Thursday 9 May 2013
#CBR5 Book 49. "Lord of Wicked Intentions" by Lorraine Heath
Rating: 4 stars
This is the third and final book in the Lost Lords of Pembrook trilogy. It can obviously be read in isolation, but I suspect it works better if you've read at least one of the preceding novels about the two eldest brothers, the first of which is She Tempts the Duke.
Lord Rafe Easton was ten when his uncle killed his father, and tried to have him and his two older twin brothers murdered. Saved by the daughter of the neighbouring estate, Mary, the brothers escaped the tower they were locked in, and ran away. Sebastian (the oldest by a few minutes) became a soldier (and eventually horribly scarred Two-Face style in the Crimean war), Tristan was sold to a ship's captain and worked his way up to become a successful captain (and sometime privateer). Rafe was left at a workhouse, because his brothers (then 14), had no idea what horrifying conditions the children there suffered and what a fate they condemned their baby brother to.
Now the proprietor of a successful gambling club (this seems to be a really common way for the heroes of Romancelandia to support themselves), Rafe is happy that they've got their revenge on their uncle, Sebastian is restored to his rightful title as the Duke of Keswick with Mary at his side, Tristan has found love and is also happily settled. He is not really interested in spending a lot of time with his brothers, though, as he's unable to completely blame them for the years of torment he went through in the poorest areas of London, fighting his way through the seedy underworld. His life has taught him that everyone abandons him, sooner or later, and so it's best just not to get attached to them in the first place.
Until he meets the very special someone who can crack his hardened and bitter shell, obviously. Evelyn Chambers is the illegitimate daughter of an Earl. When her mother died, her father took her in, and had her raised in comfort at his country estate. When the Earl dies, she naively believes that her half brother will keep his death bed promise to see her comfortably taken care of, by helping her find a husband. Her brother, being a cowardly weasel of the highest order, instead intends to sell her as a mistress to the highest bidder, to gain funds to repay his many gambling debts. Rafe is present, as the holder of the debts. He's surprised by his own disgust at seeing the other men lech over the oblivious Evelyn, and his own strong attraction to her, and insists on claiming her himself.
He intends to make her his mistress, but while he thinks of himself as the cruelest of villains, he makes sure to give her enough time to get used to the idea, insisting that he would never force her, and he wants her to make the choice to stay with him of her own free will. Deeply uncomfortable with the strength of his feelings towards her, he keeps trying to be controlling and order her about (because that's clearly what a man with a mistress should do) but he's clearly terrified that she will leave him, and keeps painting a very bleak picture of her chances of managing on her own to ensure that she believes that staying with him is her only option.
Evelyn may start out as blithely innocent and naive to the point of TSTL, but it's quite clear that the reason she's so oblivious is that her father, while claiming to have acknowledged her, kept her hidden away in the countryside, far away from polite society where she might learn that not everything was pretty dresses and dollies and her being a bastard might not mean that she had a bright future as the wife of some kind man ahead of her. She has a very rude awakening, and wises up really quite quickly once her brother deposits her on Rafe's doorstep. She also realises very quickly that Rafe is a good, but extremely lonely and private man, who believes himself to be much harsher and crueler than he really is. All his servants are people he rescued off the streets, who are deeply grateful and loyal to him.
I've read a fair few series where there's a number of brothers (either biological or in spirit) who over the course of the books will find their true loves and live HEA. It seems to be tradition that the most messed up of these individuals are saved for last. The best example of this is obviously the amazing Smite Turner in Unraveled. Rafe, for all that he's had a horrible childhood, at least had a stable and happy life until he was ten. He has a lot of unresolved issues and fear of commitment because of his experiences in the work house, being forced to work in a mine and being a street kid, but he also seems to resolve quite a few of them as soon as he actually lets Evelyn get close to him. I suspect that in reality it would take years of therapy as well as the love of a good woman, but we have to take these things with a pinch of salt when dealing with historical romance. The fact that in Milan's book, there is no insta-healing, is why I love her the mostest of all the writers out there.