Broken Wing by Judith James was one of my favorite reads in 2010. When I saw Libertine’s Kiss on Netgalley I was ecstatic! Broken Wing was an intense, emotional read and I was eager to try something else by Ms. James. While Libertine’s Kiss is not quite up to Broken Wing’s intensity, it still tackles serious subjects and delivers a satisfyingly sensual tale.
William and Elizabeth shared a brief but intense friendship as youngsters before William was shipped off to school, promising to return. Years later, after seemingly breaking that promise, William, now a highway robber, traitor to Cromwell’s England, and right hand man of Charles Stuart the rightful owner of the crown, shows up wounded and in need of assistance on Elizabeth’s doorstep.
Elizabeth, now widowed from an abusive husband, recognizes her childhood friend immediately; welcoming him into her home and attending to his wounds. William, wounded but not so much that he overlooks this Puritan woman’s allure. The two spend a passion filled night together before William moves on. William is unaware that the Puritan woman who offered him her assistance, her home, and her body was his friend from long ago.
It comes to Cromwell’s men’s attention that Elizabeth has aided William, a traitor to the crown, and she is stripped of her lands. Once Charles Stuart is restored to the crown Elizabeth goes to court in hopes that her goodwill towards William, one of Stuart’s closest confidants, will earn her some of her property back. There William and Elizabeth cross paths and William realized that his one night affair with the Puritan woman was, in fact, Elizabeth. William insists on helping Elizabeth win the favor of Charles Stuart in the hopes of regaining her lands.
Passion ensues but I don’t want to give everything away. What I can say is that I really enjoyed this book. William is such a scoundrel, but you can’t help but love him. He’s nothing but honest with Elizabeth about his libertine ways and that he has no intentions of settling down. Elizabeth, in love with William since childhood, takes him anyway she can get him. Like Gabe in Broken Wing, William is a tortured soul. He is the way he is because of events in his past and Elizabeth is the only person he’s ever truly opened up to. The only person able to help him save himself.
I was also intrigued by the afterward where James explains that she based much of William de Veres on he very real historical figure of John Wilmont, Earl of Rochester. Even incorporating Wilmont’s actual poetry!
Libertine’s Kiss combines two of my favorite elements in a romance: a tortured hero and the friends-to-lovers plot line. Judith James, along with Courtney Milan, write some of my favorite historicals: intense, intelligent, intoxicating, and romantic. Libertine’s Kiss is not to be missed by fans of historical romance!
Disclosure: I received this as a digital ARC through NetGalley. I did not receive any compensation for this review.