Lady Vivienne Bancroft and her husband Miles have been estranged ever since he embarrassed her and left her alone while he went off with a prostitute after a party. She fled to New York to be with her adopted family, while he continued to languish in London. The series is set around Vivienne and her three siblings, each of whom is sent to a different part of the world to take over one aspect of their father’s business after his death. Vivienne is left with part of his business to develop in South Africa – not exactly the safest place for a woman alone at this point in history. Miles meanwhile has been in despair without his wife, and vows to go to South Africa to prepare the way for her and persuade her to give him half of the million dollars her father has promised her. Once together, though, they both realize that perhaps they should be working together as a team instead of standing at cross ends.
This was a book that I had trouble buying into at the start, but wound up feeling won over by the end. Primarily, I had a lot of trouble liking Miles, or believing that Vivienne would ever really fall for him again. Vivienne very obviously thinks of him as a frustrating wastrel, and the fact that he at first attempts to win her over because he wants the payout from her success at her father’s business meant I didn’t like him on my own, either.
But what I discovered as I went along is that while Miles tried to appear like he didn’t care and only wanted the money, he actually did care for Vivienne. He’d missed her. And he hid it from her, and to some extent from himself, mainly because he felt guilty. He’s a classic example of a person who needs genuine work to keep him out of trouble; once he’s given an actual purpose, he transforms. It’s not Vivienne who does it; she already tried. It’s simply the concept of a life outside the ordinary interactions of Victorian London.
I also liked the fact that, as the book developed, Vivienne and Miles became a team. It wasn’t that one of them could rescue the other. They both had their strengths and they learned to use them together rather than against one another as they had previously. Working towards a common goal instead of cross-purposes draws them together and helps them see how their relationship could be different. This focus was an excellent choice for me; instead of an indolent life with a multitude of servants and a lack of real effort, the characters realize that they can do and be more in the world. It was an inspiring turn and added something more to the book beyond the romance.
Not that there was anything at all wrong with the romance, which I enjoyed. But it was nice to have two powerful facets to the book, and Flawless is certainly one I would recommend to others who appreciate a good historical romance set outside the tired world of the ton.
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