A wonderful break from the real world, ‘Illicit Love’ is a beautiful story of the strength of love in the face of adversity and the importance of the bond of family. There is so much that I love about this story but can’t talk about in case it spoils the story development for potential readers, but I will say that this is a superbly written book. I absolutely adored Jane Lark’s writing style, and I am in awe at how beautifully the descriptive prose flowed throughout the novel.
‘Illicit Love’ is very different to a lot of books in the ‘Historical Romance’ genre, and with its very real characters, I feel it gave a more realistic view of life in an era which most of us tend to think of as extremely romantic. Whilst we all tend to swoon at characters such as Mr. Darcy for their respectful and appropriate treatment of women, I really loved the way that hero Edward Marlow was depicted and particularly how he acts with Ellen during their first meeting. Whilst he abhors the treatment young mistresses receive from their ‘owners’, the author is clear to show that above all else, he is still a man, and despite his virtues he still engages in a sexual relationship with heroine Ellen during their first encounter, even if he later regrets his actions. I think a lot of us tend to forget when reading historical romances that men are still men, no matter what era they were born into, and I loved seeing this different side to a romantic hero.
From this I loved everything about Edward and Ellen’s relationship, especially how Ellen blossomed when she was in Edward’s company, but also how she feared that he was too good for her. I liked how despite Edward being a few years younger than Ellen, he seemed wiser than his years, and his experience of the real world therefore didn’t make him seem too young for her.
Despite being at risk of being attacked by feminists everywhere, my favourite character was Edward’s brother Robert. From our first glimpse of Robert I found myself so intrigued with his character, and the obvious pain and heartbreak he was hiding behind a mask of disinterest and sarcasm. Whilst I felt furious at his behaviour towards Ellen during their first meetings, I always had hope that his actions were all due to his desire to protect his brother from harm, and I loved how his character developed throughout the course of the story.
The pace of the novel was so different to many novels, and I really loved it. In many novels you have a huge build-up to the main drama at the end part of the novel, however in ‘Illicit Love’, the story has many peaks and falls in the intensity of the drama, starting well before the mid-way point of the book. It was a brilliant way of keeping the reader’s attention and also giving little snippets of new information that is uncovered from each crisis that is then added together in a stunning conclusion where we finally understand the feelings and actions of the different characters.
The historical context of the novel was well depicted, and I loved the brilliant descriptions of the clothing of both the men and women. I loved how attention was given to the fashion of the time, as it really helped me to integrate myself into the story and feel myself as part of it, rather than merely reading about it from the outside.
This was a fantastic read which I highly recommend to all lovers of romance. A superbly written tale of love, loss, family and bravery, this is one not to be missed. 5 Stars!