When reviewing Sherry Thomas, some things go without saying. Her prose is lovely. I’m sure even those who don’t normally pay attention to prose notice the artistry of her words. The historical setting is absorbing and well-researched. Thomas has a distinctive style and while her fourth release does not deviate from that style, she does show growth as a writer. That extra layer of polish may make His at Night my favorite of her releases. (I need to reread the previous three to compare. Not an onerous task at all.)
Lord Vere is an idiot. Elissande Edgerton is a conniving young woman bent on snaring a rich, powerful husband. Lord Vere is one of the Crown’s best secret agents. Elissande is a scared young woman, a prisoner of her uncle who must rescue both herself and her infirm aunt. The two fall in love at first sight, but then repel each other with the masks they use to conduct their lives. It’s only after marriage that they begin to know each other truly.
I freely admit to hating plots full of endless misunderstandings between the hero and heroine. Thomas, however, makes it work. She accomplishes this amazing feat by having Vere and Elissande act like reasonable human beings. They’re both damaged but strong-willed. Neither trusts easily nor has a reason to reveal their true self. But at the same time, they can’t resist their attraction whenever they glimpse beneath the other’s persona.
Aside from the main romance, Thomas creates both a compelling plot and a satisfying secondary romance. Vere first encounters Elissande because he’s investigating her tyrannical uncle. Her uncle’s possible misdeeds are never forgotten, shoved to the background until the climax. The investigation is woven throughout, the various revelations about the uncle also revealing secrets of Vere and Elissande’s behavior. The secondary romance features Freddie, Vere’s younger brother, the good natured painter who lost out to the hero in Private Arrangements. It’s rewarding to see the losing side of a triangle get his own romance instead of being hastily paired off to a random character at the end of the book.
Those who don’t like flashbacks will be pleased to note that His at Night does not employ them to the same extent as Private Arrangements, Delicious, or Not Quite a Husband. There are integrated flashbacks to important parts of Vere and Elissande’s pasts, but they don’t occur every other chapter. (Nor do they ever last an entire chapter.) But like the spy plot, the flashbacks deepen the characterization.
I think Vere and Elissande are more likable than some of Thomas’s past heroes and heroines. They complement each other wonderfully. Elissande needed Vere to help her out of the prison created by her uncle; Vere needed Elissande to help him out of the prison of his own making. They help each other grow as people and find happiness. They’re sad, sweet, frustrating, silly, and utterly absorbing. My only complaint is that the first two sex scenes start a little rape-y. (Interestingly, the first time Elissande is the instigator.)
Elissande Edgerton is a desperate woman, a virtual prisoner in the home of her tyrannical uncle. Only through marriage can she claim the freedom she craves. But how to catch the perfect man?
Lord Vere is used to baiting irresistible traps. As a secret agent for the government, he’s tracked down some of the most devious criminals in London, all the while maintaining his cover as one of Society’s most harmless—and idiotic—bachelors. But nothing can prepare him for the scandal of being ensnared by Elissande.
Forced into a marriage of convenience, Elissande and Vere are each about to discover they’re not the only one with a hidden agenda. With seduction their only weapon against each other—and a dark secret from the past endangering both their lives—can they learn to trust each other even as they surrender to a passion that won’t be denied?
Read an excerpt here.