Temptation  & Twilight   - Charlotte Featherstone My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

In my estimation, Iain and Elizabeth are the best pair of the Brethren Guardian series. I’ve no hesitations saying this because this book was just so good and also, to me, the best installment of the series; not just because it was the end of this series but this was full of so much emotion, angst and revelations that caught me by surprise. I was totally cheering for this pair from book #1 and I wasn’t disappointed, all thanks to CF for her wonderful efforts.

First, like my reviews of other two books, the recap of Brethren Guardians for anyone who’s new to it. This series is about the descendents of three Brethren Guardians- Drake Sheldon, Sinjin York and Haelen St. Clair (why St. Clair and not Sinclair is explained here), who were the Templar Knights, given the responsibility to guard the pendant, the chalice and the magical scroll. Their descendents carried on with the responsibilities but recently, the club called the Masonic Club has become a general Gothic style club with Ton members vying to get an entry. Though there are other members or Masons, the real descendents- Jude Sheldon, the Earl of Black, Adrian York, the Duke of Sussex and Iain Sinclair, the Marquis of Alynwick have had their ‘initiations’ just the way their fathers did at their mid-teens, a process made none of them happy. Jude’s family guarded the pendant, Adrian’s the chalice and Iain’s guarded the scroll. It seems like there was a House of Orpheus a longtime ago, which caused troubles for Jude, Adrian and Iain’s fathers and was shut down by them. Anyway, the ‘whys and hows’ of everything were answered and I’ve to say, I’m quite satisfied with the answers. In the 1st book Seduction & Scandal, the trouble was about the pendant. And then there was Jude and Isabella’s shaky relationship where Isabella did almost everything to hurt and deny Jude ‘til the end and in the process made me want to scream in frustration. Jude was always amazing to her, even if a bit forward about his desire for her. But Jude never gave up his perusal of her because of another past incident between them that created a strange atmosphere for the story. Adrian had this complete devotion towards Lucy that I, for god’s sake, couldn’t understand why- until the end of the book that is. Lucy has been quite cranky and rude to Adrian for the most part but thankfully, some of her vulnerabilities I could understand so I wasn’t totally put off by her. In Pride & Passion, new developments about not only Adrian and Lucy’s relationship was revealed but also, we get to learn a lot about the state of Iain and Elizabeth’s shared past; a past is more intimate and convoluted than I initially suspected. The progress of P&P was a bit hazy for me, but after reading Temptation & Twilight, which runs almost simultaneously with P&P, clarified a lot of things. In P&P, Orpheus became bolder on his mad quest of destroying the BGs. There were threats on Lucy’s life and Adrian became involved inadvertently because he would protect her with his life. I loved his absolute obsession over Lucy but at the end of the book, the reason of this ‘obsession’ came into the light (something linking to Adrian’s own dark past, of which Lucy was a vital part too) and took me by surprise. I didn’t expect much from Lucy but she proved to be far more likable. She felt an attraction towards Adrian but was in a confusing situation due to her lover’s unexpected return from the dead. At a point, they were forced to get married, then Lucy knew of Adrian’s ‘real’ identity and there was no way she wouldn’t fall for him now. A bit farfetched after the way she treated him for the better part of the book but the reason was good enough. The ending marked some serious progress.

Already mentioned that, T&T runs almost simultaneously with P&P. Iain, the womanizer Mad Marquis, was already helping the BGs by seducing this woman who claimed to have direct link to Orpheus himself. So far, the BGs didn’t have any choice because they were still baffled about Orpheus’s identity. Iain’s womanizing was never a secret. He is very handsome, a ‘brute’ of a Highlander who loves his share of women. Now, I do love Highlander heroes but not womanizers. But CF has a way of handling her rakes and I can’t help falling for them in the end. By all accounts, I should be grossed out the way this book starts where Iain was with that woman he was seducing. He was dressing up after bouts of sex, the woman naked in his bed, never minding that his valet Sutherland was there, helping him dress. But Iain’s thoughts were different, consumed by someone else. It was apparent that even though he’s good in this ‘game’ and would do anything to help the Guardians, he didn’t like doing it anymore. I was most especially struck by Iain’s thought, the way he feels like a flash boy of the East End. He was tired and lost. IMO, Iain’s sacrifice was much more intense than that of Jude or Adrian. Yes, he himself initiated this plan but it was sort of expected, what with Iain having the reputation as an incorrigible womanizer. By now, we knew that Iain and Elizabeth had a relationship 12 yrs ago, when they were 21 and 18 respectively. At that time, the ‘important’ development of Adrian’s life was happening, thanks to his cold and calculating father. Elizabeth, who was already going blind with the genetic problem, was mostly ignored by the vile man and was left alone in the estate. I think Iain’s father’s estate bordered close to Adrian’s and so it happened. I was, at first, confused about the time length of their affair. I thought it was a onetime thing but apparently, it was one whole summer.

