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A Lily Among Thorns by Rose Lerner

I've had A Lily Among Thorns on my list ever since I read Rose Lerner's debut novel--In for A Penny--more than a year ago. In fact, I actually reread it a couple of weeks ago to see if the character and writing were as lovely as I remembered. They were and it was. So I practically bounced in my seat when I saw the tweet pop up stating that A Lily Among Thorns was available on NetGalley. Click, click, click. And I sat down with it that night. Personally, I think this cover is nowhere near as nice as the cover of In for a Penny, which I thought both represented the tone of that novel as well as the "lighter" romance found within. These two look nothing like how I picture Serena and Solomon, particularly as he seems about to eat her nose and, honestly, Solomon would never do that. And even if he did give it a go, Serena would most certainly never let him get that close. Ah, the woes of cover art. On to the tale!

Serena Ravenshaw and Solomon Hathaway have A History. And they don't even know it. Ever since that one fateful night, years ago, when Solomon inadvertently provides Serena with the means to change her life, she's thought of him and wondered. Who was he? Why did he give her that money? Where is he now? And most importantly--does he have any idea what that inexplicable act meant to her? And while Serena has been carving out a new life for herself, Solomon has been quietly watching his fall apart. After the death of his twin brother in the Napoleonic Wars, Solomon can hardly summon the will to go on. A gifted chemist and tailor, he spends his days and nights working in his uncle's shop and fending off the aching loneliness and despair. Then his sister announces her marriage and the family jewels go missing. And when his sister announces she cannot be wed without the precious heirloom, Solomon seeks out the famed Black Thorn--the one woman in town who is rumored to be able to find anything that is lost. When Serena sees the one man she thought she'd never see again walk through her door, she is at once panicked, thrilled, and suspicious. Whether or not Solomon will survive the encounter is another matter entirely.

What a talent Rose Lerner has for making her characters essential to your happiness in such a short period of time. And not in a superficial way either. I genuinely care about them, believe in their fears, and grin affectionately at their quips and quarrels. By the end of the shattering prologue, I simply had to find out what in the wide world was going to happen to these characters after the intervening years had their way with them. A favorite scene early on (taken from my uncorrected ARC):
"After Elijah died, I moved my laboratory into the back of the shop for awhile."

"How kind of him, to allow you to use his space in your work for his business. I'll wager he doesn't pay you enough either."

"Did you tell him that?"

"Maybe."

The corner of his mouth quirked up. "Anyway, that's not what I meant. I moved it there because I--well, I caught myself eyeing the bottle of arsenic. And I didn't think I would, but I knew I wouldn't if my cousin Clara might find the body."

The oyster Serena has just eaten transformed itself into a brick in her stomach.

"I couldn't sleep and I'd show up there at all hours to work. Uncle Hathaway took to waking at three or four in the morning and coming downstairs. He'd bring in tea, and then he'd go into the other room and work. He didn't try to talk to me, but I could hear him through the door and it--it helped."

Serena leaned back against a tree. "I--"

"I said I didn't want to discuss it."

"I know. I just wish I could have been there."

Solomon looked at his hands. "So do I."
It was incredibly fun watching mild-mannered Solomon court death and heartbreak (not necessarily in that order) by renewing his association with Lady Serena Ravenshaw. Hard-hearted, calculating, and about as remote as formerly renowned courtesans turned underworld mavens come, Serena has vowed no one will ever have control over her again. But since she is determined to repay Solomon, she agrees to find the Hathaway rubies and call it good. Unfortunately for both of them, there are larger forces brewing outside the Ravenshaw Arms. Within the space of 24 hours, Serena's former partner returns with unexpected demands, her imperious father threatens her life, and this thing between she and Solomon threatens to break the choke hold she has on control. This book lived up to its promise from the first page to the last. Charming and intriguing, I never tired of it. The secondary characters were excellent as well, and all the threads tied up satisfactorily in the end. My favorite things about Ms. Lerner's books are the sly humor that weaves its way through the stories and the wonderful, endearing protagonists she creates. Like Penny and Nev, Serena and Solomon are . . . well, they're good. And by good I don't mean they're above reproach or without their fair share of flaws. But they are people I would want to know and keep in my life. Witness my favorite passage in the book:
"You're right," he said again. "I haven't been fair. I was afraid, too. Afraid of being alone, I suppose. Afraid of being without you. But--you know, I--" His voice cracked. Damn.

