Thursday, October 21, 2010

ARC Review: Passions of a Wicked Earl

Passions of a Wicked Earl
Lorraine Heath
Historical Romance/England/1853
London's Greatest Lovers/Book 1
Harper Collins/October 2010

From the publisher's website ~

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.

When I began reading Claire and Westcliffe's story, I liked both of them but I wasn't sure if I liked them together. Sometimes you can tell right off if the hero and heroine are a good match through their initial interactions. Sometimes it's more of a feeling when they're in a scene without directly interacting. And in the case of Claire and Westcliffe it was a slow build-up. The more I saw them together, the more I liked them together. The more I got them as a couple.

When Claire arrives in London she knows she has a difficult task before her. She has heard the rumors about Westcliffe and his mistresses. She knows that he hasn't remained celibate during their three year separation. She's not happy about it but she does understand that it's something she will have to get past if she wants to make a real marriage with Westcliffe. I thought Claire showed a great deal of maturity when she arrived in London. She's there so her sister can have a season and hopefully find a husband but she's also there to mend her relationship with Westcliffe. She stands her ground, refusing to leave London. She stays and in a way begins to "court" Westcliffe. She encourages his participation in outings and talks with him about his interests. Their relationship evolves into a real marriage complete with the passion and insecurities newlyweds face.

There is a third person in Claire and Westcliffe's marriage. It is Lady Anne, Westcliffe's current mistress. Technically, Westcliffe and Claire are married but Westcliffe has been having affairs during the three years they've been apart. Some readers might have a problem with that and I do get why but. . . it's 1853 and marriages of the aristocracy were not necessarily made for love but for wealth and title. In Claire and Westcliffe's case it was for Claire's dowry. Add to that, Westcliffe finding Claire in bed with his brother Stephen on the wedding night and well, you can see how he wouldn't put fidelity at the top of his priority list. So I got why he wasn't faithful to Claire. The problem I had was that it took too long for Westcliffe to break it off with Anne once Claire was in London. Even if he planned to send Claire back to the country after the season, he should have cared what the gossips of the ton said about his relationship with Anne while Claire was in town.

It's been three years since Morgan, the Earl of Westcliffe has seen his wife. When she shows up without warning in his London home he is anything but pleased to see her. Claire isn't the frightened girl he remembers and now she's invaded the sanctuary he's created in London. He doesn't want her there and is determined to get her out of his home and back to the country estate where she belongs. I couldn't help but feel sorry for Westcliffe. There's this feeling of loneliness surrounding him. He keeps everyone at a distance, concentrating on building his wealth so he will never need to rely on anyone else. His relationship with his mother is strained and distant. He is the eldest of the three brothers but it feels like he's the forgotten brother rather than the leader as you would expect the eldest to be.

The plot is a fairly standard historical romance with the hero & heroine making amends only to have a big misunderstanding, tragedy occurs and then they make up again in time for their HEA. What Heath does within that standard plot is give readers characters to care about. By the end you want need Claire and Westcliffe to reconcile and get the happy ending they deserve. You want the brothers to become closer and build friendships that only brothers can have.

The secondary characters round out the cast adding dimension to this dysfunctional family. Ransom Seymour, the Duke of Ainsley and youngest son is mysterious and his story will be told in the third book. Book two, Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman, due out next month, is middle brother Stephen's story. I didn't find him very likable in Passions of a Wicked Earl but I think his life is about to change, causing him to do some maturing by the time his story is told. I look forward to reading more about these three very different brothers.

Rating: B+


  1. Great review, Leslie! I'm glad that you enjoyed the book and that the characters were so mature and able to make it work.

    I've read some of Ms Heath's books and enjoyed them... but I thought the last series was just okay and as a result, wasn't going to try this new release. However, now it's on my list of books to look out for LOL :)

  2. nath ~ thanks! I don't think I've read anything by Heath before. I'm hoping I'll like the next one just as much although it's the third book, the Duke's story, that I'm wanting now. :)

  3. Oh, I love Lorraine Heath. This wasn't on my radar, so thank you!!!

  4. Lori ~ You're welcome! Hope you enjoy it. Book 2 comes out next month. :)

  5. *huge heavy sigh*

    Have you read any of her Westerns? I've tried a couple of her *England* books but can't read anymore since my heart is still breaking that she doesn't write Westerns anymore - a genre that she EXCELLED in. She used to be a big fish in a small pond but now it seems like she's just one of many fish in a big pond.

  6. Leslie, this sounds really good to me. Great review. It just sounds like great development, especially since you didn't like them together in the beginning and then wanted/needed them together by the end. The rest of the family also sounds quite interesting. :)

  7. Great review, Leslie. I've become such a sucker for historical romances in the last year or so. I can barely read a review without wanting to read the book!

    I'm seriously considering this one, because it sounds emotionally complex... for me, if not the characters! LOL. I DO have a difficult time reading about infidelity in romance (or any love story --real or fictional) and I TRY to think in terms of what was the "norm" between men and women in historical times. I think I would enjoy the challenge put forth to the author to convince me that I can forgive the infidelity and believe in the couple's monogamous HEA.

  8. Kristie ~ I have a bunch of Heath’s westerns on the tbr pile that I hope to get to soon. I wish she would go back to writing westerns – we need more good western authors.

    Hils ~ Heath really made this couple work for me. Love it when that happens. :)

    Christine ~ I was ok with the infidelity because of the situation and the hero’s belief that it would never be a real marriage. If he had been living w/the heroine, attempting to make the marriage work from the beginning, then I would've had problem with it.