Anyway, this book starts somewhere in the middle of P&P. Iain leaves the woman and goes to that ball where Lucy, Adrian, Isabella, Elizabeth and the others were present. Iain sees Elizabeth laughing and talking with a man called the Earl of Sheldon and he sees red. Iain still can’t but think of Elizabeth as his, even though the snippets of their past hints that he was the one who broke Elizabeth’s heart. He attacks Sheldon, which creates a stir in the crowd. Iain was supposed to fight a duel with that woman’s stupid husband, who was putty in her hands. Iain was disgusted by the whole thing but he can’t avoid it. After the debacle of the ball, Elizabeth and Adrian leave. Jude takes Adrian’s place as Iain’s second. There is an accident before the duel takes place and Iain is badly injured. He assumed he’d die and so, his first thought upon this was of Elizabeth and that he needed to ask for her forgiveness. Jude isn’t so sure about his dying though and even though Iain asked to visit Sussex House, Jude takes Iain to his valet Sutherland to take care of the wound. This changes Iain’s plan for everything, jolting him to the truth. Now, he just has to get Elizabeth back, no matter what. He has to make her see that he has changed, that he can be the man she deserves. And he doesn’t care to return to the ‘duty’ he has been performing on behalf of the BGs anymore, namely the duty of f*cking that woman.

The next morning, Adrian expresses his concern over Iain’s callous behavior. Socially, no one is supposed to know that the BGs know each-other at any level. Iain’s behavior surely puts this secret in line. But Iain is just tired of all these puzzles and games, most of all, his life as a whole. As they chat, Lucy bursts in and then Anastasia, Adrian’s father’s onetime mistress’s body was found dumped at Adrian’s doorstep. She was helping with the BG business but apparently, Orpheus found her out. You can read all these in my review of P&P. Here, we see the whole story mostly from Elizabeth and Iain’s POV so don’t be scared about getting bored. CF handled the whole simultaneous storytelling quite efficiently IMO. Elizabeth genuinely likes Sheldon and she doesn’t appreciate Iain forceful return in her life, not after what he has done to her all those years ago. She was in love, gave herself completely but he walked away, breaking her heart into pieces. And Elizabeth is very mad when Iain tries telling her that she can’t take part in the BG business. Although Iain was scared for Elizabeth’s safety, she interprets his concerns as vengeance. She thinks he’s mocking her, again and trying to take control of her life. I couldn’t blame Elizabeth for not trusting Iain’s intentions, not after I learned of the real depth and pain of their past history. And she was blind. Even though Elizabeth tried to put on a brave façade with her remarkable beauty and poise but she was very vulnerable inside. I adored Elizabeth as the woman she was in the other books and has been in her own. She braved her life altering shortcoming as a warrior, even with a broken heart. Being blind makes her vulnerable because she can’t see the person’s expression, can’t tell if he is lying or not. This issue comes in more than once and plays a vital role in the push and pull of Elizabeth and Iain’s barely shaky relationship. She doesn’t trust him and can’t judge his words. Her body and mind wants to give in since she never stopped loving him but her common sense tells her to stay away, for all the right reasons.

