The third installment of the "Secrets of Hadley Green" series is another winner for Ms. London. Harrison Tolly is in a difficult position. He is the steward of the estate for Lord Carey and his family. He also happens to harbor a hidden love for the mysterious Lady X, who just happens to be Lady Carey. Although she knows nothing of his feelings, she does have an immense tenderness for him. To her, Harrison is a bright spot in her lonely days. Her husband is abusive - verbally, emotionally, and physically. Not only does he routinely humiliate her in front of others, he drinks to excess and routinely rapes her in the hopes of conceiving an heir.
Enter Lady Carey's younger sister, who while on a trip to Europe falls in love, gets pregnant and runs home. Ever the gentleman and loyal steward, Harrison steps in to give the unborn child legitimacy. It becomes a whirlwind of happenings around the estate to hide the young woman and to plan a wedding that is not exactly the desired outcome for either party. When it is revealed that Harrison is actually the illegitimate son of the Earl of Ashwood and the rightful heir, he keeps the information private, seeking to stay as long as possible in Olivia's presence. Lord Carey becomes paranoid and begins to think his wife is having an affair and on a vengeful night, in the throes of anger, falls off his horse and dies. The rest of the story is a complicated mix of discovery and refound love.
I found this to be an incredibly easy read, once you get into the story. This installment was so different from the other ones. I was impressed that Ms. London decided to take on the task of alcoholism/abuse in all forms. I love that she did not sugar coat the abuse aspect in this book. It was and is a very common problem in society. The reader, in the first few chapters, gets an up close and personal look at what Olivia's life has been like for the past eight or nine years. I could feel her barely controlled angst, her pain at not feeling as if she was good enough for her husband. Her rationalizations are completely in line with what many abuse victims profess to feeling. She was, to me, a friend that put on the face of happiness and obliviousness to hide her pain.
Olivia is a proud woman and does not want to admit that her husband is a jerk, even though she is quite aware of it. But she sees in Harrison a kind man, who has been a strong and supporting person to her through the years. For his part, Harrison has stepped in more than once to protect and defend Lady Carey. Although he is employed by Lord Carey, he stays there to be close to Olivia. He comes across as a star-crossed lover, an incurable romantic that is resigned to loving her from afar. He has set morals and beliefs, and wants to be taken on his own merits, rather than because he is now considered to be of the gentry. I was glad that the reader got to see the double-edged sword that cuts both ways when in just such a situation.
If there was anything that I disliked it about the book, it was also what I loved. Abuse in any form is often ugly and hidden. I cringed at every verbal jab that was thrown Olivia's' way. Every insult and physical injury made me cry as if it were I that was experiencing it…but isn't that the goal of every author? To make the reader feel the characters' plight and want them to succeed? The reader is left rooting for the happy ending, anxiously hoping that all the right things happen and no one is left on the outside, including Lady Olivia's bratty sister. The Seduction of Lady X is a truly enjoyable book!