Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Review: Passions of a Wicked Earl by Lorraine Heath

Skipping the TBR challenge this month, because well, none of the books really qualify ^_^; Most of my reads have been 2010 releases and if not, they are recently acquired books. I'm hoping that I'll read a bit more from my TBR pile in December, since there will be very few new releases :P

Got a really good news at work yesterday!! The scientific paper that my lab has been working on has been accepted!! Woohoo!! and I'm first author on it :P My first real publication!! Really happy about it and I hope my boss won't forget to take us out for celebration once he comes back from his vacation :P The news must be such a relief for him, because he still hasn't replied to my email LOL. The few times I emailed him, he said he was hard at work and had sleepless nights! I have received some of his emails when it was 4.30am and 5.30am in China!! Definitively does not sound like a vacation to me ^_^; Hopefully, when I finally get to take time off, I'll be able to relax LOL.

So that was the good news :P Now, onto the review. There are other books I should review before this, but this one keeps calling to me :)

*Warning: The are spoilers in this review. Read at your own risk!*

Passions of a Wicked Earl by Lorraine Heath
published by Avon in October 2010
Known throughout for his prowess in the bedroom, Morgan Lyons, the eighth Earl of Westcliffe, cannot forgive an unpardonable affront to his honor. Discovering his young bride in the arms of his brother was a staggering blow - so he banished the beautiful deceiver to the country and devoted himself to thepursuit of carnal pleasure.

Claire Lyons was an innocent, frightened girl on her wedding day, seeking chaste comfort from a childhood friend. Now, years later, she has blossomed magnificently and has returned to London with one goal in mind: the seduction of her notorious husband. Unskilled in the sensual arts, she burns nonetheless for the kisses too long denied her. And she has but one Season to win back the heart of the rogue she betrayed.

They are masters of seduction, London's greatest lovers. Living for pleasure,they will give their hearts to no one... until love takes them by surprise.
Genre: historical romance
Series: London's Greatest Lovers, Book #1

The Story: Morgan Lyons is the eighth Earl of Westcliffe and finds himself in a very unique situation. Usually, as the oldest of three boys, he should be the only one titled... However, his mother remarried after his father died and gave birth to Ransom Seymour, heir to the dukedom of Ainsley. Morgan's father having left a lot of debts behind, Morgan has grown up being dependent on his younger brother's generosity. Luckily for Morgan, his and Earl of Cresmont's families have made a marriage contract betrothing him to Earl of Cresmont's eldest daughter, Claire, who has a substantial dowry. And Morgan is looking forward to restoring his family estate and starting his own family with Claire... that is, until he finds her in his brother Stephen's arms on his wedding night.

At seventeen, Claire is scared on her wedding night. The 8 years difference between her and her husband has always seemed like an insurmountable gap between them and as a result, she doesn't know him. Add to it the rumors of his prowess in the bedroom and Claire feels inadequate. All she hopes is to postpone her wedding night till she can get to know him better. She shares her fears and hopes with Stephen, her childhood friend, who comes up with a foolish plan. The plan works a bit too well and the Earl and Countess of Westcliffe end up living separate lives for the next three years - Claire being exiled to the country and Morgan, in London, parading his conquests to cover his wounded pride.

After three years of separation, Westcliffe seems to have found someone with whom he could share his life and is toying with the idea of demanding a divorce. It is at that moment that Claire shows up to his residence, demanding him to sponsor her younger sister's Season. Feeling that he owns her that much, Westcliffe accepts. Meanwhile, Claire is getting ready to become Westcliffe's wife in every way...

My Opinion: First, I have to say thank you, thank you, thank you Leslie for her review of Passions of a Wicked Earl. I've read some of Ms Heath's books in the past and enjoyed some of them, but not her most recent ones. Also, I've been disappointed in Avon's historical lately. Combine the fact together and I was going to skip this release, but Leslie's review changed my mind and I'm sooooo glad for it because I ended up absolutely LOOOOVIIIIING it!!

