Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: Passions of a Wicked Earl by Lorraine Heath

Known throughout for his prowess in the bedroom, Morgan Lyons, the eighth Earl of Westcliffe, cannot forgive an unpardonable affront to his honor. Discovering his young bride in the arms of his brother was a staggering blow—so he banished the beautiful deceiver to the country and devoted himself to the pursuit of carnal pleasure.

Claire Lyons was an innocent, frightened girl on her wedding day, seeking chaste comfort from a childhood friend. Now, years later, she has blossomed magnificently and has returned to London with one goal in mind: the seduction of her notorious husband. Unskilled in the sensual arts, she burns nonetheless for the kisses too long denied her. And she has but one Season to win back the heart of the rogue she betrayed.

They are masters of seduction, London's greatest lovers. Living for pleasure, they will give their hearts to no one . . . until love takes them by surprise.
Passions of a Wicked Earl is the first book in Lorraine Heath's latest historical romance series, London's Greatest Lovers. It's an excellent beginning to a series that focuses on three brothers, their dysfunctional family relationship, sensual exploits and eventual happy endings.

Plotting devices used: the big misunderstanding; the brooding, jealous, possessive, passionate hero; the innocent, virginal, strong, passionate heroine; the wicked mistress; the estranged brothers; the scandalous family. Heath makes all these devices work with few exceptions.

The series begins by focusing on Morgan Lyons, the Earl of Westcliffe, and his troubled marriage to Clare Lyons. As the book summary above explains, this couple is estranged with good reasons. Morgan believes Clare betrayed him with his brother Stephen on their wedding night and there's no way he can forgive her. Clare understands his position and feels guilt, but is determined to make him understand her own position, gain forgiveness and a true marriage.

Clare and Westcliffe's marriage was arranged by contract. Clare was engaged to Westcliffe at birth and neither had a real choice. The difference is that although Westcliffe needed Clare's dowry, he was also content with the choice that was made for him. On the other hand, at barely seventeen years of age Clare was terrified of her serious husband-to-be. The events that occurred on Westcliffe and Clare's wedding night devastated their lives and in the process ruined the brothers' relationship.

Three years later Clare leaves her exile in the country and comes to London in the hopes that Westcliffe will help her sponsor her sister's first Season, and will give their marriage a second chance. Heath develops Clare and Westcliffe's relationship throughout the story. They don't become a "couple" for a while and as such, they grew on me slowly. I was initially taken with Westcliffe's feelings and situation. His was more of an emotional character than I expected and Heath did a wonderful job in conveying his deep pain, his passion for Clare and the reasons he was so reluctant to admit those feelings. Westcliffe was a dark, brooding and passionate character. Of course, he was also unfaithful to Clare throughout their marriage, but this was also understandable and part of their desperate situation.

At first I had my doubts about Clare, however she grew on me quite rapidly. She knew it would be tough to go to London and regain Morgan's trust, yet she took the chance for her sister's sake and for herself. Clare showed both strength and maturity and was admirable for both. Even when she became aware that Westcliffe had a current mistress, Clare didn't give up on her marriage and fought for it.

Morgan's relationship with his mistress Anne is where I find the weakness in this story. It didn't bother me that Westcliffe was having this relationship while married to Clare, Heath explains that situation quite well. However, the relationship just goes on for too long after he knows she is not for him. I know Anne's the wicked mistress, but I couldn't make up my mind weather Westcliffe was being wishy-washy or bordering on cruel by keeping Anne on the side for that long. I found the final resolution to Anne and Westcliffe's relationship unexpected and overly dramatic.

My favorite secondary characters are Westcliffe's scandalous mother, the Duchess of Ainsley, and her younger lover Leo. The most intriguing secondary character for me is the Duke of Ainsley, Westcliffe's youngest brother. I can't wait to find out what makes him tick.

I really enjoyed Passions of a Wicked Earl. It's a quick read and an enjoyable historical romance with interesting characters and a passionate story line. I like the way Heath uses standard historical romance plotting devices and makes it all work. I'll be reading the second book, Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman, Stephen's story. His was the most superficial character in this first book, but hopefully there's more to him.

Category: Historical Romance
Series: London's Greatest Lovers
Release Date: Avon - October 26, 2010
Grade: B+

Visit Lorraine Heath here.

9 comments:

  1. Thank you Hils. Ummm, I'm slightly confused. The hero in this book is an Earl and yet his youngest brother is a Duke? I'm guessing his mother married again as you refer to her as the Duchess of Ainsley.

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  2. Orannia, you got it in one! The Earl and his brother Stephen are from the first marriage, when that husband died she married a Duke and when HE died, her youngest son inherited the title. So her oldest son is an Earl and her youngest is a Duke. Got it? LOL!

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  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed it :) The strength of this book is really the characters, Westcliffe and Claire :) I think it really worked because of Claire strength, but particularly her maturity :) Like she understands the situation and her fault in it and isn't playing martyr.

    As for the relationship of Westcliffe and his mistress... yes, it should have been ended earlier... but I think what happened is that he just forgot about her ^_^;

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  4. Yeah, that family lineage could confuse anyone! lol

    I have to agree with Nath - Claire's strength really made the book great.

    Wonderful review Hilcia!

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  5. Totally agree with you on this one. I had the same minor problem with Westcliffe not dumping the mistress fast enough.

    I adore the duchess & Leo. So glad they continued to be a large part of Stephen's story.

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  6. Nath, I agree with you! Clare's maturity & strength had a lot to do with this story's success. I love that she took responsibility for her actions. :) And, lol on Westcliffe forgetting Anne... *g*

    Thanks Tracy. This was a great read, even the crazy lineage. Loved it.

    Leslie, yeah on Anne and Westcliffe! And I'm also loving the Duchess' story... it seems the recurring secondary romance, right? Kind of? Love, love Leo. :D

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  7. I think it was Leslie's review of this one that caught my attention ... and now you really liked it too! And Tracy! And nath! That settles it. It's my turn now.

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  8. Christine, Leslie's review is the one that got my attention too. And then Nath loved it, and... lol! There's a reason for it, I'm enjoying the series so far. Hope you enjoy it too.

    Orannia. *g*

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