In the first in a dazzling new series, New York Times bestselling author Lorraine Heath introduces the Hellions of Havisham—three charismatic rogues destined to lose their hearts...
After six unsuccessful Seasons, Miss Minerva Dodger chooses spinsterhood over fortune-hungry suitors. But thanks to the Nightingale Club, she can at least enjoy one night of pleasure. At that notorious establishment, ladies don masks before choosing a lover. The sinfully handsome Duke of Ashebury is more than willing to satisfy the secretive lady's desires—and draws Minerva into an exquisite, increasingly intimate affair.
A man of remarkable talents, Ashe soon deduces that his bedmate is the unconventional Miss Dodger. Intrigued by her wit and daring, he sets out to woo her in earnest. Yet Minerva refuses to trust him. How to court a woman he has already thoroughly seduced? And how to prove that the passion unleashed in darkness is only the beginning of a lifetime's pleasure?
When it comes to the historical genre Ms. Heath is an author I can always count on to entertain. With this series starter, that's a spin-off of her two previous series, she once again has crafted a cast of characters that pull you into their lives with emotions that are palpable amidst a rocky journey to HEA. Ultimately, the groundwork laid here is compelling and has me excited for the next installment.
The Duke of Ashebury is a man living with demons. Since the death of his parents when he was a boy he has been mired in guilt and haunted by images of death and destruction. He's a man who lives on the wild side with society intrigued by him and the uninhibited way he's lived his life since growing up in the non-existent care of the Marquess of Marchand. The Mad Marquess let him, and the twin sons of another rich man, run wild where they only had each other to count on. It's all led to a man jaded to the notion of love, struggling to maintain his family's name, with secrets he's too ashamed to talk about. The death of his parents, and the final hateful words he said, have left him with survivor's guilt and PTSD that he's tried to outrun through exotic and dangerous trips along with meaningless sexual encounters. Meeting Lady V though at the sex club he goes to to drown out the dark images that sometimes consume him has him seeing Miss Minerva Dodger in a new light that will change his life irrevocably. Meeting his masked lady has him finding someone who truly understands him and has him putting everything on the line to win her over. Ashe is a strong-willed man with flashes of little boy vulnerability that drew me to him. Though he's hardheaded when it comes to admitting his feelings, and not getting his way brings out an unpleasant side, he truly cared for Minerva and appreciated her for the things that made her unique which endeared him to me.
Minerva Dodger is tired of being chased for her large dowry. She's tired of the superficial men who want her only for her money and finding fault with her for her unladylike behaviors. Knowing that she'll never get a husband doesn't mean she doesn't want to experience the pleasures of the marriage bed though, which leads her to the Nightingale Club and the man who's always ignored her. Her encounters with the womanizing Duke of Ashebury, and his subtle wooing of her, become an entertaining journey teeming with sexual tension as well as a verbal tug of war. Just when she unexpectedly finds the chance for HEA it becomes riddled with a few bumps along the way that brought out a nasty side to both of them that felt out of character. Overall though Minerva's a refreshing heroine as she tells it like it is while remaining sweet and likable. She's realistic about her faults and unlikelihood of finding a husband and accepts it with grace and dignity, along with a bit of humor when describing her disastrous marriage proposals. Through it all she knows what she wants and doesn't worry about being judged for it as she's grown up basking in the unconditional love of her parents.
Ashe and Minerva make a formidible couple as they're both strong-willed and embrace life to the fullest. They're sensual creatures whose erotic encounters are steamy with equally combustible meetings outside the bedroom. When Minerva discovers what Ashe's been keeping from her it leads to an awkward encounter full of hurtful words and the threat of blackmail that seemed to come out of nowhere and dampened my belief in their pairing. Overall, while I enjoyed them as a couple, I didn't feel their undying love for one another. Ashe's Grand Gesture was accepted too quickly to feel believable after how harsh Minerva was regarding his motives. Ashe's secret that led to his financial troubles came out of nowhere too and felt like just another thing to keep them apart. While I liked these two, their love story isn't of Titanic proportions. Alongside these two strong leads is the character of Edward who captured my attention and whose emotional pain is palpable and has led to alcoholism and over-exuberance in his storytelling that belies his pain. As another of the Hellions of Haversham he was left on his own with only his twin brother for support. With his brother now married he feels more lost than ever and I look forward to him finding the woman to take away his loneliness and appreciate him for all his faults. All in all this was a satisfying series starter, though not quite equal to Ms. Heath earlier works, that has me intrigued for more courtesy of its compelling secondary characters. Readers who enjoy the historical genre would be remiss in not including Ms. Heath on their list of go-to authors as she routinely entertains, with this new series one to keep an eye on.
My rating for this is a B.
*I got this book from Edelweiss for review in exchange for my honest opinion.