New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh weaves a sensuous spell of romance that brings together the unlikeliest pair of lovers in the unlikeliest place of all– an infamous London house of pleasure.
She was unlike any woman he’d ever met in the ton or the demimonde. But Sir Gerald Stapleton frequented Mrs. Blyth’s euphemistically dubbed “finishing school” for pure, uncomplicated pleasure–and nothing else. So why was this confirmed bachelor so thoroughly captivated by one woman in particular? Why did he find himself wondering how such a rare jewel of grace, beauty, and refinement as Priss had ended up a courtesan? And when she needed protection, why did Gerald, who’d sworn he’d never get entangled in affairs of the heart, hasten to set her up as his own pampered mistress to ensure her safety–and have her all to himself?
For Priscilla Wentworth, the path leading to Sir Gerald’s bed had been as filled with misfortune as it suddenly seemed charmed. But Priss couldn’t allow herself to believe she’d ever be more to a man like Sir Gerald than a well-cared-for object of pleasure. Now, despite Gerald’s deep distrust of marriage, neither scandal nor society’s censure can keep them apart–only the fear of trusting their hearts.
After having read A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh last December I knew this was an author I wanted to read again. I had a few qualms with A Christmas Promise, mainly because the hero was a jerk but the heart that the author gave her characters and the way the story-line just flowed left me wanting to try her again. I am glad I read A Precious Jewel. There was so much from the Balogh catalogue to choose from since she has been writing for a few decades and what made me choose A Precious Jewel was that in the blurb the two main characters are described as an “unlikeliest pair of lovers”. I am a sucker for unconventional love stories. I love it when the couples have to work for their love, it makes it worthwhile, just like in this particular story.
Priscilla Wentworth comes from a nice family and is a refined lady but she finds herself alone after her father and then her brother pass away from illness. Her mother died when she was young. Her brother did not leave a will so she contacts her former governess Mrs. Blyth and asks if she can stay with her at her finishing school until she turns 30 and is awarded her mother’s inheritance. Mrs. Blyth takes Priscilla in but confesses to her that her ‘finishing school’ is actually a house of prostitution. Priscilla finds herself in a horrible situation but decides to start working there as a courtesan. She knows it is not what she wants for herself but she also knows how much worse it could be since Mrs. Blyth thinks of her as a daughter and treats her well. She figures she will work a few years and save what she can until she gets her mother’s inheritance.
Enter Sir Gerald Stapleton who frequents Mrs. Blyth’s establishment and happens to book an appointment with Priscilla one day and starts seeing her three times a week from then on. A few months after this he decides to ask her if she would like to be his personal mistress. See how the story is channeling a Pretty Woman theme a little bit?
Priscilla agrees because although it is work Gerald is the kindest man she has ever met and she has feelings for him. Gerald rents a house for Priscilla with a small staff for her as well for an entire year. Priscilla is on cloud nine because she will only have to see Gerald and she cares about him already. He also promises to give her an allowance after the year is up or if she chooses to leave before the year is out. Gerald is happy because the thought of another man with Priscilla upsets him and he is falling in love with her despite himself. He likes the idea of going to her house now and asking to see her privately. Which is what he does, he treats that as her house and waits for her to come downstairs to greet him when he visits.
Priscilla is known in town for working for Mrs. Blyth and Gerald knows the two of them could never actually be together. What he doesn’t know is that Priscilla is actually a refined lady who just happened to be in a nightmare situation with no family, no money and nearly homeless. She keeps her personal life private from him but little by little he notices things like the fact that she can read and play the piano and that she admires art. He takes her to the botanical garden and to museums.
Anyway, I am rambling now but it was a sweet romance. I fell for the forbidden love/knight in shining armor trope immediately. Gerard is a beta hero, he’s more the quiet type but it works here. Priss loves him but she is prepared for it not to last. Both of them are prepared for this not to last and that thought is always on their minds which makes their time together bittersweet. Gerald was irritating at times and clueless even, but finally things dawn on him and when they do he goes all out to win the woman he loves. Both of these characters are flawed and they gravitate towards one another. Gerald has issues with trust and abandonment. Priss is considered to be fallen from grace and she knows society judges harshly. I wanted her to be more honest with Gerald about who she really was and about what was going on but Mary Balogh makes you wait for it which was also nice.
A Precious Jewel is apart of a series but works fine as a stand alone read. There are a few characters here which I am assuming are in the other books and this story resolves itself at the end so you don’t need to read the others in the series unless you want to.
So, overall I really enjoyed this read. It was sweet and romantic, the writing was great and I sighed a few times while reading. I recommend it if you enjoy unconventional romance and a beta-hero.
A few favorites lines….
“There was a new wonder about the world and about life. A cautious wonder. A wonder because they had become lovers beside the lily-covered lake and had remained lovers ever since. Cautious because not a word of their new relationship had been spoken between them.”
p. 160, A Precious Jewel by Mary Balogh
“She did not try to put him from her mind. She did not try to fall out of love with him. She thought of him constantly and loved him and remembered their times together and waited patiently for the pain to go away and the less piercing ache of nostalgia to take its place.”
-p.192, A Precious Jewel
“She was his love. That was what she was. She was his love.”
-p. 279, A Precious Jewel
About the author:
Mary Balogh is the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Slightly novels: Slightly Married, Slightly Wicked, Slightly Scandalous, Slightly Tempted, Slightly Sinful, and Slightly Dangerous, as well as the romances No Man’s Mistress, More than a Mistress, and One Night for Love. She is also the author of Simply Love, Simply Unforgettable, Simply Magic, and Simply Perfect, her dazzling quartet of novels set at Miss Martin’s School for Girls. A former teacher herself, she grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada.
Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of A Precious Jewel by Mary Balogh. The book photo in this post is my own and is not to be removed from here.