Wednesday 30 September 2015

#CBR7 Book 104: "The Legend of Lyon Redmond" by Julie Anne Long

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 5 stars

Before I begin this review, I have to say that in a genre where where so many books have absolutely atrocious covers, where readers pick up and love the books despite the cover art, this book has one of my favourite covers in years. It fills me with joy and perfectly encapsulates the contents of the book. I wish more romances had covers this great. 

While many of Julie Anne Long's Pennyroyal Green books can be read out of order or completely independently of each other, this book is the culmination of the 11-book series, and as such, will probably not have the same impact on the reader as if it's read without some previous knowledge of the series in general and Olivia and Lyon's tragic romance in particular. There are SO many good books in this series, and one absolute classic. Go read some of them, then come back for this review.

It is said in Pennyroyal Green in Sussex, that the Redmonds and the Everseas have been enemies since the Dark Ages, but that once every generation, a Redmond and an Eversea will fall disastrously in love with each other. This generation's doomed couple - Lyon Redmond and Olivia Eversea, who met at a small assembly and almost instantly fell incandescently in love, despite knowing that their parents would never approve. Meeting an hour here and there in secret, conducting their courtship as secretly as they could, completely oblivious to the fact that everyone around them could see that they were besotted. Then Lyon Redmond suddenly left England, never to return. Gossip said it was because Olivia Eversea broke his heart.

Five years and thousands of hothouse flowers delivered to her door, Olivia Eversea shocks everyone by accepting the proposal of Lord Landsdowne, a quiet and unprepossessing viscount. Their wedding is the social event of the season, and as most of her siblings have had quiet weddings, Mrs. Eversea is determined that Olivia will get married with pomp and occasion. Yet at every turn, there are reminders of her long-lost love. A popular ballad is created, sung on every street corner. Illustrated prints depicting the possible adventures of Lyon Redmond appear in shop windows. He is seen as the dashing hero, she as the withered Miss Havishamesque creature who jilted him.

Lyon Redmond has spent the years away from England making a fortune, proving with every action that loving Olivia Eversea is what he does best. Now she is marrying another, and it's time for a reckoning between them. The last time he asked her, she refused to leave her family and go with him. Now Lyon will confront Olivia one last time and they will see if their love story is in fact a curse, or a blessing.

In each and every Pennyroyal Green book, the reader has got little snippets of the story of Lyon and Olivia. How they met and fell in love is never revealed, but that something Olivia Eversea said or did, made Lyon Redmond leave England and his family for good, is clear. That Olivia was never the same after he left, throwing herself into her worthy charitable causes and fending off eager suitors, seeming indifferent, yet never cruel, to all of them. Rumours of Lyon's exploits on the continent, making money hand over fist, possibly engaging in piracy. Olivia becoming thinner and more brittle, until one day she decides to accept a proposal, after all.

In this final book, which features cameos from many of the previous couples in the series, the reader finally gets to see how Lyon and Olivia met, what led to their separation and estrangement. It's become clear in the previous books that Isaiah Redmond is a strict and unforgiving father, whose four children all went against his express wishes in choosing their life partner. Lyon's refusal to bow to his demands, choosing to abandon his homeland and his family instead, probably spurred his younger siblings to exert their wills and make their own unpopular choices.

Olivia and Lyon's romance is in part a tragic one. They were young when they met and because of the enmity of their families, their feelings for one another were not well received by their parents. When push comes to shove, Olivia can't handle it. She cannot follow Lyon into exile. Having not even experienced her first season, she is still young and innocent, and terrified of what the future might bring. She breaks his heart and her own with the choice she makes and has to live in shattered loneliness in the years that follow, constantly hounded by suitors, watching her siblings and friends fall in love and settle down.

It was always obvious that Lyon wasn't going to be happy with Olivia's decision to marry another. Yet he cannot be surprised that she's unwilling to pine forever for him, having heard nothing to encourage her for five years. Their reckoning is a necessary one, and there are hurt feelings on both sides, but oh such a passion as well.

Last week, I came to the realisation that The Legend of Lyon Redmond, a book I've been anticipating since I first heard it was being written, and pre-ordered months ago, would be released during my autumn break. With the stress of my work over the last few months, I have had much less time and energy to read, so the prospect of a whole day off when I could revel in this book was a gift from the fates. Like I suspect all long time readers of the series, I had very high expectations. Lyon and Olivia's story runs like a unifying thread throughout the other narratives and getting to read their story was almost too exciting to bear.

I adore What I Did for a Duke, the story of Olivia's younger sister and the Duke of Falconbridge. There are other books in the series that I am deeply fond of, but this is the only book in the series that I feel can rate as highly. Like in Genevieve's book, I got so caught up in the story that I literally shouted at the characters more than once. My husband seemed amused by my antics, assuring me that it would be a pretty unsatisfactory romance if the protagonists didn't end up happily together in the end. I nearly threw a cushion at him. Clearly both the Eversea sisters are determined to try my nerves by taking a really long time to realise what is best for them.

This is a wonderful book, but really does require the reader to have taken the journey through the series to fully appreciate the ending, not only to Olivia and Lyon's story, but to all the Pennyroyal Green books. I wasn't wild on the epilogue, where we are suddenly introduced to a current day descendant of the Redmonds and Everseas, and given insight into what happened to the children and grandchildren of all the heroes and heroines of the books in the centuries to come. I felt that was unnecessary, but it didn't ruin the perfection of the rest of the book. I will most likely skip it the many times I re-read this in future, though.

With this, I complete the Pennyroyal Green series and my double Cannonball.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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