published: 29th January 2020
He woos her with books, flowers, and chocolates. She can’t say no to him, but can’t say yes to love.
Lydia Taylor’s roof is leaking, her chickens are out of control, and she can’t afford the rent. When her daughter falls ill, the last person she wants knocking at her door is Alfred Lowe. The school teacher’s stern scowl makes her feel like he can see through her façade of a respectable widow and judge all her secrets. If he wants to achieve his dream of his own school, Alfred Lowe needs to marry a wealthy lady. But he’s drawn to the enigmatic Lydia Taylor, and the illness of her daughter makes him realize how important she is to him. The injustice of the greedy landlord, or a dirty chicken house, he’ll take on anything for her.
As the crisis of Annie Taylor’s illness deepens, Alfred woos Lydia with chocolate, savory pies, flowers, and novels. But the past creeps into the present, casting a long shadow. They must choose whether they can love, despite the risk to everything they’ve ever wanted.
Galley provided by publisher
You know when you find a new favourite author and you immediately have to devour everything they’ve ever written? That was me last year, discovering Eve Pendle. As such, I’ve been waiting impatiently for this book ever since.
Once a Fallen Lady is about Lydia Taylor, a “widow”, who lives in a small village with her daughter Annie. When Annie falls ill, her teacher, Alfred Lowe, comes to help out, drawn to Lydia for reasons he doesn’t quite know. Alfred supports Lydia throughout Annie’s illness and they follow that usual romance trope of falling in love (complete with the slowburn).
Hands down the best part of Eve Pendle’s books is always the characters, and that’s no different here. Lydia is a single mother just wanting a good life for her child, after being cast out by her family, and Alfred is the complete opposite of the somewhat prevalent “alpha male dickhead” trope (not that that can’t be done well, it just gets tiring after a bit). All both of them are trying to do is their best, and I love them for it. I also love how, when Lydia rejects Alfred, he doesn’t push her into something she feels uncomfortable with. He’s always happy to let her set the boundaries (more of this in romances please).
And then there’s the slowburn! Granted, it’s sort of less of one here, because it’s a novella after all, but still. In that short time, Pendle succeeds in slowly ratcheting up the tension until you’re begging for them to get together. Which is, let’s be honest, pretty much the perfect sort of romance.
So, really, what I’m driving at here is that I desperately need you all to read this. Like, right now.