Bernadette doesn't regret her marriage. Her husband admired and respected her and they had a good 12 years together. But now, she is done with being under a man's thumb. Her father arranged her marriage when she was too young to know better, and being married to a man so much older than her left her with few choices in life. She is a woman that appreciates her desires and has no problem indulging them. For this she is not popular amongst society and decides New York would be a better place for her.
Matthew has lost everything that ever meant anything to him. He started life out, if not at Bernadette's level of wealth, then at least comfortably wealthy. Matthew's father's business partner stole everything from them and they were forced to shut down their paper. Matthew looked around at the world and saw too much violence and pain, and made the decision that someone had to try to help make things better. Living for years in the worst slum of New York, he committed acts that no gentleman would dare to do. None of that mattered until the day he met the one woman that he wanted to see him in a better light.
Despite both living in New York, they don't meet until a chance encounter in London piques their interest. Without all of his day to day responsibilities, Matthew is able to pursue Bernadette. Ultimately, he knows that it can never be what he wants, but he is unable to resist her pull. When they get back to New York, Matthew knows there is no way their lives can co-exist, but even if he backs out of Bernadette's life, his enemies are only too happy to drag her back in.
The first thing that I have to say, is how impressed I was with the world building Ms. Marvelle accomplished. There was no question whatsoever that I was reading about the slums of New York City. The dirt, the hustle, the pain, the suffering, but also the community that always comes from those environments; I was right smack dab in the middle of all of it.
I really enjoyed Bernadette, she was fiery, but in a way that wasn't over the top. She didn't waste time bemoaning all the bad things that had happened in her life, and she didn't worry about every little step she was taking; she just accepted life with all its follies and moved on. She liked men and she liked what she could do with them. Her reputation far exceeded her actual deeds, but oh well, she wasn't going to stop just because people said so. I would be her friend if she existed.
Matthew was an interesting character. He had had everything taken from him, had lived in the worst imaginable conditions, but he still had unwavering hope in a better way. Everything he went through and he was still able to keep true to his morals and standards.
Personally, I enjoyed the way that Ms. Marvelle worked out the relationship. I, obviously, can't say why I enjoyed it so much as that would give the story away, but she didn't let her characters take the easy way out.
This is the second book in the "Rumor" Series and it's a toss up whether this could be read by itself or not. The characters in this book are in the first book, although they do not meet each other until Forever a Lady, along with characters from the first book that appear in this one as well. There are also several underlying hints that occur in this book to the overlying mystery of the series, which you may or may not understand. Personally, if you are really interested in reading this book, I highly suggest picking up the first in the series to give yourself a richer experience.