London socialite Helena Gillingham’s world is turned upside down when her father takes his own life after his fraudulent crimes are revealed. Cast from society and suddenly penniless, Helena must relocate to the Welsh mountains, only to learn that her new neighbor is none other than the notorious madman Theodotus Mallory. But is Theo really as mad as London society says? TLondon socialite Helena Gillingham’s world is turned upside down when her father takes his own life after his fraudulent crimes are revealed. Cast from society and suddenly penniless, Helena must relocate to the Welsh mountains, only to learn that her new neighbor is none other than the notorious madman Theodotus Mallory. But is Theo really as mad as London society says? Theo, tormented by the horrors he witnessed during the Crimean War, has finally found serenity in living a simple life tending to his gardens. Helena’s unexpected presence shatters that peace, for he harbors the devastating secret that led to her misfortunes. Now she is destitute and frightened because of him… and he can’t deny his mounting attraction to the beautiful young woman. Can he pursue a life with Helena, all the while knowing his role in her downfall?...
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|Number of Pages||:||388 Pages|
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I've given this a B- at AAR, so that's 3.5 stars rounded up.I’ve read a few books by Susanna Ives over the past couple of years and have come to the conclusion that she is at her best when she’s doing something a little different to the norm in historical romance. Her début novel, Rakes And Radishes turned the reformed rake trope on its head, and Wicked, My Love was an entertaining enemies-to-lovers story featuring a gregarious hero and an awkward, maths genius heroine. In fact, the least successful of the books of hers I’ve read was one in which she pursued a more conventional storyline (How to Impress a Marquess), so when I read the synopsis for Frail, I was pleased to see that Ms. Ives has opted once again to follow a less well-trod path by centering the story around a romance between a hero with PTSD who likes to garden, and a socialite heroine brought low by her father’s criminal activities.Theo Mallory, second son of the Earl of Streswick, returned from fighting in the Crimea a very different man to the sociable, charming one who left. He knows he is a disappointment to his father, who is anxious and awkward around him, clearly not knowing what to do or say, and Theo can’t blame him; sometimes he doesn’t know what to do or say either. His return from the war angry, frustrated, unable to sleep, suffering hallucinations and nightmares that he tried to quiet by indulging in drink, drugs, women and violence was difficult for all of them, his family’s belief that they could somehow find a doctor who could ‘cure’ him irritating him as much as it made him feel guilty that their hopes were dashed time after time. Things were going from bad to worse, the earl starting to wonder if an asylum was the safest place for his unpredictable son, when Theo retreated to a property in Snowdonia, North Wales, where he has lived quietly for the past five years, pursuing his love of gardening and regaining his equilibrium and his sense of self. He still suffers bad memories and bad dreams, but he has learned to cope and feels he has at last found his place in life.Returning to London after five years away is difficult for him, but he is led to do so in order to meet with an officer from Scotland Yard to whom he has given evidence of a fraud being perpetrated on a number of former soldiers with whom Theo had served by a London banker named John Gillingham. At the urging of his father and stepmother, Theo attends a ball with them – and comes face to face with Gillingham’s beautiful, vivacious daughter, Helena, who teases him a little and then, most unconventionally, asks him to dance with her. Already off-balance in the hot, crowded ballroom, Theo’s control slips further during their dance as he finds it impossible to contain his anger at this “vain, ignorant and selfish girl”, whose beautiful gowns have been paid for with money swindled from former soldiers and hard-working people. He accuses her of being cruel and uncaring and stalks away, leaving Helena wondering what on earth she has done to deserve such treatment, and feeling vaguely sorry that such a handsome young man should be so clearly unbalanced.A day or so later, however, Helena’s life is shattered when her father commits suicide, leaving her alone and with nothing. She comes to understand the truth; that her father had committed a massive fraud and took his own life when threatened with exposure – and that he has escaped the consequences while leaving her to face scandal and public vitriol. Helena has no close relatives; her ‘friends’ no longer want to know her and her only means of supporting herself it to sell everything she can. Months pass, she is running out of things to sell and will shortly have to leave her home, and still she has no inkling of what to do or where to go – when she remembers her cousin Emily in Wales, who happens to be a neighbour of Theo Mallory’s. She writes to Emily