Gabriel by Grace Burrowes

Gabriel by Grace Burrowes
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (310 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

After years in hiding, when Gabriel Wendover leaves behind the woman he loves to resume his place as Marquis of Hesketh, he finds the lady herself already ensconced his household, and the mysterious danger still stalking him. Gabriel loves Polonaise Hunt (Polly) and is both upset and thrilled to find that she’s been hired by his brother to paint the family portraits. He must keep himself, his brother and Polly safe, but there’s nothing he can do to safeguard his own heart…

As I read how Gabriel treats his horse Soldier, I remembered what an old cowboy once told me, just as I was starting to notice boys. He said, “Always pay attention to how a man takes care of his horses; that’s the way he’d take care of you.”

Secrets and betrayals govern Gabriel’s actions while he works at Three Springs as the estate’s steward. After several attempts on his life, he doesn’t know who to trust. But Polly, with concern for a fellow sufferer, tries to ease his hurts, both physical and emotional. On an unusual level, they find comfort in each other’s company and easy camaraderie that is without commitment or expectations. Then each of them moves on to the next stage of life, Gabriel back to his life at his family’s wealthy estate and Polly back to painting portraits that Tremaine has commissioned for her.

Gabriel, who, by birthright, is the Marques of Hasket, goes home where his brother Aaron is now the Marques since he had Gabriel declared dead. Imagine Gabriel’s surprise when he finds Polly there to paint portraits of Aaron and his wife Marjorie.

Gabriel’s protective nature demands that he send Polly away, since he has no idea if his would-be assassin is still pursuing him or not, but Polly too is precious to him to take the chance that she might be targeted for being associated with him. She had been his lifeline after he returned from Spain—distressed in body and soul. She helped him learn to be Gabriel not just the Marques of Hesket. He wants her safe out of harm’s way. However, telling her she has to go and her actually going or altogether two different things. How this works makes a compelling story with subtle humor and sizzling sexy scenes that rev up one’s senses and emotions—superb reading.

Polly loves the “damnedly dear and dark” Gabriel, the man she knows as Mr. North, the workaholic steward of Three Springs. His size, intellect, taciturn way and irascible demeanor do not intimidate her even after she knows he is the Marques of Hesket. Like Gabriel, Polly is a survivor. She has a past that haunts her as she tries to do what she thinks is right for the welfare of the ones she loves; but what a tangled web she and her sister Sara have woven.

One of my favorite characters is smart, intuitive little Allie. She is supposed to remember and live so many lies. Her load is too heavy for a child and her heart is breaking. The way she trusts Gabriel reaches in and grips one’s heart. With his assurance and encouragement to speak her mind, Allie, though scared, is determined to do just that. One of the most poignant scenes in the story happens when she finally asks, “Why don’t you want to be my mother?” My heart broke for her.

The secondary characters like the distant cousin George, the steward at Hesketh and Lady Hartle, Marjorie’s mother, and Tremaine, wield lots of power in the unfolding of events even though the reader doesn’t see them very often. They furnish some tense and surprising moments that keeps one turning pages. Of course, Aaron and Marjorie who stand to gain the most if Gabriel is dead are intriguing characters with a tangled story all their own.

Some of the love scenes take the breath away, sends the heart pounding, and heats the blood, while others are tender, precious treasures to keep in one’s heart. Gabriel and Polly, whose worlds are so far apart, share a unique connect that Grace Burrowes reveals in so many subtle ways. It is like a soul-mate connection that transcends social mores and barriers that declares it taboo.

Grace Burrowes, a master story teller, manages many, many characters with skill. The reader is wise to read carefully early on to get the characters sorted because the action and emotions build up speed and sweep these characters along to do their good and bad deeds apace. With her exquisite writing style, Ms. Burrowes makes Gabriel a riveting historical tale and an amazing love story.

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