At twenty-eight, Beatrice-Maude Bassingstoke has survived marriage to an abusive alcoholic who shamed her for her plain appearance and her barrenness. Now that she is widowed, she is determined never again to allow herself to be silenced or isolated. Mistress of her own fortune, she cherishes her independence. Then, one snowy night on her journey to London, she meets a remarkable gentleman: Lord Taris Wellingham. When their carriage breaks down, they seek shelter in a barn and comfort in each other’s arms. They part the next morning, planning never to meet again.
Like Bea, Taris has his own closely guarded secret: his ever worsening eyesight, which he zealously hides from everyone except for his siblings and which will soon render him completely blind. Isolating himself from society, Taris has given up on both love and the vigorous, heroic man he used to be.
A few months later, the independent Bea is established in London as the leader of a salon that welcomes people of all social classes to debate controversial ideas. When chance–and a little meddling from Taris’s unconventional sister-in-law–brings the pair together, their chemistry is still very much real. Unfortunately, there are obstacles to their union: First, Bea sees Taris stumble and seem unfocused, and makes the logical but incorrect assumption that “his problem” is the same one–alcohol–that turned her first husband into a monster. Second, Taris is determined never to be a burdon on anyone, least of all a woman who has finally won her independence.
This is one of the most compelling Regency romances that I have read. Perhaps it is because neither of the characters are typical for the genre: Bea no innocent maiden, but is instead the survivor of an unhappy marriage who is trying to heal and break ingrained habits of a decade of abuse. She must discover and take command of her own sense of identity and sexuality. Meanwhile, Taris is unable to move forward with his life because he refuses to acknowledge his medical condition.
At the same time, the pair are suited to each other: Taris is able to find the beauty in the plain Bea, while Bea–even with her misdiagnosis of lover’s “problem”–draws him back into the world. The characters have tons of chemistry: both intellectually and in the bedroom (and barn). Their lovemaking is enhanced by the author’s sensitive treatment of Taris’s near-blindess and his tactile experiences of his lover. The result is a very sexy book with excellent character development. One Unashamed Night makes me want to read its prequel and sequel, as a matter of fact.
Soon enough, Bea and Taris’s affair moves beyond a casual affair for reasons best left unsaid for fear of spoiling the plot. I suggest picking up One Unashamed Night to find out for yourself.
Of course, some elements of the story stretch credulity. How could Bea become a notorious social success for her soirées in a mere three to four months? Why, if she is socially aware and scandalously liberal, does she not take note of the poor conditions of the workers whose labor has made her fortune? However, other potential pitfalls are adequately dealt with (the previously-established unconventionality of Taris’s family make their overtures to her believable).
This book is highly recommended. In fact, I will likely seek out others by Sophia James in the future. I hope that all offer such unconventional and intriguing characters. While there is something to say for following the conventions of a genre, often breaking them can lead to a much more exciting and sensual read.