The Viscount and the Vixen by Lorraine Heath (The Hellions of Havisham #3)

28523597Love begets madness. Viscount Locksley watched it happen to his father after his cherished wife’s death. But when his sire arranges to marry flame-haired fortune hunter Portia Gadstone, Locke is compelled to take drastic measures to stop the stunning beauty from taking advantage of the marquess. A marriage of mutual pleasure could be convenient, indeed… as long as inconvenient feelings don’t interfere.

Now the sedate—and, more importantly, secure—union Portia planned has been tossed in favor of one simmering with wicked temptation and potential heartbreak. Because as she begins to fall for her devilishly seductive husband, her dark secrets surface and threaten to ruin them both—unless Locke is willing to risk all and open his heart to love.

Review:

I love Lorraine Heath.  She is masterful at capturing period detail and keeping things historically accurate.  Her heroes and heroines fall in love on the page and follow believable emotional journeys.  While Heath’s last book, The Earl Takes All, had a daring plot device The Viscount and the Vixen sticks closer to Regency orthodoxy.

Huzzah marriages of convenience!  In real life it would suck but this is a romance.  Of course it works out.  The compatibility of our couple is obvious from the start – they have a magnets-attract-I-must-kiss-you-now thing going on.  Instalust isn’t my jam, but their love grows slowly and naturally over time so I can almost forgive it.

Heath is masterful at keeping your mind in the period.  Check out this scene where Locke takes out Portia’s wedding ring and she freezes up:

Locksley squeezed her hand. “Unfurl your fingers.”
“You can’t want to do this.”
“Neither did I wish to get married today, yet here I am.  Open your hand and let’s get this done.”
Reluctantly she did as he bade…

“Unfurl”, “bade” – no modern narration clunking around here!

Portia is strong and goes after the things she needs, the most important of which is security.  The reason she’s concerned about her welfare is…. a secret!  Grah.  We’re kept in the dark for a while, which is nice, but it’s still a secret.  The hero finds out, he storms like a normal person would, and they figure out a solution.  Ta-da!  Wrap it up with a nice epilogue (so rare) and we’re done.

All in all The Viscount and the Vixen is a solid and enjoyable read. Recommended for those who like strong heroes and heroines, a healthy dose of not-ballroom scenes, and have have a stronger stomach for secrets than me. 😉

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The Earl Takes All by Lorraine Heath (Hellions of Havisham #2)

Synopsis:

26029545One summer night, Edward Alcott gives in to temptation and kisses Lady Julia Kenney in a dark garden. However, the passion she stirs within him is best left in the shadows as she weds his twin, the Earl of Greyling. But when tragedy strikes, to honor the vow he makes to his dying brother, Edward must pretend to be Greyling until the countess delivers her babe.

After her husband returns from a two-month sojourn, Julia finds him changed. Bolder, more daring, and more wicked—even if he does limit their encounters to kisses. With each passing day, she falls more deeply in love.

For Edward the embers of desire sparked on that long-ago night are quickly rekindled. He yearns to be her husband in truth. But if she discovers his ruse, she will despise him—and English law prevents him from marrying his brother’s widow. Yet he must dare to risk everything and reveal his secrets if he is to truly take all.

Review:

First things first: as hard as it is to do, this is going to be a spoiler-free review. All of the events I mention are either in the jacket copy or the first few pages of chapter one. I’ll still refer to later events, of course, but give nothing away while still getting most of my thoughts out.

Because oh, the thoughts.

The Earl Takes All is a tightrope walk of the highest order. Earl Albert and identical twin Edward have gone off to Africa for one last adventure but tragedy strikes. With his last breaths Albert asks Edward to take his place, to make sure pregnant Julia delivers their baby safely. He agrees out of honor, even though he isn’t sure if he can pull the stunt off.

There is so much that can go wrong, adding a healthy dose of angst – will Edward be found out? By whom? How? If yes, how would he recover? And if no, how would he live with the guilt? More than that, there are many places where weak characterization or a rushed scene would have pulled apart the underpinnings of the entire book. Heath manages everything masterfully, making sure the plot moves along while characters have all the human feelings you’d expect them to have.

