I’ve been avidly following Lynne Connolly’s series about the Emperors of London and their archenemies, the Dankworth family, so it seems only fitting that the stories should wrap up with a romance between one member of each great house. Fear not, Emperors fans, this may be the end of one series, but I gather that another is on the way, featuring various of their cousins from the Shaw family.
Back to the Emperors, however, and Helena finally gets her place centre stage after appearing in the background of her relatives’ romances throughout this delightful and enchanting series. Also lurking in the background for much of the series has been Tom, Lord Alconbury, the eldest son of the Duke of Northwich, and thus heir apparent to the Emperors’ most bitter rival. It’s been hinted through the series so far that Tom wants to end the feud between the families, and at last we learn the full details behind his reasons, the most important of which, of course, is Helena.
Helena and Tom first meet a full four years before the main events of the series start to unfold. Although this is technically Helena’s third season, she missed most of her first and all of her second, due to illness: so she doesn’t recognise the strange man who bumps into her as they enter the ball thrown by Julius – acknowledged leader of the Emperors, and Helena’s brother – to celebrate the imminent birth of his first child. Nervous at making her debut, Helena seeks solace in what she thinks is an empty room, only to encounter the stranger again – and this time they really ‘see’ each other. As they act on this instantaneous mutual attraction, they are surprised by Julius, who immediately reveals the stranger’s identity. Tom distances himself from Helena, all but breaking her heart in the process, and a duel is narrowly averted.
All is not lost, however; Tom seeks Helena out in secret over the following days, and they begin a clandestine romance. Charmingly, they play at being newlyweds of somewhat lesser status, in a townhouse Tom vows to keep only for Helena. Just as the pair are planning an escape to the Continent as a continuation of both their romance and the game, Tom’s father delivers devastating news regarding Tom’s true heritage. Now believing himself too closely related to Helena to continue their relationship, Tom shuns her, and this time Helena’s heart really is broken. That devastation for Helena is followed by another for Julius, and so Helena devotes the next five years to caring for her motherless niece, as well as avoiding the machinations of her and Julius’ mother who wants her either married off or permanently bound at home as an unpaid companion.
Helena manages to avoid both fates and seems to have found an alternative life for herself, with the help of Julius’ new wife, but then she is swept up into the intrigue surrounding the exiled Stuarts. Julius and Tom are forced to work together to rescue Helena from a terrible fate, and Tom at last reveals how sick he is of the feud between their families. More twists and turns are in store for Tom and Helena yet, as she works to disprove his belief in the wrongness of their relationship, and he continues to fight against enemies with motives both political and personal.
This finale to the series ran along at a cracking pace, and there were definitely scenes that I would have liked to seen expanded. Overall, though, a successful conclusion to the series that leaves readers wanting to see more of the Emperors and their allies.
Read Veena’s review here.
A riotous passion and a forbidden love jeopardize the future of the Emperors of London…
Ravishingly beautiful and accomplished, Helena has her pick of suitable bachelors—and because she is the only daughter of a powerful duke, her mother is determined she makes a good marriage. But Helena won’t marry any of them, because she is in love with the son of her family’s most dangerous enemy. Though she has now been rebuffed by her beloved, she is resolved to win him back—no matter the cost.
Tom’s forbidden love for Helena has only intensified over the years of their separation. But the discovery of his true roots has changed everything. His secret spells danger for his family and everyone he loves. Devoted to Helena, he will sacrifice anything—even his one great love—to keep her safe. And soon, caught between warring factions and hounded by a deadly assassin, the couple will be swept back together in a fight for their lives, and their destiny…
Read an excerpt.