One of my favorite romance tropes is “young love.” Where either the heroine has loved the hero since she was just old enough to understand what love is, or both hero and heroine experience puppy love, put it aside to grow up, and then come back to it when they are mature and ready for it.
A Lady of His Own, book 3 in the Bastion Club series by Stephanie Laurens, showcases Charles St. Austell and his wayward childhood love Penelope. I adored this book. The premise is that Charles is back from being a wartime spy (a very very common vocation for Laurens’ heroes) and finds Penelope walking the corridors of his house late at night; she, however, doesn’t know he’s back and has run to his house because hers is being inhabited by the cousin who inherited her brother’s title.
The actual plot doesn’t particularly matter to me, though it is interesting and involves spying and treason and that sort of juicy side story. No, for me, this whole book is about the misunderstandings of two people who were very young and very much in love but had a terrible time of being psychic and knowing what the other was thinking and wanting.
Penelope has been in love with Charles for as long as she can remember. At 16, she convinces him to have her way with her, mere days before he leaves for the service. The basic crux of their problem is that Charles thinks that the sex was so bad and hurt Penelope so much that she obviously hated him afterwards. From Penelope’s point of view, the sex wasn’t mindblowing, but was compleatly worthwhile, but she has no chance alone with Charles after the sex but before he leaves.
Cut to 10 years later where they are both still harboring feelings for the other but are positive that the other hates them. To me, this is brilliant. I love watching two people who love each other figure out that the other loves them. It is my absolute favorite part of romance novels. This book does it in spades, and I adored both the characters. They were believable, and I never once wanted to throw the book across the room1 because of character stupidity2.
This book has a permanent spot on my keeper shelf, if only for the following lines:
He held her gaze, thinking for a moment longer, then replied, his voice so low she wasn’t sure she heard so much as felt his words.
“Whatever you wish, however you wish. I’m yours. Take me.”
Love me. Charles bit back the words––not yet, not now. He might be caught, but he wasn’t sure she was.
That moment––when Charles releases his silent plea––that’s the reason I read romance. I have found the love of my life. I’ve had that moment. Before I found Erik, I was searching for that moment, and reading romance gave it to me in all it’s infinite glory. The moment you realize that it really is love and not lust, not friendship, not every other relationship you’ve ever had. I love that feeling, and I get it from living vicariously through fictional people.