Six years ago, to the outrage of her family and the delight of London gossips, Lady Helen Dehaven refused to marry the man to whom she was betrothed. Even more shockingly, her refusal came on the heels of her scandalous behavior: she and her betrothed were caught in a most compromising position. Leaving her reputation in tatters and her motivations a mystery, Helen withdrew to a simple life in a little village among friends, where her secrets remained hers alone.
For reasons of his own, Stephen Hampton, Lord Summerdale, is determined to learn the truth behind the tangled tale of Helen’s ruin. There is nothing he abhors so much as scandal – nothing he prizes so well as discretion – and so he is shocked to find, when he tracks Helen down, that he cannot help but admire her. Against all expectations, he finds himself forgiving her scandalous history in favor of only being near her.
But the bitter past will not relinquish Helen’s heart so easily. How can she trust a man so steeped in the culture of high society, who conceals so much? And how can he, so devoted to the appearance of propriety, ever love a fallen lady?
I have read a few books which cover the after effects of rape, but none that handle it so realistically as this one. Author Kingston does an incredible job of depicting the emotional scars and traumatic memories which often imprison victims of this type of assault.
Helen is an incredibly strong character. She survives the unthinkable and the resulting judgment and disgrace with bravery. But it has forever changed her and shattered her trust in people. In spite of her incredible reserve and refusal to explain herself, I found myself admiring her integrity, strength and persistence to live life on her own terms. Even when I disagreed with her, I admired her tremendously.
Stephen Hampton initially has a personal agenda in seeking Helen out. Thankfully, despite his high regard for propriety, he is able to really see and appreciate Helen, even when she gives him no reason to. Stephen eventually is willing to sacrifice everything he once prioritized all for her sake. It’s quite a sacrifice on his part, because Helen is a difficult woman to love.
In other books I’ve read where rape is a topic, it always feels too easily resolved. Yes, the trauma is touched on, but they have never truly shown the way such an assault completely re-shapes a woman’s life. Kingston really delves into the psyche of a woman impacted by such an event. Even when Helen is aware and wants to change or react differently, she is unable to. Not only does this past event affect Helen, but it also impacts her future, including her relationship with Stephen. Everyone who loves and cares for Helen must work with and accept her anger, fear, control and lack of trust. And they do so willingly.
A Fallen Lady confronts a heavy topic, but it doesn’t get bogged down in darkness or despair. If anything, it is a story of a woman overcoming her past trauma as well as the power of love to set her free.
Content Note: This is not a clean read.