Once again, Stephanie Laurens sweeps us away to Regency England with her latest book, The Truth About Love. It is the thirteenth novel in her much loved Cynster Family saga and delivers the sensuality and intrigue that her fans have come to expect from Laurens.
Gerrard Debbington is wealthy, handsome, and a celebrated landscape painter. As brother-in-law to Vane Cynster, he has had all the privileges of being a member of the powerful Cynster family. All of these factors have made him much sought after by the beauties of the English aristocracy. But it is his very talent that has opened his eyes and left him wary of love and marriage. His keen eye has made him very good at reading people. He knows that love is a powerful force, one that can consume a person’s passions, and for that reason alone, he is willing to forsake love and marriage for himself.
Gerrard is afraid that if he were to surrender to the power of love, it would not only distract him from his work but sap the creative energy needed to give life to his paintings. He’s not sure there is a connection between the passion that feeds his creative talent and the passion of love or if they are completely separate, but he is not willing to take that chance. Painting is such an intrinsic part of him that he recoils from anything that might harm or restrict his abilities. So he is avoiding love and marriage, at least for the foreseeable future.
For decades, landscape artists from all over the world have been trying to gain permission to paint the famous gardens of Hellebore Hall in Cornwall but all have been denied access - until now. Lord Tregonning, the owner of the famous gardens wants a portrait of his daughter painted, one that is a faithful rendition and accurately portrays her, and he has decided that Gerrard is the only painter who can do it justice. Tregonning offers Gerrard a fee as well as complete access to sketch and paint the gardens at Hellebore Hall while he is there working on the portrait.
Initially, Gerrard refuses Lord Tregonning’s offer. He does not work on commission, as he is wealthy enough to indulge his passion for painting, but more than that, he has no desire to paint some spoiled aristocratic young miss. The only portraits he has ever painted have been of family members, and they have been labors of love for him as well as a way to test his skill as a painter.
But Lord Tregonning sends his business agent to inform Gerrard that if he refuses the offer, he will find another painter to undertake the portrait and give him the coveted opportunity to paint the gardens. Furthermore, he will ensure that no other artist will be allowed access to the gardens of Hellebore Hall during either his lifetime or that of his immediate heirs. Unwilling to lose his one opportunity to paint the legendary gardens, Gerrard agrees to travel to Cornwall to paint the portrait of Lord Tregonning’s daughter.
Jacqueline Tregonning captures his interest from the first moment Gerrard sees her. She has an inner strength and a self-confidence that radiates from her and masks layers of emotions and feelings. Suddenly, he is more interested in painting her than in the gardens. Gerrard is shocked when he realizes that she is interviewing him to decide if she deems him worthy enough to paint her portrait - but then, he has no idea just how important this portrait is to her.
This is a period in history when people believed that a talented artist could capture a person’s true nature on canvas, and Gerrard is the best of the best. It is also a time when a person’s reputation, especially a woman’s, is the most important thing, and Jacqueline’s has been unfairly called into question. Rumors, innuendo, and whispers have surrounded the death of Jacqueline’s mother, and some are questioning the daughter’s role in the suspicious death. She is hoping that the portrait will help clear her name.
But evil is lurking in the beautiful gardens of Hellebore Hall, and someone doesn’t want the truth to come out. And when a long-dead body is discovered in the gardens and the whispers about Jacqueline begin anew, Gerrard and Jacqueline both learn The Truth About Love as they battle to clear her name.
Stephanie Laurens perfectly paints life in England in the 1800s with all its pomp, glitter, and society rules. Her prose is almost poetic as she leads you on a slow, sensual waltz as both Gerrard and Jacqueline learn what it really means to love someone. Laurens builds the anticipation of passion throughout the book while at the same time building the growing tension of the underlying mystery. A wonderful read that will take you on a journey of intrigue and passion, with a very satisfying conclusion.