Adrian was also concerned about Elizabeth, and so, when he conveys this, she is willing to concede. But Elizabeth is hurt. Even knowing the fact, the hindrance of her blindness chafes her raw because otherwise she’s a perfectly functioning human being, who is generous and smart too. She is not an invalid though that is how the world thinks of her. While the development of Lucy and Adrian’s relationship is taking place, side-by-side, Iain is determined to win Elizabeth back. His intense focus on wooing Elizabeth gave me mixed feelings. Yes, like Elizabeth, at first, I had doubts. I couldn’t believe he would just want to make things right now, after such a long time. He tried and Elizabeth rebuffed, for a long time. As I said, a constant force of push and pull, which exasperated me more than once. Iain would talk or try to touch him knowingly, Elizabeth’s traitorous body would respond but she’d pull away later. What felt really good was Iain’s focus. He didn’t give up his perusal, not even when Elizabeth’s jibes came his way. He knew he deserved every single thing she said to him. I was taken in by this honesty from him. He never tried to hide anything he has done so far. Most of his vulnerabilities were formed from his childhood, which was spend with an abusive and cold mother and grandfather. She knew about the BG business and ‘trained’ Iain to grow up to be a cold and calculating SOB. Otherwise, he’d get the beating of his life. His father, who controlled his life, agreed. Elizabeth was his only balm, the taste real goodness and he just devoured what she offered. But in the end, he felt scared by the depth of his growing feeling and did the most cowardly thing. Well, I should’ve hated him by all means but only that honesty, that courage to face the truth, made him more endearing to me. And I loved his growly possessiveness where Elizabeth was concerned.

In between, we see Orpheus is still planning his nefarious plans. Now his focus is on Elizabeth and Iain. Anyway, Elizabeth and Sheldon strike a very good friendship. Sheldon is also very keen on the Templar relics. He lived a longtime in the east and ‘Veiled Lady’ who was his lover; scandalous because of the vow of celibacy the Templar Knights had to take. Before going blind, Elizabeth read the book but now her memory is hazy. But she really wants to know who this veiled lady was. This maybe because there is a curse on the House of York and Alynwick where it says that none from these houses can fall in love with each-other, or else the end result will be utter misery. This issue also plays a vital role in their relationship later, when the history behind the curse was revealed. For now, Elizabeth is just fascinated by it and on impulse, tells Sheldon about it. TBH, I liked Sheldon immensely from the get go, so much so that at a point, I was scared that he might turn out to be Orpheus or one of his cronies. Thank God, this didn’t happen. But Sheldon, or Julian, surprised me later with a truth more exciting than I could’ve expected. He was smart and gentle, an avid researcher of anything concerning the Templar Knights. Iain, on the other hand, won’t agree with me. He’s totally jealous of Julian, can’t stand him at all, especially after he spied him with Elizabeth, where she was trying to trace Julian’s profile with her fingertips. Iain longed for that touch (and yes, I believed in his longing) but knew her feelings for him is of utter disgust. He even broke into Julian’s study for investigation as Iain was suspicious of him. Meanwhile, he keeps trying to convince Elizabeth, who just wanted to be left alone. Julian takes Elizabeth to the Templar Church where he was doing new excavations. Julian tries to kiss Elizabeth but realizes that she has reservations for someone else. Later they find out that someone has already been there and digging. It alarms them both.