more or less begging her to take her in, and is relieved to receive a letter filled with kind words and compassion, inviting her to make her home with Emily and her daughter.Helena is not well-received by the majority of the local villagers, many of whom either lost money, or know someone who lost money in her father’s scam. Emily, who is liked and respected by all, proves to be her staunch champion, as does Theo, who surprises Helena by showing himself to be relaxed, confident and comfortable in both himself and his surroundings – in short, a completely different man to the one she’d met in London.Helena, having at first believed that the best thing she could do for the woman who has shown her such kindness and generosity would be to leave the village, gradually finds herself settling into the rhythm of daily life there, and doing what she can to prove herself worthy of Emily’s faith in her. As she spends more time with Theo, she finds herself drawn to his quiet strength and truly, deeply moved by the beautiful gardens and outside spaces he has created, places she is able to find the sort of peace and tranquillity she craves. Theo starts to let Helena know him, telling her something of his wartime experience and of his subsequent illness and the effect it has had on his family. These are two people struggling to come to terms with traumatic experiences who come understand something of the other’s pain and to enjoy each other’s company. A strong mutual attraction develops between them, but as Theo realises he is falling in love, he has to ask himself if Helena – who has no idea of his part in her father’s downfall – could possibly love the man ultimately responsible for it. He is torn between a desire to tell the truth and his desire for Helena, and in his desperation, makes some poor decisions that could ultimately cost him dear.Theo and Helena are both strongly characterised and Ms. Ives does a splendid job in conveying the perilous nature of Helena’s situation following her father’s death. Her disconnectedness and fears for her future are palpable, as are her disorientation and confusion when she arrives in Wales. I also appreciated that she doesn’t fall into the trap of having Theo suddenly and miraculously cured by the love of the right woman. It’s true that he finds a degree of comfort in Helena’s presence and finds himself going to those dark places in his mind less frequently, but it’s clear that the mental scars he bears are not going to heal easily or completely.Frail is not a fluffy, easy read; the emotions are messy, complicated and often strung taut as a bow-string, and the author doesn’t sugar coat some of the descriptions of Theo’s hallucinations. But ultimately, it’s one of those books where the execution doesn’t quite live up to the intriguing premise. The first part of the book is stronger than the second, and the pacing in the middle is a little stodgy as things get bogged down in the preparations for an event that it is hoped will smooth Helena’s path to acceptance by the locals – which then seems to happen rather easily. There is a rather needless subplot concerning Emily’s pregnant maid-of-all-work, some of the language in the love scenes is a bit clumsy, and the disclosure of Theo’s involvement in Gillingham’s downfall takes place so late in the book that the entire final section feels rushed and the ending abrupt.Even with those provisos, I’d say that Frail might suit readers looking for a slightly darker, more emotionally fraught story than is usually found in historical romance. I can’t give it a wholehearted recommendation, but if you’re on the look-out for something a little different to the norm, it’s worth your consideration in spite of its flaws.
Theo Mallory is a veteran of the Crimean War. He wasn't wounded in body, but his mind is damaged, soothed only by working in his gardens in Wales. When he discovers that some of his former soldiers are being defrauded by a bank owner, he brings the information to Scotland Yard. The bank owner's daughter, Helena Gillingham, is completely destroyed by her father's crimes. Once a social light, she is now scorned by her former friends. Penniless and a pariah, she retreats to her cousin Emily's home in Wales, the only choice left to her. Of course, Theo is Emily's near neighbor and friend.Parts of this book are difficult to read. Theo's PTSD (as we'd call it today) is traumatic and heartbreaking. Ms. Ives does an excellent job when she writes about this. She is both realistic and sympathetic. There weren't many choices for a 'madman' in Victorian England. There are the madhouses like Bedlam for the poor and asylums for the rich like Theo. Helena has her own traumas. At first, she's merely frivolous and unwitting, but as the story continues Helena grows as a woman, facing her troubles with more fortitude than I expected. This is a lovely story. I loved Theo's castle and his gardens, and I want to move there. Each character is finely drawn: young Megan (Emily's daughter), Betry the pregnant servant, and the Reverand. I want to know more about the Gordons; I'm sure their story would also be a great book. Parts of the book are depressing. This is definitely not a light romance, but it is a great read.
