Monday, November 15, 2021

Lorraine Heath - The Earl Takes All

One summer night, Edward Alcott gives in to temptation and kisses Lady Julia Kenney in a dark garden. However, the passion she stirs within him is best left in the shadows as she weds his twin, the Earl of Greyling. But when tragedy strikes, to honor the vow he makes to his dying brother, Edward must pretend to be Greyling until the countess delivers her babe.
After her husband returns from a two-month sojourn, Julia finds him changed. Bolder, more daring, and more wicked—even if he does limit their encounters to kisses. With each passing day, she falls more deeply in love.
For Edward the embers of desire sparked on that long-ago night are quickly rekindled. He yearns to be her husband in truth. But if she discovers his ruse, she will despise him—and English law prevents him from marrying his brother’s widow. Yet he must dare to risk everything and reveal his secrets if he is to truly take all.

Comment: This is the second story in the Hellions of Havisham trilogy and the protagonist is a character who had a not so good reputation in the previous book. Of course, I was curious to see how the author would redeem him and turn him into hero material...

In this second installment, Edward returns home from a journey he was sharing with his brother Albert with the most terrible news...his beloved twin is dead and he promised in his deathbed, to honor his wishes and, thus, he comes back pretending to be Albert until his sister-in-lam Julia has her baby. The problem is that by pretending, Edward is putting everyone at the worst place because he knows he will need to tell the truth. He also thought he could keep Julia away but what he took for some jealous attraction in the past, comes back to life as a love and passion he tried to deny. When he tells the truth, it won't be only Julia's heart breaking over the death of her husband and someone they both loved, nor her anger at his deceiving, it will also be his heart breaking for never being able to be with her...

What a complicated plot to work with... plus, according to British law, in the 1800s, people couldn't marry brothers or sisters of their spouses. I was both curious to see how the author would play this out and, even more important, how would the HEA happen because if there was one obvious thing, it was the fact Julia and Edward would be in love by then...

I liked this one better than the previous one. The plot is complicated but the challenges felt they were conductive to a better characterization of the characters. Whereas in the other book I found the characters to be a little boring at times, in here I was much more invested in the protagonists and in what obstacles they had before they could have their HEA.

Edward had been known as a free spirit, always into some journey planning, favored by the ladies and his rake friends, a good storyteller, someone not taken too seriously because he was a second son. His twin Albert was serious but not as confident and assertive as Edward and for some this meant Edward wasn't concerned about routines and such. But the boys were close and not just because they are twins, their childhood was pretty special. I liked that there was no good/bad twin plot here, only one of one twin being considered less than the other.

Of course, Edward being the hero, we see in this book how much of a good person he is, not perfect but not as bad as he seemed to have been painted in the previous book. I liked how we got to peel off his layers and how much he hod for the sake of someone or for the feelings of his brother. I liked knowing he was pining for Julia but didn't want to ruin his brother's relationship with her. Obviously, this means Edward is a true hero, focused on the heroine from afar....

Julia is a little more predictable. She is a good person and I can see why some readers found her to be a bit bland, especially since it takes around half the book for her to realize her husband isn't who he says he is. Her reaction upon discovering everything was also a bit "contained", I kind of imagined something more shocking could happen but, then again, how many witnesses would understand this before the characters were ready to explain... this is addressed in the story but I can't help thinking some realistic issues were push aside a bit too much...

The romance is cute and takes time for both to be immersed in love, let's say so, and I rooted for them to find some way to be together. I think the author did a good job here, the pace was good, the setting up of every detail seemed to work out fine and while this wasn't as tense and strained as it could, I was still convinced of the dire situation and that they felt nothing could help them. Some readers claim there was too much drama but for me, the final part kind of worked out.

The end has a HEA as expected and I also liked the epilogue. I would put this book along with the ones I liked best by the author, for certain.
Grade: 8/10

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