As the story progresses, Adrian and Lucy is ‘forced’ to get married. While they’re on their honeymoon, Adrian puts Elizabeth’s safety on Iain. Funny thing, even till now, no one suspected the depth of intimacy between these two, so their constant enmity would baffle everyone including Adrian. Iain was finding it hard to concentrate on the BG business, especially seducing that woman for information. I was a bit scared that he would but he didn’t disappoint me. When he is snowed in the townhouse with Elizabeth, Iain, as promised that he’d help her, brings in the diary of the ‘Veiled Lady’, which has been handed down to him from his ancestors and surprises Elizabeth. This diary sheds lights on this woman’s identity, much secret history, the curse of the House of York and Sinclair. Iain reads the diary to Elizabeth, weaving his spell and finally they end up making love. Yet again, no improvement. Later though Iain and Elizabeth finally talk. Iain bares his soul this time, of how much he longed for her and what a fool he has been. Elizabeth feels awful that she can’t see his face and judge if he’s telling the truth or lying. I loved this scene outside the townhouse, as they sat on a bench, Iain describing Elizabeth the snowfall. They go to an opera but that woman makes trouble for them. They fight again and return home. Iain, by now, was frustrated yet elated by her jealousy. He coaxes and makes love to Elizabeth once again, just to prove that he really means what he says. But, Elizabeth baffles him afterwards with her reaction. She breaks into this outburst where all her vulnerabilities and pain about blindness and Iain just pour out. Iain feels ashamed that he has been the cause of such pain for her. I loved Iain more for this. Later as they talk again, Iain confesses his cowardly ways, that he’s been selfish as his parents ‘trained’ him to be. But he has suffered and tried to ease the pain of his stupidity through BG business, drink and women. Iain confirms that he never married the girl his father wanted for him. Then Elizabeth tells him some heartbreaking truth about their long dead past, that it was not only the loss of innocence and trust but that there was also a child. She lost it as she was already blind by then and fell down the stairs. WOW, it got me, just as it did Iain. After this devastating scene, Iain felt that maybe he’s just too late, that maybe he’ll never be the man for Elizabeth. With a lot of despair and pain, he just leaves. Afterwards, Elizabeth is full of remorse as she replays all the facts in her mind.

But soon, Elizabeth is kidnapped by Orpheus’s men. When Iain learns of this, he goes insane. He has no idea where to start and by now, he was already zooming onto a man we’ve seen in previous books. Julian used to know this man from before, who betrayed him and stole some of his findings. Iain and Julian had a chat before, where they talked about this and Elizabeth. They both gauged each-other in that meeting. Iain swallows his pride and asks for Julian’s help. Julian knew where that man can take Elizabeth. On this ride to the Templar Church, more interesting revelations are out, which point at Julian’s ancestry. OMG, I was totally surprised again! Truth be told, the intertwined incidents afterwards took me by surprise over and over again. I totally would like to congratulate CF for making me read the last chapters in one sitting and with bated breath. The whole resolution to the Orpheus mystery was neatly done IMO. Also, the truth about Adrian’s past, that we knew from P&P was now out and open. I thought no one would know about it except Lucy, but so glad that it wasn’t the case.

When it was all over, Iain takes Elizabeth to his own place and makes love to her again. After this, when they talk, something struck Iain hard. That Elizabeth’s blindness is such a terrible, permanent fact, where she is doomed never to be able to see the faces of her loved ones ever again. Iain muses he can’t even think about never seeing her face ever again, or his obsession about watching them making love. It terrifies Iain as he realizes the profundity of Elizabeth’s dark world, which by all means should’ve driven her crazy by now. But not Elizabeth. She was strong before, she is stronger now and Iain can’t help but love her even more. It pains him to think that the last picture of him to Elizabeth was him mocking her and walking away. It shatters Iain. When he, in tears, expresses this, Elizabeth smiles and tells him she doesn’t need to see him to know of his love anymore.

“Oh, God, I would give anything to change the past,” he gasped. “To make it so that the last thing you saw was not me walking away from you. In your memories I am forever one and twenty, and cocky, and sneering, and looking self-righteous. And I’ve changed, Beth,” he gasped, choking on a sob he could not hide. “I want so damn much for you to see how I’ve changed. To see me now. There are no lies in my eyes. No motives other than to show you that I am not the callous man I was. And that I love you…. I love you so damn much.” He was crying. The tears trickled unchecked down his cheeks, dripping onto his lips. She touched them, wiped them away, which only caused them to spill faster and harder.”

This scene totally took my breath away and I couldn’t hold back my tears. It made my heart ache for these two, for all that they’ve suffered. I just wished them love and happiness. 4.5 stars without any qualms whatsoever.

PS: I thought Julian should’ve had his own book but I don’t think that’ll happen as no hints were given. I also mourned the fact that there was no epilogue. I would’ve LOVED to know something about their future, not only Iain and Elizabeth but also Jude-Isabella and Adrian-Lucy. I would seriously miss this series. *sniffs*

This ARC was provided to me by Harlequin/HQN via netgalley which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way. thankyou