My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
4 stars. Oh my, who knew this book had so many hidden twists that'd surprise the hell outta me? Magnificently, too! :o I had no idea who the hero was even until 50% into the story... and I enjoyed every minute of it!
As from the blurb you'd find that our heroine, Miss Omega Chartley, was jilted at the alter by her esteemed, now errant, fiance Mr. Matthew Bering. Until the moment she realized that Matthew won't be showing up at the wedding, Omega was glowing with love, and full of hope for their future together. She never knew what made him jilt her so suddenly, making a dent in her self-esteem. But the prologue of the book shows you something rather disturbing, paving the way for the story, about someone, frantically trying to hide something. Someone trying to show up at a wedding even though something heavy is weighing on his mind. Something that wins at the end, and he leaves, leaving London entirely as if he couldn't disappear fast enough.
It's been 8 long years and Omega had fared. Not superbly but she's content where she is now, a rather stern but well-liked, schoolteacher. She's around 26, a spinster by all means, who doesn't expect to ever marry or have her own family. Her elder brother, Alpha (oh yes, Alpha and Omega :D), has seen that the Chartley line is secured by having 3 rambunctious sons of his own. There has been some family tragedies in between but Omega has fared.
Recently, Omega took up a new teaching job. She was on her way there when she finds herself in a spot of trouble... actually, in a heap of trouble by the name of Jamie Clevendon, a little runaway of around 10yrs. Jamie was running away from his cruel uncle, a peer of the realm. He's been abusing him and Jamie couldn't take it anymore. The uncle dearest has now set a Bow Street runner after Jamie, which is the reason he needed to hid himself away as best as possible. But his manners and the cut and quality of his now filthy clothing told Omega instantly that the child is not a vagrant of any type. Soon though, life would take a completely different turn for our Miss Chartley.
Once her mind made up on the matter, Omega and Jamie would have to come up with plans to hide themselves away from the Bow Street Runner to keep Jamie safe. To keep him from being returned to his uncle. And because she was helping him, Omega had no other option but to run with him. Jamie had another uncle at a place called Byford, a place Omega had no clue about or how to get there. But they were determined to find Byford from a scrap of map Jamie had with him. And when they did, they planned to ask for this uncle Lord Byford's help in Jamie's safekeeping. On the way to their little adventure, Jamie and Omega meet two fellow adventurers-- one is our war veteran Hugh Owens, newly returned from the war with Spain. Who wears the scars of the war quite literally with an arm missing. The other one was his fellow comrade, a little orphaned girl named Angela that Hugh had rescued. Since she had no one else, Hugh had made himself her guardian.
With the Runner on their hide, Omega, Jamie, Hugh and Angela have quite the adventure until they finally find Byford and knocks on Lord Byford's door. Even though the welcome from the butler was rather less cheery, and more of a shoo-shoo due to their, uh, looks at that time (filthy clothing and all that), a determined Hugh makes his way into Byford's home with Jamie in toe. But the one who was surprised as hell was not Jamie, not even the butler and the housekeeper. It was Omega herself when Lord Byford finally makes his way downstairs, learning of his errant nephew's arrival.Oh my God, that was some moment for me too! It was no one but the love of Omega's life. Whom she couldn't forget even once even after all these years. Even if she'd hated his guts with equal fervor.
He was quite a bit older than her, a worldly bachelor and his little school miss, which would make him around 34 yrs. old now. Even then, Matthew Bering looks as handsome has he had 8 years ago. Even more so if possible, now that he'd filled out quite nicely. The same dark auburn hair, lovely skin without freckles, tall and bright. "Eye candy" in one word. Omega then hated her curly, bouncy hair and her freckled skin even more, and the fact that they had to meet 8 yrs. later, just when she herself looks like a vagabond! Oh fate has a way of mocking her!! -_-
But Matthew, too, seemed equally surprised to see her, though I think what surpassed that "surprise" was Hugh's punch on his face. You see, he knew of Omega's story, and instantly figured out what was going on. :D After all that was said and done, Matthew somewhat welcomes them into his house but Omega was displeased with his reluctance. Also with the fact that he seemed not very interested in giving Jamie a home. But why? So far he'd been a gracious host, even with that slightly broken nose and one black-blue eye. What was his problem? Omega kept thinking if he was such a douche when she was a starry-eyed miss so utterly in love. Was he always like that? :/
Soon Omega was appointed the housekeeper when the latest one quit, throwing tantrum, not wanting to serve the latest bunch of raggedy "guests". But Omega wasn't unhappy about it. She knew what to do. She'd already seen the room, which could only be her suite, as planned by Matthew. But then Matthew had always been a person neat, who liked to be well-planned and prepared. This suite was still stocked with all sorts of womanly things that fit her perfectly. She was stunned, rather awed that he'd kept that suite intact until now. But why? Why did he jilt her at the altar, then keep her memory alive? Why never marry, living a life of a recluse?
