Lord of Wicked Intentions, now that is a proper title for a historical romance novel!
Lorraine Heath is on my romance B list. B- really, but this was the best book of hers I’ve read so far. It’s the third and last in her Lost Lords of Pembroke trilogy and so much better than the boring and annoying preceding novel, Lord of Temptation, and the overwrought first novel, She Tempts the Duke. You’ll note that despite the B- factor, I have indeed read all three books, but I only paid for one of them and I regretted it.
Following the romance series convention of the toughest nut getting his story last, Lord Rafe is the youngest of the three Easton brothers and the most damaged. Rafe, Tristan, and Sebastian (every romance writer has a Sebastian, eventually) fled for their lives from their murderous uncle. The 15-year-old twins went to the military, Sebastian the army, Tristan the navy, and they left their 10-year-old brother Rafe at a work house terrified and alone. Fifteen years later, he has clawed his way out of poverty through whatever means necessary and available to him, and is aged beyond his years by experience. Rafe, like so many self-made men in romance, runs a gambling establishment. He has wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, a kind heart he does his best to conceal, and some serious physical contact issues. He’s attractive and damaged in the way that is appealing in romance novels and RUN, RUN, RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN! in real life.
The daughter of an Earl and his mistress, Evelyn Chambers has grown up very sheltered. Taken in by her father and raised in his home after the death of her mother, she is left vulnerable to the whims of her (legitimate) brother when their father passes away. After promising “she shall have all she deserves,”, her brother promptly sets up an auction of his sister’s innocence to pay off his gambling debts to Rafe. Disgusted by what he sees, Rafe forgives the debt and brings Evelyn home for himself. He’s not a good enough man to decide not to make her his mistress, but he is kind, they fall in love in the process, and Rafe exacts some rather lovely revenge on Evelyn’s feckless brother.
Evelyn is the strongest characterization in the book and a great heroine. Heath manages to make her naive and innocent, but not a fool. It’s quite a tightrope walk and Heath absolutely succeeds with it. Caught off guard by the reality of her circumstances and its implications about her father, Evelyn rises to the occasion with a calm dignity and believable self-possession, while still being appropriately hurt and let down by the revelations. Evelyn matures and takes on responsibility for herself and her future in tandem with Rafe’s unburdening and the relinquishing of his demons.
Lord of Wicked Intentions was a compelling, romantic, and entertaining read. Romance readers buy a lot of books, but we don’t keep very many. There is both an assumed disposability and a sought after re-readability in the genre. There are books I have read many times (there’s that shame spiral I’ve been looking for) and while Lorraine Heath wrote a very enjoyable book, it doesn’t inspire revisiting. It was a great distraction, but not a keeper. Just the same, thank you to Malin for giving it to me when a distraction was exactly what I needed.
If you’re interested, the ultimate “hero from the gutter” historical romance is Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas. Derek Craven is a tortured hero masterpiece and a magnificently rakish character. Lisa Kleypas also has the ultimate Sebastian in another classic, The Devil in Winter, as Rachi3879 recently discovered.
Also by Lorraine Heath:
The (Shameful) Tally 2014 and links to my other reviews.