Monday, March 17, 2014

REVIEW: "When the Duke Was Wicked" by Lorraine Heath

When the Duke Was Wicked (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #1)
When the Duke Was Wicked by Lorraine Heath
(Scandalous Gentleman of St. James #1)

Goodreads -- Amazon -- Book Depository
Author Website

For Ages 18+ (Language, Sensuality)
Historical Romance -- Victorian England

Avon -- February 25, 2014
Mass Market Paperback, 372 pages
Purchased from Amazon

THEMES
Unrequited Love, Tearjerker

SUMMARY
Lady Grace Mabry’s ample inheritance has made it impossible for her to tell whether a suitor is in love with her—or enamored of her riches. Who better to distinguish beau from blackguard than her notorious childhood friend, the Duke of Lovingdon?

With no interest in marriage, Lovingdon has long lived only for pleasure. He sees little harm in helping Grace find a proper match. After all, he’s familiar with all the ploys a scoundrel uses to gain a woman’s favor. He simply has to teach the lovely innocent how to distinguish honest emotions from false ones. How better than by demonstrating his wicked ways. But as lessons lead to torrid passion and Grace becomes ensnared in another man’s marriage plot, Lovingdon must wage a desperate gamble: Open his heart fully—or risk losing the woman he adores.



FIRST LINE
"On the morning of February 2, 1872, I, Henry Sidney Stanford, the seventh Duke of Lovingdon, Marquess of Ashleigh, and Earl of Wyndmere, died."

MY THOUGHTS
Lorraine Heath returns to the world of Victorian England with a spin-off to her successful, Scoundrels of St. James series.  That group of books introduced readers to people who had survived for years on the streets of London before being brought up as ladies and gentlemen thanks to a generous benefactor.  Now, Heath has turned her focus to the children of these characters and starts things off with a bang in When the Duke Was Wicked.

This first book features Lady Grace Mabry, daughter of Frannie and Sterling from Surrender the Devil, and the Duke of Lovingdon, son of Olivia and stepson of Jack Dodger from Between the Devil and Desire.  These are two characters who have grown up together due to the friendship between their parents yet it takes some time for them to realize how much they actually mean to one another.  I love romances between long-time friends so I was destined to enjoy this book.

Grace is a strong woman who is very mature for her age (19) that I really admired.  She had a crush on Lovingdon since she was a child, but put aside those feelings after his marriage.  I liked her approach to the marriage mart with her determination to figure out the tricks of the men of the ton.  Henry appeared as a child in Between the Devil and Desire so it was both exciting and sad to see how he grew up.  The loss of his wife and child within hours of each other really changed his outlook life and he decided to just survive rather than live.  

It took some time for these to become a couple despite Grace's childhood feelings.  I liked how she used her dilemma to help bring Henry back to enjoying life again while still respecting the drama of his loss.  I also thought it was nice how Henry acted as a friend to Grace and tried to teach her the tricks of her suitors.  These are two people who spend a decent amount of time talking and enjoying each other's company before falling into bed which I always appreciate.

I also have to mention that one issue I usually have with historical romance where one of the main characters is a widow/widower is the depiction of the deceased spouse.  Thankfully, Lorraine Heath avoided this cliche and showed a great amount of respect for Lovingdon's wife.  She made sure to show Henry talking about Juliette and thinking about the possibility of loving again while still honoring her memory.  I appreciated the steps she took with this plot which made the book stand out.

The only issue that I had with When the Duke Was Wicked was a minor plot involving a creepy suitor of Grace's that just seemed to appear in the later third of the book.  I understand that she wanted to make sure readers understood the dangers that some women in London society faced, but it just seemed out of the blue to me.

All in all, I think Lorraine Heath has another successful series on her hand with Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James.  Henry and Grace were a great couple and I look forward to see more characters get their own happy endings especially Grace's brother, Drake Darling.  Highly recommended!

4 STARS

STEAM LEVEL
Flush -- Detailed descriptions of lovemaking though nothing overly graphic.

BOOKS IN THE SERIES
1. When the Duke Was Wicked
2. Once More, My Darling Rogue (Coming August 2014)

CHALLENGES READ FOR


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