** spoiler alert **
Obviously heroes with sexual abuse in their personal history is something of an important topic to Judith James, as this book's hero childhood is loomed over by a tutor who molested him (the author explains in the afterword that the hero is modelled on a real person of those times, whose poetry she often quotes as the hero's and that the information about his childhood can be interpreted like that).
The heroine doesn't have an easy childhood either, her mother dies early, her father withdraws into politics and when her contact with young William (on the cavalier side of politics, not on the Puritan side) gets discovered, he marries her off to an abusive older man, whose abuse she has to live with for years. Because she had servants who raised her, she seems to have overcome her sad childhood - only enlivened by her friendship with William.
William is full of manpain and angst, true to his king-in-exile and a highwayman to collect money for the future Charles II., not letting any female open to his charm fall by the wayside (and miraculously not getting any venereal diseases).
There is an unlooked-for meeting of both as adults, where she recognises him but not vice versa - and as one reviewer has pointed out, he sort-of seduces her into bed after an incredibly hard flight from pursuers and being wounded, then vanishes. But he remembers her for years.
When they meet again, he recognises his childhood friend and the woman who has haunted his memories and decides to help her get her lands back.
If this all sounds rather full of clichés, well, that was my impression. The side characters where nowhere near as strong as in Broken Wing. The only people with a bit personality where Tom, the hero's manservant, Marjorie, the heroine's cook cum mother-replacement and Charles II. in a few scenes at court.
We get to see the renewal of their acquaintance at court, but I never got the feeling for the depth of suffering of the heroine, because it's mostly told and not shown (so once again, manpain wins). If Harlequin had allowed JJ to take the same amount of time with the hero and heroine's reacquaintance subsequently (outside of the bedroom, there definitely was enough sex which didn't much propel the plot forward), maybe I would have believed the hero's maturation a bit better.
The heroine even says to him he needs to grow-up on his own, not using her as a crutch, but her ultimatum is still the only reason he leaves court and wants compromise on where they live, and will reduce his drinking.
I know the author has done better, probably because she had way more time to polish Broken Wing. I think her publisher needs to give her more pages and probably more time to make her next book not just one of the many historicals working at cliché level. I don't think I'll reread this again.