Obsession Wears Opals by Renee Bernard
ORDER A COPY: Obsession Wears Opals (A Jaded Gentleman Novel)
Publisher: Berkley Sensations
Publishing Date: December 4, 2012
Paperback: 320 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Darius Thorne has learned to use his wit and intelligence to strategize a better life for himself. He is the White Knight amidst the small secret circle of Gentlemen known only as the Jaded. The handsome scholar shields his heart by keeping a studied distance from the world…until he rescues a beautiful woman who literally falls into his hands.
Isabel Netherton isn’t merely a damsel in distress. A high born lady of quality unwilling to be a pawn, she is defiantly escaping an abusive husband. But under Darius’ protection she discovers an unexpected champion—a man who teaches her the power of true desire and what it means to be treated like a queen.
However, the law of the land supports her husband’s cruel claim. It will take all of Darius’ wit to keep one step ahead of their enemies and protect Isabel. In a deadly game of chess, Darius must defeat the Black Knight and sacrifice himself for his Ivory Queen or forfeit all.
Lady Isabel Netherton thought her life was perfect. She was the daughter of a Marquis, had a spectacular debut, beautiful clothes, the right friends, and a handsome new husband. On her wedding night, her perfect world fell apart. Her new husband was an abusive sadist who got great pleasure in hurting her. When an opportunity came to escape, she took it and ran with no money or clothing. Just her beloved horse, Samson. They rode until Samsom went lame and Isabel collapsed into the gardens of Darius Thorne.
Darius was well acquainted with the signs of abuse. His father was a vicious man who also took pleasure from beating his wife and children which is why Darius has vowed never to take a wife himself. He never wanted to harm another person. So he focused his life on his studies and on his education to better himself from just a dockworker’s son.
Darius have vowed to keep Isabel safe while she recovers from her injuries, both physical and mental. Even though the laws would indicate that Isabel is the property of her abusive husband and must return to him, Darius is determined to use his gift of puzzle solving to figure out how to save Isabel from the clutches of her husband.
What a delightful story! I loved these characters. The shy, bespectacled professor was the perfect match for the abused and frightened, Isabel. Darius is thoughtful and intelligent. He makes Isabel feel safe and gives her time to heal physically. His kindness goes a long way to helping her heal mentally.
Although she starts to feel empowered under the tutelage of Darius and she wants to stop hiding and living in fear, she doesn’t do stupid heroine things like throw herself into danger or sacrifice herself for the better good. She uses her intelligence and allows Darius to help her. Isabel in turn saves Darius when his plans to remove Isabel from her husband, leads Darius searching the darkest underworld of London. Darius becomes depressed from the ugliness he is finding and it is now Isabel’s turn to show Darius kindness and bring him joy to turn away the darkness.
This is Book 5 of a series and there was only basic information about Darius and his friends, now called The Jaded, who were held captive in India for about two years, and I am guessing they fell into a fortune in gems when they got free. I am sure this is all explained either in the first book or over the course of the prior four books. I know that they are being threatened by The Jackal to return a sacred item and they don’t know what he is looking for and now there is another faction that says they must not turn over the sacred item to The Jackel. So, once they figure out what he is looking for, it will be the proverbial rock and hard place of what to do next. This seems to be more of the premise to the other stories, but all this background wasn’t important to Darius and Isabel’s story.
I would love to start from the beginning, but unfortunately, there does not appear to be audiobooks on this series so I can’t put it on my Catch Up by Audiobook list.
Received ARC from netgalley.com, courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
(FYI – Darius gives Isabel the name Helen when she refuses to give her name.)
“You should learn chess, Helen.”
“Should I?” she asked, mystified at his persistence.
“For one more reason I’ve yet to mention.”
“And what reason is that?”
“Because the most powerful piece on that board isn’t the armed knights on horseback or the brute soldiers or even the solemn-looking fellow wearing the crown.”
“No?” She held her breath, drawn in by the light in his eyes.
