to do to survive, has shut down emotionally. He frees her to not only love again, but to accept love in return. He changes her so that she, who always thought she would someday die during an assignment, can start to see a life that doesn't include continual danger and intrigue. But this is primarily Grey's story, and his journey from dependence to independence, from darkness to light, from fear to optimism, from anger to acceptance is riveting.
The "Lost Lords" series has been hit and miss for me, but No Longer a Gentleman is an unqualified hit. This is the Mary Jo Putney of the "Fallen Angels" series. This is romance writing at its best.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, January 19, 2012