The sixth book in the Taggert series, published in November 2003.
Hollander “Holly” Latham can’t believe her good fortune. After endless calls, letters, emails and promises, she’s finally persuaded her parents to buy Spring Hill Plantation, just outside beautiful historic Edenton in eastern North Carolina – and strategically located near Belle Chere, the purest, most untouched plantation site in America.
At the tender age of thirteen, Holly fell in love with Lorrie Beaumont, who inherited the Revolutionary-period estate when his heiress mother died during childbirth. Though more than a decade has passed since Holly last locked eyes with her childhood love, the passion she felt in her young heart has never come close to extinction – that is, until charming, ruggedly handsome Nick Taggert unexpectedly waltzes into her life and treats her to an unforgettable weekend of laughter and intense passion.
Despite Holly’s undeniable attraction to this dazzling stranger, she knows he’s not marriage material. What Holly doesn’t know is that Nick Taggert is actually Dr. Nicholas Tagger. Having been with more than his share of woman only interested in his money and pedigree, Nick decides to test Holly and conceal his more refined qualities.
Will Holly be seduced by Lorrie’s wealth and privilege, or will she choose the simple gift of love that Nick has offered her? The answer is unveiled on a starry Christmas night, when passion, hate, and greed collide to reveal bitter truths that will forever change the course of Holly’s charmed life.
With Holly, Jude Deveraux once again uses her golden touch to conjure up a tale full of dazzling intrigue and inspiring romance. It is a story for all seasons and one to remember always.
Holly’s father is an important Ambassador, Holly’s mother was the single heiress of the Hollander Tool’s imperium. Her grandfather, knowing his daughter had no sense of the business, settled everything in stone. A board of directors manages the factory and Holly only gets to go to a shareholders meeting once a year, she has no say in the daily running of it. But she does get a huge income out of the trust and the profits.
Her father remarried, and Holly got a stepsister as well. Holly loves Taylor and her new stepmother, and provides for them (as her father has little money of his own). She has no clue whatsoever that Taylor hates her privileged guts. Taylor lived in poverty till the age of ten, and when her mother remarried Holly’s father, she got used to being rich very fast. But she still despises Holly for having everything: money, a good name/pedigree, a very pretty face and figure. Not that Taylor is not pretty, but her father was a commoner her mother ran away with, and lived to regret the rest of their marriage. So what she wants more than anything, is marry a very rich man with a very good pedigree. And the man she sets her cap for, will have no choice whatsoever…
Usually her parents choose a summer vacation location with lots of other children to play with, but when Holly was 13, they got a house offered by one of her fathers connections, in the wilds of North Carolina. Holly foresaw a lonely bored summer, as Taylor was old enough to drive to the nearest town, but would never take her. Then one day she met a gorgeous boy named Lorrie Beaumont, and who was their next door neighbour. Holly spend all summer with him, helping him restore the ancient plantation mansion that was his heritage. His father was involved in a bad real estate deal, and suddenly lost the money to send Lorrie to summercamp, so now Lorrie was hiding out at the family estate.
Holly thought no one new about her secret friend, but she was very wrong. Taylor found out very soon, and had in fact set it up. That summer, Holly fell in love with both Lorrie and his estate, Belle Chere. It changed her whole future. At university, she got involved with architecture, and American domestic historic architecture in specific. Giving money to preservationist societies, and finding, buying and repairing old American buildings. After all, she had money enough to do what she loved to do, and she hated doing nothing at all, going to parties like her stepsister.
Holly has kept track of Lorrie all those years, he went to lawschool, married, and now he is divorced and setting up practice in Edenton. Her father recently had a heart attack, and he needs to rest. So buying that old place where they once spent the summer, is a logical choice. Especially as Taylor is marrying a man living there. So this is Holly’s chance to meet Lorrie again, and hopefully he gets to love her as much as she has loved him over the years. No man could ever compare to him …
So now Holly is back in Edenton, making sure the move will go well. But she has a few hours to kill, and decides to go looking if the rumours about the age of the houses in this area is true. Holly loves trespassing and searching for abandoned old buildings, finding out their age. But this time, she gets scared by a big rattlesnake, and falls through a rotten floor into the old cellar beneath. And she can impossibly climb back out. The house is remote, her car is neatly hidden in the bushes, will she ever be found?
