It's Always Been You

Victoria Dahl
It's Always Been You
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Zebra Books
Release Date
August 2011
Book 2 of The York Family
Historical Romance

Aidan York has spent ten years mourning the woman he once loved and lost. He's filled the void in the only way he knows—by distracting himself with wild behavior and scandalous trysts. It's a hollow existence, but it dulls the pain. Until the day he encounters a ghost: the woman he thought drowned at sea, alive and as enchanting as ever.

When Kate Hamilton sees the man she once hoped to spend her life with, she is hit with a storm of memories and longing. But though resisting Aidan's passion proves impossible, Kate must try not to love him all over again. For her seemingly quiet London life shields a dangerous secret, one that will catch up to her the moment she lets herself fall. . .

Book Review by Bridget (reviewer)
Sep 12, 2011   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
194 people found the following review helpful
Though I had a big issue with one aspect of the plot, IT'S ALWAYS BEEN YOU is a heartfelt and moving story about love lost and found. With a hero and heroine that are clearly made for one another, their story, from first love to final redemption, is memorable and filled with gripping historic details.

Ten years ago, Aidan York met Kate Hamilton and almost instantly lost his heart. Kate had all the benefits of youth and beauty, but it was her mischievous grin and the sparkle in her eyes that captured Aidan's attention and made him determined to win her hand. However, Aidan hadn't a penny to his name, and her father refused to agree to such a financially disastrous marriage.

Devastated by her father's objections, Kate begged Aidan simply to run away with her to Greta Green and marry her there, but Aidan would only carry their secret so far, determined to win Kate's hand—and her family's approval—in an honorable manner. But when Kate, heartbroken and admittedly rather petulantly, called him a coward to his face, Aidan's patience snapped and her stormed off, telling her to go off and marry the first man she laid eyes on, little knowing how prophetic his words would be. The next day, Kate's father banished her to an arranged marriage in Ceylon, allowing her to think that Aidan had forsaken her, while permitting Aidan to believe not only that Kate had left in anger, but that she perished when her ship sank half a world away.

Aidan's soul died with his Katie. Since then, he has done little more than exist, amassing his fortune and dallying with any willing woman in a hopeless attempt to wipe his first love from his mind and his heart. All that changes when a new coffee shop opens not far from Aidan's own business. Because the owner is none other than his Kate, apparently returned from Ceylon (and from the dead) and still as beautiful as he remembers. But this Kate has secrets that haunt her and fear that follow her and a husband in Ceylon to whom she is determined never to return. And none of it will keep Aidan away. One kiss, and he knows there is nothing he will not do to keep her in his arms.

From a historical perspective, I found the story of Kate's arranged marriage and immigration to Ceylon as interesting as it was heartbreaking. Both Kate and her husband were victims of circumstance, and she is mature enough now to understand and empathize with him, even if she is determined never to return. Having learned the value of her freedom in the hardest of ways, I could understand her reluctance to throw herself into an affair with Aidan, who has changed a great deal over the years himself. Still, I dare you not to fall for the kind of unequivocal, complete love that he offers her.

The thing about Aidan that completely did me in was that he never stopped loving Kate. Not his memories of her or his fantasy of her, but Kate herself, with all her quirks and foibles and fears. The fact that she is older, that she isn't the innocent young thing she was when he last saw her doesn't matter—neither is he, after all. He is hers, regardless of whether she can ever be his. And yet, Aidan is in no sense a pushover. His strength comes from the depth of his feelings, and his total and complete love for Kate is the most touching, memorable part of the whole story.

So why the three stars? While the plot twists in this book were quite interesting, and there is no doubt that the chemistry between Aidan and Kate was explosive, I had a real hard time getting past the way the two of them, especially Kate, handled their ‘secrets'. All of their past sorrows were a result of lies, but neither seemed willing to move beyond those falsehoods and be honest with the other. Specifically, Kate seemed willing to sacrifice her relationship with Aidan and her own safety, rather than realize that true love is willing to bear any truth. And if Aidan isn't her true love, then frankly, there is no hope for any of us.

And I realize that, having waxed lyrical about Aidan for most of this review, I might very well be biased. The truth was, I did enjoy this story, the intensity of Kate and Aidan's relationship and the secondary characters that were part of the tapestry of their past and their futures. But when I was finished, I realized I wasn't sitting back and sighing in contentment. I'd love to hear other readers' opinions on this one, because I think the course of this story might be much more realistic than most romances out there, and that Aidan and Kate's shortcomings are what makes them human characters. But when their fairytale romance has to contend with grim reality, the results were often not what I expected.

Those of us who have read Victoria Dahl's earlier books will recognize Aidan as the older brother of Marissa from A Little Bit Wild. This is quite a different story, darker and more personal, but with the same deft touch and engaging writing style that I've come to love from Victoria Dahl's works. I think it's certainly a point in this story's favor that I was so emotionally involved with each character, and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Aidan is a prince among romantic heroes. I also think this is going to be a very memorable book in the York Family saga, for its blend of fantasy romance and harsh truths. I know I'll be thinking about it for some time to come…
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