Lord Joshua Kenyon is a cynical and tortured war hero returning from the Napoleonic Wars. He stops in Brighton to make a condolence call on the Panhursts, the family of Lily, a woman to whom he was once betrothed who had died while he was away. It seems that he left Lily the day before the wedding to enter the army, and never returned to wed her. It is additionally being said that Lily found him in a tryst with her friend Catherine. Most say she died of a broken heart, and Joshua isn’t talking.
David Panhurst, Lily’s brother, has challenged Joshua to a duel. However, it is not David who shows up for the duel. It is his neighbor, Miss Anne Neville. Anne drugged David, as she feared for his life. She is a twenty-eight-year-old friend who was raised with many brothers. She shoots better than David and is bound and determined to shoot Joshua Kenyon to avenge Lily.
But it is Anne who gets shot by a cloaked figure in the trees, and the mystery begins. Joshua takes Anne to her home and attends her. (He served as an unofficial physician while in the Army). He vows to find out who tried to kill her. Anne vows to help him, and the romance begins.
Anne is my favorite kind of heroine. She is smart, savvy, courageous and independent. When Joshua points out to her that she has built her life around helping her family, she sees his point and realizes that is exactly what she has done. In an effort to give her life meaning, she has become dependent on them needing her. So, she tries to change in a mature way. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop…for her to do something really silly or to become insipid, as so many strong, independent heroines do. But she stayed true to her character throughout. Bravo to the author!
Joshua is a good counter to her strength. He fears dragging her down, as he has bouts of nightmares from the war and sadness from what happened with Lily. He fears Anne will see his vulnerability, but also realizes she is unique. Joshua is an example of a hero who has faults and has moments of chauvinistic tendencies, but he is not threatened by Anne’s strengths.
The mysteries are at the heart of the story. The romance at times plays second fiddle. There are four or five characters that are suspected of the crime. Together, Joshua and Anne discover the secrets of each, and the tension builds nicely. Each one has motive and the resolution to each is rather surprising.
While they are investigating, Joshua and Anne grow to care for each other, ultimately falling in love. One disappointing aspect is that they sink to a predictable “we succumbed to lust, now Anne is ruined, so now we must marry” scenario. It would have been much more satisfying had they just acknowledged their feelings and married.
The secondary characters are nice additions. There are three older ladies of the ton, one of whom is Joshua’s grandmother, who are called the “Rosebuds”, so named during their debut years ago. It appears that they piece together the series, as this is the second book. Tempt Me Twice is the first. A half-brother introduced in this story will be in the third.
My one pet peeve is the way persons with mental illness are portrayed in this story. Not all people who have a mental disability act as they do here. Ms. Dawson Smith has fallen into a stereotypical trap, as do many authors.
Overall, With All My Heart is primarily a taut, suspenseful tale with an engaging romance built into the story. Its strength is the strong heroine and worthy hero.