Susanna Ive’s has become one of my go-to historic romance authors. I have read all her books from her first Rakes and Radishes to her most recent Frail. I am in love with her main characters. Her heroine’s remind me of 1930’s – 1940’s Katherine Hepburnesque women. They aren’t your usual cookie-cutter characters. To be honest I have been getting sick to death of simpering two-dimensional females in the typical Regency and Victorian Romances which makes me love Susanna’s books all the more. With Frail she gives the readers an even a more complicated leading lady. Helena begins as a spoiled pain in the ass that could have been quite easy to hate but throughout the book, the author lets us catch glimpses of her vulnerability; which eventually has you rooting for her happily ever after with Theo. What I loved about this book is that both the Hero and Heroine fit the title Frail. They both suffer from a form of PTSD one from the upheaval and tragedy of her life in London and the other from war. They both have to learn to live with their past trauma to find their future happiness together. If you want to read an incredible character driven novel with a touch of a gothic feel. You will thoroughly enjoy this book.
Okay, this is not your normal Regency romp. This is a hard hitting expose of what a heroine would experience when she's suddenly ostracized by society and loses the comfort and support of everything she's ever known. Come to this one with tissues in hand, but rest assured, there is an HEA!
If you are expecting a light, frothy romance novel, this is not the book for you. Theo, a veteran of the Crimean War, suffers from PTSD. He retreats to Wales and nurtures a garden in order to escape his horrifying memories and recurring nightmares. While there, he discovers a financial fraud in which his soldiers had been investing unknowingly, and he gives evidence to Scotland Yard that destroys the perpetrator. The criminal's daughter Helena, her privileged life at an end and persecuted by society, flees to live with her cousin in Wales; Theo is their neighbor. Both protagonists have extreme emotional problems, and must come to grips with facing reality and with building a future. The title of the book is interesting, because the word frail has several meanings: physically weak and easily broken (as in emotionally fragile, or in the case of the cousin, ill), a reed basket (the importance of the gardens), the slang English term for a prostitute (weak moral character--Helena considers becoming a man's mistress). While wrenching, the situations in the book are relevant today: the suffering of our veterans with PTSD and the helplessness families experience trying to heal them, the collateral damage heaped on their own families by the actions of criminals, and the healing power of nature.
A true page turner. I went from thinking two stars to four stars by the end of this book. Not your typical Victorian Romance, this is a book about damaged people finding peace in unexpected places with each other.
I liked this, but only gave it three stars because the pacing seemed off. I felt like it took too long to get to the problem and then it was resolved too quickly.
Hard to read, but satisfyingA slow start gives way to a gripping, sometimes-hard-to-read story of two characters, Helen and Theo, who are each dealing with enormous pain. Theo is a survivor of the Crimean War and dealing with what we know to be PTSD. The author has done a wonderful, if painful job of describing the effects of war of the human psyche. At the novel's beginning, Helen is living the superficial life of a London debutant and is the daughter of an unfeeling, uninvolved father. As the story progresses and her father's criminal actions come to light, I felt the depth of Helen's misery. Her sense of disorientation, disconnectedness and absolute terror over the future were heartbreaking. The complication that simultaneously brings them together and stands between them is one of the most compelling and complex I've read in a period romance novel. It appears insurmountable, but if you like angst in your novels, you'll get it by the bucket loads in this book. It's not always a happy read, but it is a satisfying one.