Love would be simpler if it came with a script. Marguerite Ceniza dies on the London stage each night, but her own life has barely begun. The ingénue is on the prowl for a lover, but while she burns with desire for Sophie, a confession could ruin their decade-long friendship. In the meantime there are always men vying to be her patron, and square-jawed, broad-shouldered James Glover can’t help but catch her eye. Sophie Armand has been a lady’s maid for too long, and she’s sick of keeping secrets. Her hidden scripts and the story of her birth are only the beginning. Her nights are haunted by desperate thoughts of the beguiling Marguerite, and of James, the handsome tradesman who whispers promises of forever into her ear. James has the kind of problem a lot of men would kill for—two women, both beautiful, both sensual, and both willing. Sophie wants marriage, while Marguerite’s only in it for fun, and choosing between them isn’t easy. What’s the worst that could happen if he secretly courts them both? Their romantic triangle is complicated in the most delicious way, until a shadowy figure from Marguerite’s past threatens to destroy the budding relationship—and their lives.
Marguerite (aka Meg) Ceniza lives her life as she sees fit! As an actress, Meg gets to play a variety of roles that allow her to play out her need for attention in front of a receptive audience each and every night. Meg has no interest in marriage or children or generally being tied down but she is interested in being loved and cared for. Sophie (aka Sarah) Armand is far quieter and more reserved than her best-friend, Meg and has a great deal of interest in being married, having children, and being loved and cared for. Though the two women are wildly different, they have long been friends and most recently, have become lovers. Though their affair will most certainly bring them both pleasure, it won’t bring either of them the security of marriage and family.
James Glover isn’t a wealthy or titled man but he does have a respectable income thanks to his stay/corset designs. His work is beautiful and finely crafted and certainly appeals to many women among London society. With his financial future virtually assured, it is now time for James to settle his personal future. Unfortunately, James can’t quite decide between two women, Meg and Sophie, which causes him to devise the most ill-conceived of plans, he will court them both, make Sophie his wife and keep Meg as his mistress. What could possibly go wrong here??? Within days of settling on his plan, James is found out and the two women take the most delightfully delicious and sensual revenge on him for his trickery. (FYI: This is one of the best scenes in the book :)) Never in his wildest dreams would James have imagined not only having both women but both women being willing to share themselves with each other as much as with him. What could possibly go wrong here???
As these things tend to go (says the girl who has no first-hand knowledge of such things :)) the initial stages of the love triangle are filled with shared naughty moments and promises of never abandoning one another. But Meg, Sophie, and James are all still human and their respective situations don’t lend themselves to making things more permanent. Meg doesn’t want something permanent but wants both James and Sophie, Sophie to love her and James to care for her financially. James fears he will lose Meg if he follows his heart and proposes marriage to Sophie and fears Sophie will step aside if he shows too much attention to Meg. Sophie has a comfortable position as a lady’s maid and fears losing both Meg and James due to the responsibilities and duties demanded by her job. Clearly, the three need to have a serious talk but, as with any good book, they choose to keep their feelings and fears inside until everything falls apart.
Of the three, Meg has always been the most reckless, the most careless and has relied on Sophie (among others) to bail her out of her messes. Her most recent mess is the direst she has ever faced and with Sophie and James so very, very mad at her, she has no choice but to get herself (and James’s sister) out of the dilemma. Mind you, the dilemma isn’t simple or small but large and dangerous and it will take everything in Meg (and maybe a few surprise rescuers!) to right the wrongs she has created.
The Bottom Line: Bowery is finding her stride with She Whom I Love and I thoroughly enjoyed the naughty little period piece. Of the group, James and Sophie are my favorites with Meg and her selfish, flighty ways coming in a distant third. To say the trio has an unconventional arrangement wouldn’t even be in the ballpark and it is the unconventionality that makes this read so exciting. Sophie and Meg are opposite sides of the same coin making it impossible for James to decide on just one woman. The women’s willingness to share James and themselves leads to some delightfully naughty scenes and shared intimate moments. The drama the trio find themselves embroiled in is just right for this read and doesn’t drag on for long. Ultimately, She Whom I Love is a romance that does have a HEA that I found to be most satisfying.
P.S. Though you don’t have to have read book one, Rite of Summer to enjoy She Whom I Love, I would recommend reading them in order. There are a few little details in this second book that relate to people and moments from the first book.
James has been courting Sophie and Meg at the same time. When Sophie seems distant, he receives a letter from his other love with an invitation that he has to accept.
Her letter had come at the right time, after the sharp disappointment from Miss Armand’s hesitation had settled. James had set aside his shears and the fine leather he’d been cutting for Lady Horlock’s stays binding and popped the plain wax seal with nerves as shaky as a schoolboy trying for his first kiss.
Darling man, it had read. How can I thank you enough? Do come and call for tea on Tuesday, if you can spare the time. Half past four would suit. I so long to see you!
– M. Ceniza
“Pardon, guv.” A slick and oily tough jostled him as he turned into the stairs to Miss Ceniza’s lodgings, but a quick pat proved that James’s money and watch were where they were supposed to be. James glanced up, ready to accept the apology, but stopped short. The man had stopped and was staring at him, looking him up and down as though carefully memorizing his face and form. Then, with a touch to the brim of his hat, he moved away.
What had that been about? Other than how much James stuck out in these surroundings—it was obvious that he did not belong here.
The wooden stairs creaked when he stepped up onto them, a faint hint of rot spreading on the end of the risers. A pack of screaming children ran down the street behind him after a rolling hoop, vanishing around a corner only to reappear a moment later, chased by a woman with a broom.
Enough lollygagging about—the anticipation built within him with every moment he spent standing at her door. Miss Ceniza would ask him in, take his hand, permit him a kiss? Perhaps more? He could bring her to such heights of pleasure that she would forget every one of her previous lovers. Her plump hips would yield to his mouth, her skin tasting of sugar and honey.
Those red lips of hers would part and she would breathe out his name in hushed abandon—
“Mr. Glover!” The door opened in front of him, his hand still poised to knock, and the warm rush to his groin threatening to become something immodest. Miss Ceniza stood there, the door half closed and blocking his view of the room beyond. She wore her hair loosely pinned, black curls tumbling down to brush her shoulders, and a delicate yellow dress that turned her lithe form into a beam of purest gold. When she smiled, her eyes flashed. “I thought that was you lingering on my stoop. Will you not come inside?”
“Miss Ceniza.” James bowed and smiled. “You take my breath away, every time we meet. I swear you grow lovelier by the minute.”
She stepped aside and held the door for him. He stood blinded for a moment in the dim light, following the bright afternoon sun. “You have a silver tongue, Mr. Glover,” Miss Ceniza teased.
“Indeed he does,” said another, equally familiar voice, one that should not have been there.
Oh. Oh, no. No, no, no.
Tess Bowery lives near the ocean, which sounds lovely, except when it snows. An historian by training and a theater person by passion, she’s parleyed her Masters degree in English history into something that would give her former professors something of a surprise. Her love for the Regency era began as they always do, with Jane Austen, and took a sharp left turn into LBGT biographies and microhistory. Now she indulges in both of her passions, telling the stories of her community in the time periods that fire the human imagination. Her first foray into contemporary M/M fiction, High Contrast, releases in 2016. Along with writing, Tess splits her time between teaching, backstage work, LBGT activism and her family. She spends far too much money on comic books, loves superheroes and ghost stories, and still can’t figure out how to use Twitter properly.
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