By then I knew I couldn't think of Hugh as the prospective H of the story, even though he was a nice guy, and even though I would've loved to see him paired with someone. I could pretty much see that neither Omega, nor Matthew has moved on from each-other. Not by any means. But that why was bothering Omega quite a lot. She needed to get to the bottom of it, even if it meant nothing for them. Even if they have no future to speak of anymore. Oh but the heart doesn't stop hoping............ When this, comprised with Jamie's uncertain future, came into forefront, Omega had to ask Matthew, demand actually, as to what the hell is going on. She could see Matthew was still the same man she fell in love with. An unpretentious, gracious fellow. He and his staff, by now, have accepted their mismatched little group and welcomed them with open arms. Matthew loved having them around, or so the servants would gossip to Omega. As if his life had been sterile and miserable in the past 8 yrs, as much as, Omega's startling realization, was her own. Yet, she didn't know what went so horribly wrong that made Matthew jilt her, and then hid himself away.
Matthew seemed only too eager to talk to her, to unburden what has been eating at him all these years, even if he was faltering at first. He had to explain what had happened on his bachelor's party to get to where they were today. And why it'd be really difficult for him to keep Jamie around. Everything was tied together in such an insanely intense package, it was staggering to say the least. So when it all started unraveling with Matthew's stunning tale, Omega knew that fate was cruel. To them, to a lot of people who were a part of this horrendous play. Many of them were now dead, thanks to a villain who'd go to any length to keep things quiet. Worse was, Matthew was drunk at the time so he had no idea if the crime committed was his fault or not. And the only person who knew, still alive, was the person who could ruin him. Has already threatened to ruin him. It was Lord Rotherford, Jamie's other uncle.
Now they have to find a way to defeat this villain to give Jamie a home, also... maybe, hoping against hope, that they'd have their own, long awaited HEA after all. But can Matthew do this? There was another, rather personal secret he'd been hiding too, and that secret may come between Omega and Matthew after all. :(
I'd not go into any other detail as to not ruin the whole mystery that becomes the core of the story at one point. Instead, I'd now try to outline some things. I picked this book up on a whim, just because it's a Carla Kelly book, reading only the blurb. No reviews at all. Now I see that issues have been raised about the contents of the book. To explain:
1. This is a clean romance, no descriptive sex, or even a kissing scene. But it's NOT your love and laughter, fluffy clean romance for sure because of the above mention incident. That part, obviously, takes quite a bit of the page count, being the reason behind every trouble in Omega and Matthew's life. If you don't like your clean romance anything but "neat and clean", then maybe you shouldn't read it.
2. Which brings me to the point, if this story is graphic or not. I'm not liking how some peeps, without reading the book, casting presumptions in their 1 star reviews. IMO, it was not graphic. If you've read Beau Crusoe, you'd know Ms. Kelly can write some phenomenally out-of-this-world, can't-even-think-of-it kind of situations. But she's never too descriptive in that aspect, nothing to make you wanna throw up. No, not with graphic descriptions. She only gives you enough to ponder on it. To let you think and make your own judgment. I have to tell you, even if I felt sick, I never felt disgusted at Beau's ordeals. Same goes for this book and Matthew's situation. It's not even close if you're talking about anything graphic, but there are some disturbing mentions of that fateful night of Matthew's life. In the end though, I believe it comes down to what your definition of "graphic" is.
3. There was NO cheating at all.
Again wanna state that I really enjoyed Miss Chartley's Guided Tour. Loved both Omega and Matthew, their chemistry together. Their easy relationship and instant understanding seemed to have survived a long 8 years stretch. I only wish I had some notion if Hugh Owens ever got his book or not. He soooo deserved one. *sigh* Does anyone know if there was a book for him?