Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book Review of When the Duke Was Wicked by Lorraine Heath

They are England’s most eligible bachelors, with the most scandalous reputations. But for the right woman, even an unrepentant rogue may mend his ways…
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…


With her Scoundrels of St. James series ended, it's time to shine a light on the children of that ragtag group of individuals in Ms. Heath's new Scandalous Gentleman of St. James series.  Grief and loss play a big role in this intensely emotional series starter that gives us wonderfully memorable characters, witty banter, and unrelenting sexual tension as friends morph into lovers.

Grace Mabry loves her parents immensely as they've stood by her through a traumatic time in her life.  Because of this closeness she knows it's time to get married as she desperately wants her father to see her in her wedding dress before he goes blind.  As her parent's marriage is based on love she wants the same for herself as she wants to be accepted for herself body and soul, despite the physical and emotional scars she now carries.  To help her in her search she employs the begrudging help of her childhood friend (and crush), the Duke of Lovingdon.  Not only will he be helping her he'll be getting the push he needs to reenter society after the loss of his wife and child.  As he guides her through the clues to and definition of love she realizes she's still in love with him and it's a heartbreaking struggle to get him to see the truth of their closeness.  Grace is a strong-willed woman who's comfortable being just one of the guys as she smokes and plays cards as good as they do.  She embraces life wholeheartedly, and after everything she's been through and still has hanging over her, she deserves to live life to the fullest.  Grace is understanding and supportive and will do anything to bring Lovingdon back to life, even if he won't end up with her.  She's a wonderful heroine who brought a smile to my face as she often did the unexpected.

Lovingdon is a man in pain and after many years his guilt is still eating away at him.  He feels responsible for his wife and child's deaths and it seems as if he's doing penance for his perceived failure.  He insists he'll never love again and lets his self-hatred culminate in numerous meaningless affairs and drinking.  Helping his friend Grace is the spark that slowly starts his journey to healing.  He comes to realize certain truths about himself and that having Grace as just a friend isn't near enough.  His descriptions of love soon hit too close to home, and as Grace is once again put in danger from a nefarious suitor, he realizes her importance in his life and rejoins the land of the living wholeheartedly in a race to save her from ruination.

Lovingdon and Grace's relationship was delightful to watch evolve.  Their banter was playful but rich in sexual tension.  Both characters have been through the emotional wringer but their mutual loss bonds them in an unexpected way and is seen in some of the story's quieter moments.  Gracie's fears of rejection were understandable and Lovingdon's reaction to her tale was the epitome of romantic and brought a tear to my eye.  Ms. Heath handled this issue in a believable and caring manner I've not seen in a historical work before and with an epilogue that further reinforces Ms. Heath's talent at handling sensitive issues.  Along with these two immensely likable characters comes a slew of secondary characters, friends who have their own emotional issues but who are protective of those they claim as friend.  These Scandalous Gentleman are intriguing in their own right and have me greatly anticipating the next installment in this series.  From start to finish I was fully immersed in this story and the palpable pain the hero and heroine experienced.  Their journey from friends to lovers was heart-wrenching at times but immensely satisfying and I look forward to seeing glimpses of them as their friend's tales are told in this promising new series.

My rating for this is an A.

*I bought this book with my own money for my personal library and my opinions are therefore my own.

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