Lorraine Heath's, She Tempts the Duke is a remarkable tale of a young friendship that stands the test of time and circumstance and transforms into a riveting love story. I was unable to put this book down until I had read the last page, it had a tortured hero, a tenacious and loyal heroine and an incredible love story that captivated me.
Ms. Heath's prologue to this story sets up the premise of this book beautifully while hooking her readers in right of way. We are introduced to the three lords of Pembrook during their escape for their lives, with the help of courageous twelve-year-old Mary Wynne-Jones, their neighbor. Skip ahead a dozen years and the boys are now grown up and have returned to reclaim their birthright -- more specifically, Sebastian and the title of Duke of Keswick -- and to get retribution from the uncle who wanted them dead so he could claim the title.
Sebastian Easton has returned to London to claim his birthright as the Duke of Keswick, however he has not returned as a civilized gentleman. He has been to war and has the scars both physically and emotionally to show for it. Sebastian has lost his left eye and the left side of his face is scarred and mutilated. Sebastian believes that no woman could love him, but he must find a wife and produce an heir. He did not anticipate his feelings of lust for his childhood friend Mary who is engaged to another man. Mary has grown up and become a very beautiful woman and a temptation Sebastian is finding harder and harder to resist.
Lady Mary Wynne-Jones is a character with courage, strength and grace. We are first introduced to Mary as a brave girl of twelve who rescues the Easton brothers from the tower where they are being kept. She manages to free the lords of Pembrook and they escort her home and then flee into the night. Mary has not forgotten the three boys she rescued that fateful night and fears they have died after not receiving word from any of them in the years since that fateful night.
While attending the ball being given by the treacherous uncle of the boys she saved, everything changes; the Lords of Pembrook crash the party. Mary is shocked by their return, and hurt that they did send her word of their survival. Mary is engaged to be married; however, with the return of Sebastian into her life she begins to question her choice of husband and what her feelings toward Sebastian mean.
Lorraine Heath has created a beautiful, romantic tale of two people who have survived years of being apart physically but were always in each other's hearts as childhood friends. After being reunited, Mary and Sebastian discover that their friendship has changed into something so much greater. The two fated lovers each take a journey of self discovery in this scintillating story to learn what they want from one another and what that means to their budding relationship.
She Tempts the Duke is very well written, using the point of view of both the hero and the heroine. The story flowed well and kept me interested and anticipating the next event.
I was very impressed with how Ms. Heath created a regency novel that isn't bogged down with constant references to the "Ton", but uses its existence to bring her characters together with its infernal societal rules. The dialogue was well written and realistic giving each character a distinctive voice in the story. The main characters were well rounded individuals that made me sense their emotions and struggles throughout the unfolding events. Ms. Heath also gave her readers insight into the secondary characters, specifically Sebastian's brothers, Tristan and Rafe, giving her readers a little foreshadowing into their stories. Overall this was a great Regency romance complete with treachery, intrigue and a climactic ending.
I am a discriminating regency romance reader, depending on the story and the author's writing style; I either hate or love them and I loved this one and intend to go looking for more by Ms. Heath. I also eagerly await Rafe's and Tristan's stories.
If you enjoy regency romances that are well written and have characters that will pull at your heartstrings, run out and get She Tempts the Duke, you will fall in love with the Lords of Pembrook and their struggles to return to "Polite Society".
originally posted at LAS Romance Reviews