Sunday 14 August 2011

CBR3 Books 60-62: London's Greatest Lovers trilogy by Lorraine Heath

60. Passions of a Wicked Earl - 4 stars
61. Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman - 3.5 stars
62. Waking Up With the Duke - 4 stars

Publisher: Avon
Total page count: 1152 pages
Date begun: July 29th, 2011
Date finished: August 4th, 2011

Lorraine Heath's London's Greatest Lovers trilogy feature the three sons of the scandalous Duchess of Ainsley. Her eldest son is the Earl of Westcliffe, her middle son is the honorable Stephen Lyons and her youngest son is the Duke of Ainsley.

Passions of a Wicked Earl

Morgan Lyons, the Earl of Westcliffe, has been estranged from his wife Claire for three years. On their wedding day, he found her in the arms of his younger brother Stephen, and he has never been able to forgive her. He exiled her to his country estate, and has become infamous for his love affairs in the years since. Now he's starting to consider divorce, so he can marry his current mistress.

Claire was barely eighteen when she married Westcliffe, in a marriage arranged since she was a girl. Nervous about her wedding night, she went to her best friend Stephen for advice, and seeking comfort in his embrace went badly wrong for her. Now she wants to give her younger sister a season, determined that her sister get to choose her own husband. She shows up on Westcliffe's doorstep, ready to finally be his wife, and is not at all pleased that he wants to end their marriage before they've even had a chance to have a proper one. She gets him to agree that she can stay in the house for the Season, and needs to seduce her husband in order to save her marriage.

I really liked both protagonists in the book, especially Claire. My biggest problem with the book was the continued presence of Westcliffe's mistress. While he doesn't sleep with her after Claire comes back into his life, there are multiple scenes with her, and it's difficult to really like and sympathise with a man who's so blind to what a complete shrew this woman is. I get that she needs to be unsympathetic, to act as an antagonist to Claire, but the scenes featuring her were all tiresome and boring, and took away some of my enjoyment of an otherwise good romance.

Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman

As the only son of the Duchess of Ainsley without a title, being the second son of an Earl, Stephen Lyons was always determined to at least be better at lovemaking than either of his brothers. Regretting the estrangement he caused between his brother Westcliffe and his dear friend Claire, he decides to redeem himself by joining the army. He proves to be a courageous soldier, but is badly injured, and is brought home two years after he went off to the Crimea with an aching leg and complete amnesia about those two years. So he has no memory of the lovely woman who shows up on his family's doorstep with a baby she claims is his.

Mercy Thompson was a nurse who travelled to the Crimea with Florence Nightingale to make a difference. When she returns home with a baby, her reputation is ruined and her father wants nothing to do with her. Believing Stephen, the soldier she admired and fell in love with after one life changing night, to be dead, she wants his family to at least have his son as a reminder of him. So her shock is great when he turns out to be alive, yet he clearly doesn't remember her or anything about his time in the army.  Her father demands that Stephen do the right thing, and restore his daughter's honour by marrying her. Yet Mercy hasn't told Stephen the whole truth about their night together, and while she loves him, she is worried about basing their marriage on a deception.

While a perfectly ok read, Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman was the least enjoyable book in the trilogy, probably because Stephen was the lesser of the three brothers. Always his mother's favourite, and given free rein to do whatever he wanted, while his two brothers tried to be responsible, he just seemed a bit spoiled and self-centred. As the book commences AFTER his time in the army, his bravery becomes a matter of "tell, not show". All the stories of his exploits are told to him by other people. He spends far too long agonizing over his missing memories, and risks his happiness and marriage to regain his memories. Also, when he does find out what Mercy has been hiding, he acts like a complete dick, and frankly, I think she could've done much better than him.

Waking Up With the Duke

The improbably named Ransom Seymour, the Duke of Ainsley, owes a debt to his cousin, the Marquis of Walfort, after a drunken carriage ride two years earlier landed the latter in a wheelchair, while Ainsley escaped with barely a scratch. In the distressing time after her husband's accident, Jeyne, the Marchioness of Walfort, lost the child she carried.

Lady Jayne (yup, the heroine is ACTUALLY called Jeyne Seymour) hates Ainsley and blames him for the accident, her childlessness and the lonely existence of duty and self sacrifice her marriage has become since her husband became paralyzed from the waist down. Now the Marquis has decided that Jeyne would clearly be happier if she had a child, something he can't give her. So he wants Ainsley to father the child instead.

The plan is that Ainsley and Jayne spend a month together, and make love enough times to ensure she gets pregnant. Ainsley is shocked by the proposal, but very attracted to his cousin's wife, so he doesn't protest that much. Jeyne is absolutely appalled, but after a bout of emotional blackmail, pretty much, agrees to the crazy scheme. No points for guessing how long she manages to sustain her hatred for Ainsley after they spend they spend a month together in the countryside.

While the premise for the novel is almost preposterous, and Jeyne does get won over by Ainsley's charm and sexual prowess very quickly, I liked both the protagonists, and was interested in seeing how the plot was going to develop. I also really liked the secondary plot, with Ainsley's mother. I can see why some Amazon reviews question the inclusion of this plot, but if you read the books as a trilogy, you get to know her quite well, and observe her romance with a younger portrait artist. Seeing the culmination of this relationship was very satisfying to me, and since I DID read the whole trilogy, I think the subplot was justified and added to my enjoyment of the third book.

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