Always a Strangerby Amara Royce
An international affair, London's Great Exhibition has taken the city by storm. As its newest Royal Commissioner, Lord Skyler Ridgemont must ensure the performers are properly contracted. Among them is the delicate and graceful Hanako Sumaki. Draped in vivid silk robes, Hanako's exotic Japanese fan/b>
When two worlds collide, anything is possible. . .
An international affair, London's Great Exhibition has taken the city by storm. As its newest Royal Commissioner, Lord Skyler Ridgemont must ensure the performers are properly contracted. Among them is the delicate and graceful Hanako Sumaki. Draped in vivid silk robes, Hanako's exotic Japanese fan dance captivates Skyler--and he longs to learn more about her. . .
But Hanako's enigmatic employer keeps his exquisite charge very close. The consummate artist, she shows the handsome nobleman many faces, but never her true heart, which holds a desperate secret. When Skyler learns the real reason Hanako has been brought to London, he will risk his entire world to win her trust--and save her from losing both body and soul. It's a feat that will require the type of courage only love can give. . .
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Penguin Random House Publisher Services
- NOOK Book
- Sales rank:
- File size:
- 825 KB
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
I thought the idea of a book set against the backdrop of the Victorian Great Exhibition involving an English Earl and a Japanese Entertainer at the Exhibit was unique and I wanted to read it. The story grabbed me from the beginning with the exotic fan dance scene and the mystery of Hana's circumstances. This one is not listed as a sequel to my knowledge, but in truth it is a follow-up/parallel story to Never Too Late about Skyler's cousin. The two books have connections, but this one can definitely be read as a standalone story. The story opens with Skyler, the new Earl of Ridgemont being named a Royal Commissioner for the Great Exhibition with his duties being to make sure the exhibitors are all on the up and up. He receives word that one of the Asian acts does not appear to have been contracted so he goes to investigate. He arrives in time to observe a beautiful mysterious woman perform a breath-taking fan dance. Across the space between them, he feels a strong connection when their gazes meet. When he goes to the backstage area to question her about her act and her manager, she has disappeared and in her place is a boy with a smudged face and tattered clothes without the ability to speak English. Hanako Sumaki is concerned about the arrival of this observant, yet kind Englishman who seems very interested in her act. Because of the nature of her master's shady business, she cannot afford for him to learn anything more. He is persistent, but not in the way of most men who want her. He seems genuinely concerned each time they meet and it drives her to confide more than she wishes to him and desire to be near him though that can go nowhere. Skyler can't figure out the woman who has bewitched him. He knows she is hiding so much and she is a great deal more than she seems. She is bright, well-informed, cultured and patient in the face of ignorance. Not that he misses that spark in her eyes and stiffening of her spine when she does hear crushing words and remarks from his fellow Englishman. As gentle and caring as he is with Hana, she still insists in keeping him outside her trust and won't let him help until Sky figures out what is going on and then he takes matters into his own hands. Sky and Hana are drawing closely together, but Hana can't trust that his feelings are constant or that he will hold up under peer pressure. She has taken care of herself and others for so long. Sky has to decide if he is strong enough to go up against Society, against family expectation and against Hana's own stubbornness. The plot on this one was a complicated forbidden romance that managed to convey what it was like for an interracial romance that also had the difficulty of class issues too. The balance of historical backdrop and the plot was good. The story was at the forefront, but details were there to fill in the gaps and paint a richer picture. The plot is very much romance-driven though there are spikes of action. The first two-thirds are better paced than the latter third it never gets boring. There is a sort of waiting time for the dust to settle and people to establish a new normal after all that came before that which slowed stuff down. I was mostly impatient just because I really liked the couple and wanted them to have their chance, but it totally made sense that things couldn't be rushed because of the nature of the barriers. As to the main players, Hana was written in such away that she was all mystery at first and slowly her secrets are revealed a bit at a time. Even with getting her as one of the narrators, she keeps so much back until later. Her story kept me so fascinated throughout the book. Her background makes her see things from a totally different perspective from Sky and she is so suspicious of him at first. That being said, she knew he was a good man. She only really disappointed me once when she came at Sky hard for him to take her, he hesitated to take up what she was offering, but eventually he gave in when she begged and then she threw it up in his face when she had regrets and guilt. Her reasons made sense and she was experiencing a near crisis at the time so I let it go. But yeah, regret or not, when you did the seducing, you own it in my book. As to Sky, he is Hana's opposite completely in that he is open, hopeful, and trusting. He didn't see love coming, but he didn't deny it. I was so impressed that his love was so strong and confident that not once did he take the easy way out and offer her anything less than marriage. He totally valued her as his equal. All in all, I really enjoyed my first time reading this author’s books, the unique storyline of this historical and its inter-racial romance. I definitely plan to go back to the first one for Devin and Honoria's story that I have sitting on my Kindle waiting for an opportune moment. I would recommend this one for those who like slightly spicy Historical Romance particularly set in the Victorian period. My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for an honest review.
