After three books of David Worthington weaving in and out of the lives of our heroes and heroines, it’s time for his story though, to be honest, we don’t really learn anything more about him than we’ve already learned in Gareth, Andrew, and Douglas. He grew up with modest means with an aunt, not with his mother. He was the legitimate heir to his father’s title and estate, but kept mum to protect his father’s second marriage and the daughters of that union, Felicity and Astrid. We also already knew he’d had medical training and had been married before.
In David, we learn his marriage was unhappy (nearly all first marriages in a romance novel are) and that he loved his daughter, who died shortly after birth. He took over the brothel that Felicity inherited in Gareth and has been running it since. His man of business, Thomas Jennings, tells him that his brother-in-law’s former mistress, Letty Banks, seems to be unwell, and encourages David to check in on her. He discovers that, despite money left to her by Herbert Allen, she’s living in a nearly impoverished state. He asks her to come work at the brothel as a madam.
I quite like Letty, but I’m not entirely sure about David. He carries himself as someone who respects women but he’s one of those guys who just carries around his male privilege without being aware with it. Letty has to call him out on being a dick several times and I’m not sure that David ever really gets it. But he’s not perfect, and there’s something to be said for that.
There’s the usual cast of supporting characters, including a lot of Douglas from the previous book. One of my pet peeves in reading series that, occasionally, an author shoves in previous characters without much narrative purpose (see: Jennifer Ashley & the Mackenzie series) but Burrowes does a really good job of showing us the friendship between these characters. David has built a family that he relies on heavily and having read Douglas, I buy the deep affection he and Douglas have for one another.
There’s also a lot of the Windhams here — Valentine plays a large supporting role that I’m not entirely sure is earned. He and Letty appear to be friendly (to the point Valentine seems a bit in love with her) but a lot of it happens off page so it makes some of the confidences Letty and David share with Val later seem a bit unrealistic. We’re also introduced to Daniel, Letty’s brother, and to Ellen FitzEngle, who will be appearing later. I’d quite forgotten that Val’s book had a back story that began here, so it’s going to be a lot of fun to revisit Little Weldon in The Virtuoso.
It’s a good book but I think it suffers just a bit from being overstuffed with extra characters and little plot. David and Letty only have one obstacle — she refuses to marry him and honestly, we’re kept out of her reasoning for far too long. But it’s not a bad read.
So specifically, my big problem with David is that he never seems to know how to deal with Letty. He assumes she’s a practiced courtesan based on the fact she had a relationship with his sister’s husband, Herbert. But Letty reveals pretty early that her memories of Herbert are not pleasant and that she’s not looking for a new protector. She’s already turned down two offers, from Douglas and from Val. In fact, she refuses David’s initial inquiry into the subject. She won’t “whore” for him.
I’m not mad that David seeks Letty out initially as a mistress, not really. That’s the world they lived in, and he realizes pretty soon he’d rather marry her (though Douglas encourages it early on in a conversation that doesn’t entirely work for me). I’m mad that David knows pretty much from the start that Letty is quiet, shy, and this is not the life she wants, and ignores that.
There’s a weird scene partway through the book where Letty is remembering the adventurous sex David has encouraged, and there are little lines where Letty says — this is not my thing, but David pushes her. She wakes up one time and he’s having sex with her — using a jade phallus. And when Letty protest, he doesn’t get it. He ties her up, and Letty eventually stops resisting. It’s just two pages out of an entire book, but it’s just…weird. And I’m not sure why it ends up in the book because it doesn’t really tell us anything except that David wants what he wants and would rather just force Letty into accepting it than get prior consent. That’s not great.
I did like that David knew, at some point, that Letty had had a child and just never brought it up to her. He’d hoped she’d tell him herself and didn’t want to pry into her pain. And David eventually stops treating the women at the brothel like silly little girls (though Letty has to tell him to stop calling them girls). But he’s just…I don’t know. His family adores him and Letty loves him, but I’m never sure how much I’m convinced how good a guy he is.
Overall After three books of David Worthington weaving in and out of the lives of our heroes and heroines, it’s time for his story though, to be honest, we don’t really learn anything more ...