|I wanted to like this book more than I did. I have immensely enjoyed the other Cynster novels and was sure The Truth About Love would join them on my keeper shelf. Sadly, there are too many multi-page seemingly unending love scenes and scenarios that reminded me of too many other tales.
Gerrard Debbington is the brother of Patience, Vane Cynster's wife. He was introduced as a 17-year-old in their story, A Rake's Vow. Gerrard is now 29 and a well-recognized landscape painter. He is also an accomplished portraitist, but prefers to keep that a private venture just for family. His talent is to see beyond the obvious. The detail he captures in both people and scenery is renowned. Gerrard is starting to feel restless when he is offered a chance to paint the Hellbore Gardens, purportedly the most demanding gardens in England, but which is part of Lord Marcus Tregonning's estate. Lord Marcus has never allowed anyone to venture in to paint them, until now. But in order to get the chance to paint the gardens, Gerrard must first paint Tregonning's twenty-three year old daughter, Jacqueline.
After much deliberation, Gerrard decides to go, dedicating up to a year of his life in painting both the portrait and the gardens. He takes a friend, Barnaby Adair, with him. Barnaby's hobby is studying crimes and is relieved to leave London and the matchmaking mamas chasing him down.
Jacqueline is not looking forward to being painted, but understands the need. Five years ago, her almost-betrothed left to return home and was never heard from again. Then shortly thereafter, Jacqueline's mother apparently fell or was pushed over the terrace wall and died. Many believed that Jacqueline, who had argued with her mother earlier in the day, had killed her. The magistrate and the surrounding community all passed the death off as an accident, yet rumors and general belief was that Jacqueline was at fault. Her father, too devastated by his grief, never refuted the claim, nor did Jacqueline. By the time she realized what was happening, it was the accepted tale.
Lord Tregonning has commissioned Gerrard to paint the portrait, expecting that he will see either the innocence or guilt and paint that into the portrait. The hope is that he will see the innocence, thus forcing all those around her, including Lord Tregonning himself to believe it too. Gerrard is distressed when he learns of the true reason for the portrait, but by that time he has seen Jacqueline. He is instantly attracted and also sees her innocence. He agrees to stay. In order to get it right, he demands that Jacqueline spend a large amount of time with him. He feels he must get to know her in order to capture her essence.
Barnaby meanwhile, decides to investigate the crime. He finds that there is no way that Jacqueline killed her mother, based on the evidence. He convinces Lord Tregonning and allows Jacqueline to re-establish a close bond with her father. When the body of the almost-fiancée shows up in the gardens, the rumors begin anew. Gerrard, Barnaby, Jacqueline, her father and others loyal to Jacqueline begin a campaign to convince the neighbors of her innocence and the portrait is the final step in the process. They also hope to find the real killer and their need is heightened when attempts to kill Gerrard and Jacqueline's aunt are made.
Suspects abound, as we are introduced to the entire makeup of the society around Hellbore Hall. These people, who think Jacqueline killed her mother, are also her friends. This seemed very incongruous to me. Why would you host a tea party for people who think you are capable of murdering your mother? This entire scenario, where Jacqueline just stood by and allowed this to occur made her seem weak. While she came out of her shell as Gerrard provided her his support, she was not a strong heroine. My opinion was cemented when she made a major error in judgment that screamed of stupidity just to create the climax.
Gerrard has grown up to be a fine young man, with many Cynster characteristics and his rogue instincts intact. It is understandable how Jacqueline falls under his charm. He is overly protective but is adorable just the same. He deserves better in his heroine.
The Cynsters do make appearances and add some flair, but are really not intimately involved in the major plot of the story. The number of secondary characters leaves the villain field wide open, but the lack of depth in their characters also makes it difficult to tell them apart, at times. Barnaby is a fun gentlemen and great friend to Gerrard. There are hints he may get his own story and he would make a good hero.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. Laurens has a writing style that keeps the pages turning and engages a reader. There are many love scenes that do seem to go on and on, and this is the only time I was tempted to skip some pages. I don't usually do that in love scenes. Sadly for me, this Cynster tale was not up to the same high standards of many of the previous stories. If you are a Laurens fan and like the Cynsters, wait for the paperback version of The Truth About Love.