Lucky for Holly, when the movers reported her absence at the diner she had lunch, the cashier lady though she has been abducted by the hot bad man she was admiring earlier, and send the police after him. After Nick got through, being mad at being a suspect of a kidnapping, he got to thinking. The woman had to be somewhere. And so, late at night, he found her. Halfnaked in a dark pit, a true vision for his eyes. Having been through a bad breakup a few weeks before, he has no interest at all in a new relationship, but he does want sex. And Holly is so grateful he rescued her, and was already lusting after him earlier, she agrees. A weekend filled with as much sex as they can handle, and then they will part ways forever. They promise not to fall in love with each other.
So after the hot weekend, Holly deals with the movers, and goes home, to her family. But Nick cannot believe she left him just like that, as she promised. No woman has ever turned him down before. Never has he had better sex either, or had so much fun with a woman. So, forgetting his promise, he asks his Montgomery cousin to find out everything he can about her, and about the man she wants to marry. She is not engaged yet, so he still has the chance to win her over.
Holly knows a mixed marriage can never work. Nick is so proud, he would never want to live off her money. The differences between them are too big. And she is still in love with Lorrie, excited about meeting him soon. And seeing the plantation again, after all those years. Yes, she liked the sex with Nick, and his company, a lot. But he is not her future. So why can’t she stop thinking about him? Why are the memories of Lorrie fading?
And when she finds out that Nick is her fathers new gardener and chauffeur, and living in a cottage nearby, she cannot stop herself from seeing him every night.
How can she choose between them, Nick the poor gardener, and Lorrie, the handsome lawyer with the estate she loves above all things? But in the end, the choice is made for her, when tragedy happens….
Due to the cover of the book, I thought this one was a historical novel, but when I finally read the blurb, it proved me wrong and I wanted to read it at once. This is a really lovely contemporary romance as only Jude Deveraux can create them. I loved it. I am not used to lots of sex in the start of one of her books, but this fit the storyline. And the scenes are not too detailed.
I liked Holly a lot. Yes, she was a bit of a snob with her ideas of class, but that is the way she is brought up. She is no Paris Hilton type, she works hard, and she loves those old buildings a lot. I got to know her and sympathize with her. She has seen enough evidence to know that marrying a poor man is a bad choice. And when the glow of love left her eyes, she finally saw the truth of that perfect summer. And I was sad for her.
The deception of her stepsister brought a dangerous plot to the story, and she really is the bad stepsister of the fairytales. Holly has done nothing to deserve her hatred, has shared everything she has, made a huge trust for her stepmother, father, and stepsister so they will be well taken care of for the rest of their lives, and still it is not enough.
I am a bit dubious about Nick. I understand he wants to be incognito, to be loved for himself, and not his money, his family or his status as a doctor. And at first it was romantic that he came after her, got to work as a (very bad) gardener and chauffeur, and later her protector. But he let it go to far, he just took from her. Asking for her trust, and not giving it in return. There really was a connection between them from the first time they met, but still.
And then there was Lorrie. A southern gentleman? Or not really? No, I won’t spoil it ;)
All in all, a book I read in one sitting in a few hours. I liked it. There surely were a lot of surprises in the book, and I like being surprised. There was also a tiny little link to my favourite trio of books by Jude Deveraux: Forever, Forever and Always, and Always. I keep hoping there will be a sequel, she left that last book with such an open ending. Nick had a phone call with Darci.
Jude Deveraux is one of the first authors I read as a teenager (too many years ago), and she will always be a favourite author, and auto-buy.