Neville and Lauren had been promised to each other practically from birth - but when Neville decided to rebel against his fate, his parents, his life, he joined the army and told her not to wait for him. But she did wait, and now it was their wedding day. Lauren couldn't believe anyone could be this happy - and she didn't realize how badly it would end for her, in just a few hours.
While Neville was in the army, he had been wed briefly - one night only - to Lily, before she was shot in the heart and he was also wounded. He spent one month in the hospital recovering, where he was told Lily died on the field. They had had to leave the dead and keep moving. But Lily hadn't died - she had been captured and was held prisoner for several months before being released. And now she was making her way back to Neville, and she entered the church just before Lauren.
Of course, he couldn't be married to two women, so the wedding was called off, and Lily was now the Countess - Lily, who had been the daughter of an enlisted man, who was illiterate, who had never lived in England and knew nothing of peers and the ton and titles and wealth.
I was so touched by their predicament, and by the way they were now reacting to being reunited. They didn't have the joyful reunion dream that had kept Lily alive. There was now the specter of her life as a prisoner, being raped and used, between them. There was her pride and her humiliation, thinking that Lauren was a better match, more suited to the life as a countess.
And there was the fact that the priest who had married them had been killed before registering their marriage license, and that her own copies of the papers were destroyed when she was captured - rendering their marriage null in the eyes of the state. Neville was prepared to keep it a secret between them, and get a special license to be married again, but Lily's pride won out, and she refused. And left.
I really did love the story and it's unique twists, even Lily's unwillingness to stay with Neville for love, thinking that it would eventually be destroyed by her inabilities. Maybe she was right about that.
But it dropped to a 4 star read for me towards the end when Lily still wouldn't give in to love, still made Neville wait and wait and wait and wait. Please! I finally tired of her toying with his affections, even when he remained steadfast. And the plot twist of her true parentage seemed like a little too much sugar and sweetness - I could have loved her as the base-born sergeant's daughter, even though that twist also brought the suspense into the plot.
Ah, but it fits in my A to Z challenge,