“It’s the queen. The singular female on the field has more power and freedom to move than any other piece.” He lowered his voice conspiratorially. “Imagine it, Helen. She is the strongest element on the board and every other piece is either struggling to make sure she is safe or to stay out of her way.”
“Oh, my!” Isabel let out the breath she’d been holding. “Really?”
“Here, I’ll show you. Bring your plate of food!”
The first game was less a battle and more a series of lessons on how a battle unfolded and the consequences of every choice she made. He held his black army in check, never striking aggressively against hers, but advising where he could have, letting her retrace her steps and weigh out her moves. The first loss of a knight made her almost tearful, but Darius walked her through the realities of a necessary sacrifice to achieve a greater goal.
“You must try to see all the pieces as part of larger entities, all working together.” He turned the board just a few inches to the left. “Take a deep breath. Sometimes I like to image that my men are all eager to do their duty and consider sacrifice a great honor—especially when I promise to resurrect them for the next battle.”
She laughed. “Such absolute power!”
“Heady, isn’t it?” He squared the board again between them. “When you play chess, nothing happens on the field without your command.”
“But I’m not commanding you.” She eyed the intimidating lines of his pieces. “And your men don’t look happy about dying just to please me!”
It was his turn to laugh. “True! The Black army seeks only to please their dark queen, but let’s see if you cannot outwit them.”
“I will do my utmost to make her rage in frustration.” Isabel bent her head in concentration, trying to see the board as he did. Her poor knight stood forlornly next to Darius’s hand—a captured piece. “But only if you sign a treaty not to mistreat any of my men who fall into your hands.”
“Agreed.” Darius solemnly held out his hand. “I shall be merciful.”
“Good.” Isabel took his hand to shake it, her bare palm pressed to his and the warmth of his firm touch enveloping her slender fingers. It was meant as a jest, her proclamation of the articles of their little war, but the spark of sensation she experienced drained her of humor. There was nothing funny about the seductive pull of the heat shimmering across her skin. Isabel knew it was forbidden, this pleasure, but suddenly—it was hard to accept why.
I’m married—and already so far down a path to scandal that I may never recover. But this—God, how is this even possible? When I thought never to want any man’s touch again for as long as I lived?
“And you?” he asked, still holding her hand across the board. His gaze was steady, the green in his eyes deepening as the contact between them lingered.
“M-me?” Isabel tried to regain her mental footing and ignore the sweet fire curling up inside of her.
“Will the White Queen also pledge to be merciful? My army stands ready to either case, but a gentleman must ask if the treaty is to be balanced.”
“Of-of course.” Isabel conceded, then reluctantly let go of his hand. “I’ll serve them jam and biscuits while they wait for you to pay their ransoms.”
“Very kind of you.” He dropped his hand too quickly and clumsily knocked over his rook and two pawns. “Whoa! Disorder in the ranks!”
Chess was a serious game but Darius had never played it without folding in a bit of drama.
Instead of laughing at him, Helen had openly approved, proclaiming herself enchanted, and revealed that her imagination outpaced his. Even now, she took his breath away as she announced, “My lone knight is melancholy to think of his lost twin, Mr. Thorne, but I warn you, he is getting a fireside speech from his comrades to rally his spirits. They’ve reminded him of our cause and inspire him to avenge his brother!”
Darius was entranced—a man held in thrall. “No less inspiring than the cries of my generals to my battered men-at-arms. He is promising them extra rations of ale and a parcel of land to the first common man to take down one of your bishops.”
“How wicked!” she exclaimed, her eyes gleaming. “The White army needs no such bribery.”
“Well”—he leaned in conspiratorially—“they do need one thing.”
“And what is that?” she asked, her attention instantly diverted to the board, her expression anxious. “Is someone in danger?”
“No, not necessarily,” he conceded. “But the White army does need the lady ruling the White Kingdom to make her next move, or my wicked forces will start to conclude that she has forfeited.”
“Oh, yes, of course!” Helen bit her lower lip, her gaze narrowing as she concentrated. She touched her rook, but hesitated. “Hold on the tapestries, gentlemen, for we are moving.”