Enjiyed this emensely!
East meets West in this romance of forbidden passions & love between an enslaved heroine & a Lord of honor & love! Hanako Sumaki is a rare gift of womanhood that should be treasured, but in London at the Great Exhibition, she is treated as a freak of nature & an oddity. She is a Asian woman who is held in the struggling hold of the evil & money grubby hands of Mr. Broek, the owner of the Jade Gardens. Hanako & her young sister, Takara, had been left at the mercy of Mr. Broek after their Father's death. Hanako knows over 20 languages, is the mother hen of all the Jade Gardens' women who are basically slaves, a performer of Asian entertainment, a translator & protector of her sister, but she has outlasted her usefulness & is going to be sold as a man's toy. She will do it all, so that she can take her sister with her & protect her from Mr. Broek's perverse hands. Skyler Roderick was a happy 2nd son & engineering student abroad, when he learned that he was the new Earl of Richmond, after the tragic death of both his father & older brother. Syke was never to be the heir, but he accepts all the responsibilities, like being the new Royal Commissioner of the Great Exhibition. His boss is the Duke of Carleton & the Duke wants all corruptions rooted out of the Exhibition, so Syke is inspecting all exhibits, performers, checking all contracts & looking anything out of place. As Syke is investigating, he sees this red shimmer of silk reveal this exotic Far East flower & is mesmerized by her. Hanako looks into the chaos of the Exhibition & sees this proud & golden Lord & is entranced by all the emotions flowing thru her, but knows he is trouble. Syke waits outside of the curtain to wait to talk with this lotus flower, but when he goes behind the curtain, all he sees a dirty small child. That child is actually Hanako in one of her many disguises & pretends to not understand English. They play this cat & mouse game until Sykes goes to his Aunt's, Lady Devlin, dinner party & Hanako is there as a translator for a handsy client. They share 1 dazzlingly kiss, but Hanako feels his warmth, kindness, security & maybe trust, things she has always wanted, but has always been denied! It's East meets West in this journey of unchecked desire & utter decadent passions between Hanako & Syke as her auction becomes closer, but she will protect her sister & maybe Syke, too. When he closes his eyes, he sees her in the red silk, but she will never be accepted as his Countess. Things become very complex with Mr. Broek greed, the protection of the Jade women, a helpful Lord Devlin, the do gooder Mrs. Duchamp, an outraged Dowager Countess, Tanaka's future protection, the bruised & battered heart & soul of Hanako & the endless loving just for her from Syke. Will Syke free Hanako from her bondage? Can Hanako realized that she is worthy of his love? How will Syke heal her tormented soul? If they break the hold of Mr. Broek, can they save her sister & all the in prisoned Jade women? When will Mr. Broek get his justice reward? This is my 1st Amara Royce romance & she blends all the exotic Far East with the English world of rules & up tight society to make an unforgettable tale. Hanako was a performer 24/7 & I believe she hide inside her many disguises to hide her own pain. She is so strong & always took responsibility for everyone in her world, but she lost herself along the way. Syke is a different kind of hero, who used his head in the begin, but that man's heart was so full of love that it was like a damn breaking open! He didn't get it from his mom & I was bad & made a little pillow doll of the Dowager Countess & stabbed her multiple times with pins because I didn't want to put holes in my Kindle. Ms. Royce filled this book with a cast of lively Jade ladies who were Hanako & her sister's chosen family. This book made smile, crave a little Far East just for me, cry my eyes out (it's not a pretty sight), anger for the injustices of females everywhere, beat up & pin to death certain characters (which earned me just a little chocolate happiness) & I wanted to steal Syke & his overflowing heart from Hanako. Ms. Royce created a different & heart wrenching romance with a Far East flair that totally deserves my top score of 5 fingers up & 10 toes. NetGalley ARC given for my honest review.