You know how sometimes there’s a jump in time and it’s used to solve everything? “A month later and they’re friends again! Of course!” That doesn’t happen here. While the action is moved ahead now and then the relationships stay basically the same. It allows the characters to say, “I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few weeks and while I’m still not comfortable with xyz, I feel like I can talk about it now.” All of Heath’s characters are people, and only give you whiplash when it makes total sense (like that one time when… ~zips lips~).

Heath trusts the reader. Many authors nudge you about Whatever Thing endlessly but Heath knows we won’t forget. She’ll mention it early on and let it sit in a corner of your brain for 100, 200, 300 pages before drawing the thread back in. I love that.

The first half of this book is amazing. Everything feels real, without a stray emotion or action in sight. At the midpoint there’s a Big Happening and then things slow down. A lot. To a crawl. Here’s the thing – looking back it was totally necessary. If the action wasn’t allowed to drop I would have been questioning people’s sanity.

It still affected my reading experience, though. By 60% I was thinking, “What the heck is left to drive the rest of this book?”. Then there’s another Happening with two chapters left and I thought, “How will she wrap this up in time?!” It’s a roller coaster I wasn’t expecting.

If I were grading purely on difficulty and execution of an idea The Earl Takes All would be five stars, easily. I’m incredibly impressed that she took this thing on and did it so well. I want to read more romance like this, stories that push boundaries while staying true to their historical periods and human emotion.

That being said… the drop in action nearly killed the experience for me. I’m not a big lover of angst and while it’s delicious, you’re up to your eyeballs in it. One misunderstanding in particular left me skimming pages because I couldn’t take it any more.

So even though I will gush about this book and push it on friends I only feel comfortable giving it three and a half stars. If you like angst it will be a four star read for you, and it’s an easy recommend to anyone that likes romances that stray from the usual. Heath is one of my favorite authors and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

In Bed with the Devil by Lorraine Heath (Scoundrels of St. James #1)

Synopsis:

2634570They call him the Devil Earl—a scoundrel and accused murderer who grew up on the violent London streets. A proper young lady risks more than her reputation when consorting with the roguishly handsome Lucian Langdon, but Lady Catherine Mabry believes she has no choice. To protect those she loves, she would do anything—even strike a bargain with the devil himself.

Lucian desires respectability and a wife above all else, but the woman of his choosing lacks the social graces to be accepted by the aristocracy. Catherine can help Lucian gain everything he wants. But what she asks for in exchange will put their very lives in jeopardy. When danger closes in, Catherine discovers a man of immense passion and he discovers a woman of immeasurable courage. As secrets from his dark past are revealed, Lucian begins to question everything he knows to be true, including the yearnings of his own heart.

Review:

I love Heath but this book is not one of my favorites. She is so good at rocking internal conflict but there’s a lot of external angst here – carriages being attacked! Abusive husband that must be stopped! The hero takes a loooong time to realize that he loves the heroine, and while it’s realistic (his friends see it before he does, he has a good reason to be stuck on someone else) it grates a little. “You’re perfect for each other, get to it already!”

As the first book in a series the set up is wonderful – Catherine has a novel reason to be as independent as she is and there’s a brother, best friend, and several scoundrels to marry off. With such different personalities it’s going to be interesting!

So while not her best I’m still glad I read this Heath book and look forward to the scoundrels to come. Bwahaha.

Falling Into Bed with a Duke by Lorriane Heath (Hellions of Havisham #1)

Synopsis:

24805225After 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?

Review:

Minerva has a problem – her large dowry is only attracting fortune hunters. To a particularly awful suitor she says:

“Call on me if you wish, my lord, but know that under no circumstances will I ever marry you.”

“You won’t get a better offer.”

“That may well be true, but I seriously doubt that I shall receive a worse one.”

Bwahahaha.

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