What  made Passions of a Wicked Earl so great was the characterization of Westcliffe and Claire. They were extremely well-written characters and each had so much depth... Ms Heath did a very good job with their backgrounds and settings, so much that you really can't help but feel for them. I love the fact that Claire didn't shy away from her responsibilities for the debacle that took place during her wedding night. The fact that she wanted to postpone her wedding night in order to get to know her husband better is totally understandable, especially from a woman's viewpoint. Still, the plan was stupid and she can't blame Westcliffe for reacting the way he did. What she doesn't know - and this was very unfortunate at the time-  is that Westcliffe probably reacted more violently than he would have because the other man was Stephen, his younger brother whom his mother obviously favored. Sigh. In any case, I really like Claire's maturity, level-headiness and really, her courage. Facing Westcliffe, standing up to him, facing the rest of the ton knowing that everyone is aware of her husband's affairs, fighting for her husband's affection... none of those situations could have been easy and yet, she did... and she did so being herself and not giving up. Seriously, Claire won my respect and my love and at the end, I was simply happy for her to get her HEA ending :)

Surprisingly, I found myself loving Westcliffe's character as much as I did Claire. OMG, he was such a complex hero! Not tortured as we usually like in heroes, but gosh did the man suffer emotionally. Here you have a man who is an earl and if he was anyone else, that would probably be perfect - case closed. However, in Westcliffe's instance, it practically means nothing. He is the oldest son but without real authority (the bossiness of the oldest) because he depends on in his younger brother - the duke- generosity. His mother obviously prefers and favors Stephen over her two titled sons... and they've been raised in Ainsley's household, abandoning his own household. Plus, because of the dynamics, the three brothers do not share a close brotherhood. He's been watching Claire from afar and I think he had real affection for her. It might not have been love, but he did care for her and he was looking forward to marriage not only for the money which he could use to restore Lyons Place, but to start a family - his own family. Then, finding her in Stephen's arms, well it just crushed everything. I think that beneath his serious and severe front, Westcliffe really had some inferiority complex issues... and this is something you really wouldn't expect in a man of Westcliffe's position.

I mean, Westcliffe wasn't without fault. He definitively should have made more efforts to have a relationship with Claire before the wedding. However, being male, he figured they could do that throughout their marriage. Stupid, really :P Still you know what? I don't blame Westcliffe for that failure. I blame the mother, Tessa Seymour. If she had paid more attention to her son and taken an interest in his life instead of disliking him for his father's sins, she probably could have given him some advices, show him in the right direction... especially since she went through more or less the same situation! She must have known what Claire felt and so she could have helped the two connect.

Anyway, I liked Westcliffe's character not only because he was complex, but also because he realized his faults and his mistakes. It was very clever of the author to have Claire's younger sister in the story, providing contrast between the two women. It really made Westcliffe realize how young Claire was a their wedding, on what she missed and her insecurities. Also, he became uncomfortable once he realized Claire's difficult position because of his affairs... Westcliffe was definitively a sensible hero and very thoughtful at times... I guess that Claire wasn't the only one who was too young.

I ended up also really enjoying the relationship between Claire and Westcliffe, the romance. It took time for them to get to know each other, to trust, to forgive... but it only made it all sweeter. In my opinion, it was really heart-breaking to know that all along before, Westcliffe wanted a family with Claire... and for this to happen. They are both good people that made mistakes... everyone makes mistakes and so, you really root for them :P And the best is that throughout it all, they are getting to know each other...

I usually dislike the big misunderstanding device in the plot for the ending... however, I thought that in Passions of a Wicked Earl, it work. It was a set up for more and I liked it. I was very surprised at the tragedy that occurred. I thought it was bold from Ms Heath, but really an excellent move because it brought more than just the H/H together. I really liked how everything unfolded...

As for those who dislikes hero cheating in their romance and are worried about it in Passions of a Wicked Earl, all I can say is that I thought given the situation, it really worked. I mean, I was wary of it at first as well, but it's really an integral part of the book and seriously, I wouldn't change it.

My Grade: A. Phew, this was a very long review ^_^; There are actually things I'd like to mention like the secondary characters and Westcliffe's mistress, but I think I focused on what was important. Passions of a Wicked Earl was really about Claire and Westcliffe and so should my review :) I just hope that I was able to convey my love of this book :P I think that Passions of a Wicked Earl is going to be my favorite historical romance book for 2010 - that's how much I enjoyed it :) And I'm definitively picking up the next books in this series! No thinking required... Especially Ainsley :)