Their story begins in gradual, but deliberate, steps -- like the painting Josiah Hastings is seeking to complete.
First the rough sketch:
Josiah and Eleanor try to lay out the boundaries and rules of their association. Eleanor has grown up learning how to be a proper lady and she is wary of Josiah's attention and interest. She is always mindful of the rules of society and of her reputation. Josiah doesn't really care much about the rules but he desperately wants Eleanor to pose for him and so he agrees. He can look but cannot touch.
Then the filling in of the colors:
For a man whose eyesight has been limited by his stay in the prisons of India, Eleanor's colors is like water in the desert, manna from heaven -- and Eleanor's presence is a bright light in Josiah's ever-darkening world.
... he turned back to her -- and London fell away.
Because there was no gray. In a world of fog and fleeting shadows that haunted his vision, she was color. A living breathing pillar of all that his senses had longed for -- a muse of beauty that defied science and logic. Her hair was copper bright, with thick, luxurious corkscrew curls. ... She was a flash of fire and color that had him hypnotized.
- p. 27
And, Eleanor, who has only known shame about the indecency of her bright red hair and her too-green eyes, realizes what it means to be beautiful in the eyes of this particular beholder.
He sat at my feet and I was transformed somehow.
- p. 108
As Josiah paints on layer upon layer of paint on canvas, his relationship with Eleanor deepens as they discover more of each other. While there are still secrets in the shadows, they know enough of each other to spark a burning passion --
Finally, when the painting is complete:
Josiah and Eleanor have fought to contain their yearning for each other -- but it grows with each day and with each night. When they finally surrender to it, the moment is magical.
"I've never been kissed before. I don't want to be impolite, Mr. Hastings, so I shall use the word please and trust that you'll oblige me."
- p. 141
In the gray and smoke of London, Eleanor and Josiah have found salvation in each other.
I read this book in one sitting -- yes, it is that compelling -- with each book in her Jaded Gentleman series, Renee Bernard has introduced us to a set of heroes who are as multifaceted and as mystifying as the jewels they found in India. I love that each gentleman has a unique personality and a unique story --
(Rowan is still my favorite but Josiah, brilliant and artistic, Josiah is a close second.)
The next book is Obsession Wears Opals, which features Darius Thorne.