Andrew Alexander will do anything to protect those he loves…
After a tragic yachting accident leaves him wracked with guilt and despair, Andrew Alexander becomes certain he doesn’t deserve to be around his own family, let alone the beautiful, forthright Astrid Worthington. He wanders for years, only allowing himself respite from his self-imposed exile when he thinks Astrid safely married. He returns home to find instead that the only woman he’s ever loved has been recently – and mysteriously – widowed.
…especially from himself.
When Andrew leaves, Astrid refuses to pine. She finds an amiable husband and contents herself with a cordial if unexciting marriage. But her husband’s sudden death and Andrew’s reappearance threaten to break her heart all over again. When Astrid’s life is threatened, she finds Andrew will do anything to protect her not only from her enemies, but also from the truth of his dark past.
Many of the books in Ms Burrowes’ Lonely Lords series have included an element of mystery or suspense alongside the romance, but Andrew has the feel of a gothic romance about it from fairly early on.
It also relates strongly to the book that preceeds it – Gareth – which makes sense, as Andrew is Gareth’s youngest brother. As with most of the books in the series, it does work as a standalone, as Ms Burrowes includes sufficient backstory for a newcomer to the series, but I think one needs to have read Gareth in order to fully appreciate both the storyline and the characterisation of Andrew himself.
Andrew Alexander and his mother are the only survivors of a boating accident thirteen years before which took the lives of the rest of their family. Gareth was the one member of the family who had not been on the expedition, and as a result, had to live for years with accusations and gossip accusing him of engineering the accident so that he could inherit his grandfather’s title. Gareth’s reaction was to work hard and play even harder, gaining himself the reputation of the greatest womaniser in London. Andrew, meantime, grew up and went to University, presenting to the world an open, sunny disposition that, as his story shows, hides a wealth of heavily suppressed self-loathing and despair.
During the events of the previous book, Andrew fell in love with the heroine’s sister, Astrid, but for reasons known only to himself felt that he had to separate himself from her. So despite his horror of travelling by sea, he left the country.
Four years later, Andrew returns to England only to discover that Astrid, married two years previously to Herbert Allen, Viscount Amery, has recently been widowed and is very likely pregnant. Andrew’s feelings for her haven’t changed, and neither have hers for him – but believing himself to be unworthy of the love of any decent woman, and even less worthy of being entrusted with the care of a child, Andrew instead determines to stand her friend, and nothing more.
But as the couple begins to get to know each other again, and Astrid reveals the truth of her marriage to a man who spent more time and money on his horses and his mistress than his wife, and whose physical intimacies were limited to a quick lift of her nightgown once a week, Andrew finds himself unable to remain aloof. Their short-lived relationship from years earlier had not seen them become lovers, but even so, Andrew knows Astrid is a passionate woman for whom the lack of the simple comfort offered by the touch of another person must have been truly miserable. So he offers that which she has been denied – a physical relationship borne of real affection and full of the passion she longs for – making it clear to her that he can give her nothing more.
Like her sister Felicity, Astrid is no shrinking female. She understands too well the limitations placed upon her as a woman, but her inner strength will not allow her to lose the man she loves without a fight. She accepts Andrew’s offer of an affair, determined to try to discover why he feels as he does and then perhaps, to find a way to get him to stay.
While this is going on, Astrid’s brother David, Viscount Fairly, has heard gossip that perhaps Astrid’s husband took his own life and has also learned that the money that should have been her widow’s portion has been stolen and spent, no doubt by Herbert on his mistress, horses and other sporting pursuits. Gareth, Andrew and David become suspicious that there is more going on than meets the eye, and their suspicions fall mainly upon Douglas Amery, Herbert’s younger brother and now holder of the viscountcy. Douglas is a cold fish, and a stickler for propriety, unlike the youngest Allen brother, Henry, who is a gregarious spendthrift, rather like Herbert. Henry is clearly his mother’s favourite, too, and the pair complain regularly about the economies Douglas is imposing upon them in his effort to shore up the severely depleted family finances. Astrid does not feel comfortable around her brother-in-law, and is even less so when she is reminded that, as head of the family, Douglas has the right to assume guardianship of her child and to remove it from her care should he so wish.
When Astrid suffers a fall one day, she puts it down to the fact that the early stages of pregnancy have made her feel very unwell and that she is subject to fainting fits. The men, however, are more suspicious, and realise that the only way to keep Astrid safe is to remove her from Amery’s orbit altogether. And the only way to do that is for her to marry someone of equal or higher status with plenty of money to pitch into a legal battle should one become necessary. There’s only one man on hand who fits that bill, and when a further incident indicates, without doubt, that Astrid’s life is in danger, she and Andrew are married without delay.
The story that unfolds is both a tender and rather tragic love-story as well as a fairly well-handled mystery. The identity of the villain is never in doubt (given that the next book in the series is Douglas’ story), but the plot twists are deftly executed, and the mystery storyline works well.
I find that every book of Ms Burrowes’ I read invariably requires a handful of tissues, but the final chapters of Andrew are so emotionally charged, that I could have done with a whole box full! A series of utterly heart-rending circumstances conspire to have Andrew finally admit the reasons behind the depth of his self-hatred to Gareth, who is also going through his own personal version of hell. I said in my review of Gareth that the relationship between the brothers was one of the highlights of the book, and that continues to be the case here, as they talk and take comfort from each other at a truly dark time.
Andrew is a very strong addition to the Lonely Lords series; one of the more emotionally charged and angst-ridden, but if, like me, you enjoy being put though the emotional mangle, that won’t put you off.