I want to start this review with a warning: this review is very personal. Please expect biases.
This book, is why I read romance novels. It mirrors a personal experience that is buried deep and it is my sincere hope, that it will never see the light of the day again. I will attempt to describe the story for those who want to know what the story is about. Then I will explain why this book moved me so. That would be where the review gets personal.
Damien and Olivia were all set to marry. Both were so in love with each other and could not wait to be married to each other. At their betrothal ball, an accusation was made against Damien. He was once associcated with another young lady, with whom he had severed all ties before he started courting Olivia. The young lady in question, died. Before she passed away she told her father that Damien was the father of her unborn child, which was a lie. Why she uttered such vicious a lie, was never explained in details in the book. The grief-sticken father came to Damien and Olivia's betrothal ball, wanted revenge for his daughter. A duel was to follow. Despite their love, Olivia being the young and innocent girl that she was, showed doubts against Damien's innocence for 1 second. Damien was deeply hurt by her lack of confidence in him and their love. There, began their suffering.
The duel was naturally a disaster. Damien was hurt. Olivia received information that the angry father had put a fortune on Damien's head. In her desperate attempt to protect the man she loved, she decided to send him away on a ship with a trusted family friend while Damien was unconscious. It was a very questionable decision and irrevocably changed her and Damien's lives. But there it was. Olivia sent Damien away to save him, only to hear 2 months later, that Damien had died during the sea journey. She was of course, devastated beyond reason. But she had to live with herself. She then went on to hide the news of Damien's death, managed Damien's estates in the background so that his mother and young sisters would be provided for. She was going to do it until she was sure that Damien's family would be safely taken care of. Then she would announce the news of Damien's untimely death.
5 years later, Olivia now without her fiance and her father, she is managing her father's shipping company, Damien's estates and her own estates. She is not the "strong" business woman, but she is capable. She does it because she must and she does a good job of it too. At the reading of her father's will, she gets the surprise of her life: her fiance Damien, is alive, only scarred and injured. He is cold and full of fury. What makes things worse is her father's will, which binds her to Damien in marriage or she would lose all of her inheritance.
That is, about 30% of the story. It maps the backdrop of this love story, where 2 people, who have made huge mistakes in love, commited questionable actions against each other, slowly and very slowly drag themselves to each other again. The book takes off when Damien and Olivia meet again in the solicitor's office. To face each other again, after they have both suffered so many losses, heartaches, much anger and frustration, that was the meeting of a lifetime.
I read this book in 4-5 hours, with my hand either on my mouth or my heart most of the time. It made me smile because I know they love each other. I feel them. It made me cry, because I know what it is like, to not be able to stay because of wounded pride. Damien's pride was hurt. He suffered severe bodily harms on the journey and lost much. He resented Olivia for taking his choice away, for making such an important decision for him without his consent. He came back thinking that he wanted retribution. Olivia had no defense. She did what she did out of love. She would rather send him away than let him face life-threatening dangers. She would rather that Damien lived to hate her. She would not let him die. The entire book, is about how they grapple forgiveness, pride, faith, passion and love. There is not one sex scene. There were a few hot kisses where they came close, but they never once, slept with each other in this story. There are no descriptions about Damien's "male prowess" or how the ladies flock around him. I also imagine Olivia was portrayed as a virgin at the end of the book in Ms. Landon's mind. But you never, never, never not feel that sexual tension. The amazing thing is, it does not matter. This story is so much more about emotions and tender feelings than desires. Damien and Olivia are the most heartbreaking couple I have read about in a long while.
This book pulled my heart at all the most painful places. I do not think it is a book that would accumulate a huge group of supporters. But if, if you have been in love, where you were forced to do something that pushed the other person away; where all that you needed was a feeble sign that he/she cared; where you were hurt because you loved so much; where you wanted to reach out but withdrew for pride, for fears of rejection and betrayal; where you knew, you were both waiting, waiting for the other person to give you a reason to stay, then you would love this story. It is about 2 people, who suffered great losses in life and in love. Some reviewers said Damien did not love Olivia. I beg to differ. How can he not love her? A man, who does not love, will not come back. He did not come back to claim all the properties and wealth, or even Olivia as his wife. He came back because he loved her, no matter what he said. It is what you do, not what you say that matters. Damien denied and fought with himself, he was angry and suffered great physical pains from the injuries, even 5 years after Olivia sent him away. A vindictive man, will not come back to marry the woman who he believed was responsible for his misery just for revenge. He needed an excuse to come back to Olivia. His pride would not allow him to do it any other way. He did not want Olivia to suffer. He was however, very very angry at Olivia for making the decision for him.
Olivia, is a graceful heroine. She learned to be strong and took matters into her own hands when she believed that her loved ones needed help. She is soft but strong. Not Xena the warrior princess type (thank God). She was determined but not stubborn. She did not give in when Damien forced her to marry him. She needed to know that Damien did not come back for money or revenge. She just needed to know that Damien wanted her, to know that he felt for her, even just 1/100th of what he used to. And she did that to the end by walking out on him on their wedding day. She would rather lose him, than have him without love.
I imagine some readers would be very upset about how late in the story their resolution came. Damien and Olivia both stuck to their guns till the end. They both showed that they cared about each other multiple times in the story. Their love for each other was evident. But neither would concede. Sometimes when the love is so consuming, you just have so much to lose if you concede. Your only choice is to walk away from the negotiation table. I know exactly how that feels like. It is either 100% or nothing at all. I think this is what most romance writers miss. They spend paragraphs after paragraphs on how the characters "love" each other without realizing that love is sometimes not pretty but all-consuming. Don't write that they love each other. Write about how they rush to each other's side, how they could not help but let a glimpse of tenderness show through the cracks on their armor, even when they lash out hurtful words. Don't write about passionate encounters. Write about the pull between them. We readers are not idiots. We have imagination and can often paint a even more romantic scene if we had the right story. A gesture, a look, sometimes, that is all it takes to make a story.
Damien and Olivia's happy ending came only in the last few pages. And Damien did it I think on the last 2. Oh I cried when Damien finally said he loved Olivia. I remember how I was waiting too, how I knew the other person was waiting for me to say anything, anything at all. And I walked away, hoping that he would come, liked Damien did. I was happy for Damien and Olivia. At least, at least in a romance story, people do manage to put their pride aside.
I think this is a horrible review. I do apologize. I can only say that if you have lost someone in love, because pride blocked your way, you would resonate with this story. In real life, in the end pride does not matter, we go on to marry that person who stuck by us. And that is the definition of love in reality. But in those tender moments, when you struggle and wrestle with yourself, where what really stood between loss and gain, is just your pride, when you experience hope and suffer anguish in love, you get to relive those moments in this book. And you get your happy ending, which happens so very rarely in real life.