Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A Chance to Dream by Lynne Connolly

A love too strong to disguise, a disgrace too deep to ignore.

The second book in the Triple Countess series.

Orlando Garland, Lord Blyth, has spent a lifetime restoring the family fortunes but now it’s time for him to think of himself for a change. When he hires a dowdy companion for his invalid sister, it doesn’t take him long to suspect “Charlotte” is more than she appears. Yet the lively young woman proves to be good for his sister. And Orlando can’t ignore the seductive beauty behind the disguise.

Violetta Palagio’s mask has never chafed before—until now. She longs for the freedom to love the handsome Orlando. Yet to reveal herself would be disastrous for them both. She is La Perla Perfetta, the daughter of London’s most successful courtesan. For most of her life, her mother has cleverly kept Violetta’s identity a secret. Will she risk all that, now the threat that kept them in disguise for so long is finally gone?

For the first time in her life, Violetta is in love. Can she find the courage to come out from behind the mask?

And if she does, will Orlando chance everything he has worked so hard to rebuild—for a courtesan’s daughter?

Orlando. What can I say? He’s adorable. He features in the first book of this series (Last Chance, My Love) and I knew then I’d want to read his story. What I realised, and enjoyed, is that with this series the timeline is the same, so what happens in book 1 goes alongside what happens in this book—a cleverly written timeline that allows you to know what Orlando had been experiencing when the characters in book 1 were doing their thing.

Orlando falls in love with Violetta, although at first he knows her as Charlotte, a woman he employs to bring his reclusive sister, Perdita, out of her shell. Perdita had an accident which damaged her legs, and Charlotte intends to help the woman get better and return her to Society. However, Judith, Perdita’s friend, also has an intention or two—one of them being her aim to be seen as the one who made Perdita come out of her shell.

I guarantee you’ll dislike Judith, and that’s all I’ll say about her!

Violetta/Charlotte is also known as La Perla Perfetta, although no one knows what she looks like as this woman because she’s always masked. Throughout most of her life Violetta has been in one disguise or another due to being in hiding with her mother, so being her actual self in public is a tad disconcerting. I loved this, because in disguise she can become the amazing, much sought after La Perla or the helpful Charlotte, and no one has to know how she really feels inside. But as Violetta it’s a different story.

Orlando gets to know the real Violetta, and their love blossoms, albeit in secret. Events occur where they don’t have to hide in the shadows any longer, but for a lord to marry a courtesan’s daughter…scandal! There is one way they can be together, but you’ll wonder whether fate has played a very nasty hand and prevented their union. At this point I can say I LOVED Perdita for what she did, and I hadn’t expected her to come through for her brother this way because there was a “side” to her throughout the book I wasn’t very fond of. I saw in the end it was due to the life she’d been living and the person she’d shared most of her time with that made her seem a bit prickly and off, but once she regained full health she also regained her sense of family loyalty.

And thank goodness for that!

He wondered if Mrs. Thompson… (I'm going from memory here, but if this is the same Mrs. Thompson who runs an agency in another series by Ms. Connolly, I thought this was a fantastic touch to bring characters from that series to mind when reading this one, or vice versa. Knowing those characters from the other series (Richard and Rose) were living their lives at the same time the characters in this series were living theirs...so bloody groovy!)

Your figure is a trifle full, don’t you think? (Cheeky cow!)

Beads of moisture ran down the outside of the glass.

At least, in this guise, she knew just who she was supposed to be. (This touched me a lot.)

He thought of drifting across the room to gradually end up by her side, but then thought again. (I felt Orlando's need here.)

“…Whenever you service a customer, remember what love feels like. Remember, for I will never forget!” (Swoon!)

She stood up and walked to the window in a gentle shush of silk. (I heard that!)

A wonderful, wonderful read from Ms. Connolly, who once again penned a superb, un-put-downable read that had me seething, smiling, sighing and feeling every emotion possible. Her descriptions are vivid, her characters solid and so very real, and, as usual, I can’t wait for the next book!

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