"Solomon--" she said, and he loved the way she said his name so much that he had to keep talking or he might do something selfish like tell her that.

"I never believed, before I met you, that I could go my own way," he said. "That I could deserve more than someone was willing to give me. That love might not be worth the sacrifices we have to make for it. You've taught me that. What I mean is--I do understand, if you decide you don't want--" He waved a hand between them, as if in a moment the word that would describe all that lay between them would pop into his head. As if such a word existed. He shook his head. "This."

She stared up at him, the shadows making her eyes look huge.

"You're giving up?"

He stood up. "That's exactly the problem. This has turned into some kind of tug-of-war. I'm not giving up. I'm just saying that I won't push you anymore. I won't ask for anything. I've been torturing you, and it's not fair. If nothing's changed when we go back to London on Sunday, I'll leave. Just please--make a decision that will make you happy. Take good care of yourself." She looked as lost as he felt. He went to the bed and stood looking down at her: at her perfect face and her perfect body that suddenly, for the first time, looked ordinary.

She wasn't a goddess, or an angel, or a harpy. She was a woman, a frightened, unhappy, determined, beautiful woman, and he loved her so badly that just leaning down and brushing his lips across her left temple, where her birthmark was, brought tears to his eyes. "Thank you for everything," he said, and left.
You see? All that and an ending that will make you smile, too.

A Lily Among Thorns is due out September 15th.

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Comments

  1. Oh I really need to read this. I Loved In for Penny soooooo much

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  2. THAT SOUNDS SO GOOD. I die for reunion romances. DIE.

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  3. I think this book was supposed to have come out in January and it kept getting pushed back. I'm not sure why. Anyway, I just read an excerpt last week and I'm definitely going to be getting it once it is released.

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  4. Romantic historical mysteries are my all time guilty pleasure and this looks like a great one! Going to seek out In For a Penny as well. Thanks for the review, I would never have heard of this otherwise.

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  5. I know exactly what you means about the woes of cover art!! So many bad covers out there...

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  6. Angie, just wondering: how did you get your goodreads, feed, twitter, and tumblr buttons to all line up so nicely? I'm a bit lost as to how to do it on my blog...

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  7. Ana, you were the reason I found her in the first place! And you do need to read this one. It's very sweet.

    Diana, LOL! Then you likely DIE over this one. :)

    Jen, I believe you're right. That's why I was so happy to get to take an early peek at it. Hope you enjoy when it comes out.

    Holly, I'm glad it sounds right up your alley. IN FOR A PENNY is very cute, though I think I preferred this ending to that one, both couples are adorable in their own way.

    Willa, sadly yes. I just wish every book could have the perfect cover. But I know that ends up being quite subjective as well.

    Joanna, hm. I don't think I did anything special. I recently changed my template slightly and switched to smaller social media icons at the same time. The smaller ones seem to line up much better. But it could have something to do with the set width of your sidebar? I just have the html link code to each one listed one after another in that particular gadget.

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  8. In For A Penny is still my favorite of the two, but I enjoyed this one as well! Definitely already looking forward to another from this author :)

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  9. This sounds like a good read. Your review has pushed it up on my to-read list. I feel like I'm so jaded about romances with courtesan heroines that I avoid them. I also have an eARC from Netgalley so I can read it at now--hooray! I might buy a Kindle copy when it's available also.

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  10. Allison, yes. Can't wait for her third.

    Hannah, I'm definitely purchasing a hard copy when it comes out. Hope you enjoy it!

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  11. This sounds wonderful! *heading over to Netgalley* But do I read this first PENNY?

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  12. Anonymous12:35 AM

    I remember reading "In for a Penny" on your recommendation and loving it. Hopefully I can pick this one up soon :)

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  13. Holly, hm. Tough question. There is a lot to love about PENNY. But this one is my favorite so I'd go with it.

    Emily, you did? Thanks for letting me know. I'm delighted you loved it and I'm pretty sure you'll feel the same way about this one then.

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  14. After seeing your post about the re-release, I read your review and just added this to my wishlist. I'm always up for a good historical romance. That dialogue!

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  15. Exactly! She kills it with the dialogue. I hope you enjoy it, Melanie.

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