Twice Fallen is the second book in Wildes' "Ladies in Waiting" series. I have not read the first book and had no problem following the action in this one. But, while the characters are interesting and well-drawn, I had a couple of concerns about the plotting.
Lady Lillian Bourne has a shady reputation. During her debut season, she eloped with the man everyone assumed she'd soon be marrying, only to return to town, not only not married, but announcing that there would be no wedding. She retired to the country to let the scandal die down and now, four years later, has returned for the season. She is still looked at askance, however, and is very, very careful to not put a toe outside the strictest of boundaries. Being found locked in a library during a ball would mark her as irretrievably fallen.
The man in question, Lord Damien Northfield, is recently home from the war where he has been a spy in the Spanish backcountry. His injuries give him pain and he is generally distrustful of others, but something about Lily's desperation to not be found with him, and her willingness to do what was needed to escape (like skulking through secret passages) intrigues him. He cannot help but seek her out whenever he sees her, and Lily is not at all opposed to being sought - as long as it is honorably done.
A secondary romance featuring Lily's cousin James acts as a counterpoint to the more traditional romance of Lily and Damien. As the book begins, James and Regina are already in their second month as lovers and James has fallen hard for Regina, but is treading carefully. Regina is an artist, a free-spirit, the complete opposite of the fairly rigid James. He wishes to marry her, but any hint of commitment or permanence would get James shut out of Regina's life. He has his work cut out for him.
While I enjoyed all four characters and both romances, there were some disconnects for me. The two romances really felt like they belonged to separate books - the characters in each story rarely interacted with the other, and the tone of the writing was very different. Lily and Damien read like a traditional mainstream romance, while James and Regina read like erotica. In addition, there was a blackmail plotline in the Lily/Damien storyline that wasn't fleshed out very well and was too coy by half regarding the clues and pacing of that plotline.
But, that taken into account, I finished Twice Fallen mostly satisfied with the resolutions to the romances and my belief that each couple had earned their HEA.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, January 19, 2012