I have been reading Lorraine Heath for decades. She’s one of the handful of authors whose books I’ll buy without even knowing what it’s about.
So when The Earl Takes All arrived at Dymocks and I flipped over to the back, I was delighted to read its premise: Man forced to convince dead twin brother’s wife that he is her husband.
It has been awhile since I read one of these stories, and in Heath’s hands, I knew it was going to be a great romp. And it was. Eventually.
The truth is the beginning was really clunky. So clunky in fact that by the time I got to page 38 I was eyeing the spine of the book and trying to work out if it looked unread enough to return to the bookstore (it didn’t—I must learn to go easier on the covers when I read).
Given the sheer size of my TBR pile, which really has become a bit of a problem, I considered whether or not to keep going. I don’t believe in pushing through books I don’t enjoy. Life is to short.
If it had been a new author, or an e-book that I’d paid less for, I would have given up. But I figured I owed Heath some loyalty for the years of good reading she’s given me, so I persisted, and gosh I’m glad I did.
Lady Julia Kenney is a quieter heroine than I’ve read for awhile. She’s not overly witty, or overly bubbly, or overly fierce or independent. There’s nothing sharp or boldly colourful about her, which makes sense given the circumstances (both in mourning and in confinement). Instead she just felt real—a kind, normal person (except the not noticing her husband is his brother bit. That is not-so-normal, but explained to satisfaction in the end.)
Edward has the quirks and vibrancy of character that Julia lacks—he’s a dissolute rake forced to play the part of a perfect gentleman out of love for his brother. His struggle to tamp down his less perfect habits was just as entertaining to read as his struggle to contain his feelings toward Julia, feelings that leave him experiencing terrible guilt.
With most books I find myself reading it for one character more than the other. In this case it was Edward. I wanted everything to work out well for him. I quite like it actually, when I identify more with the male character than the female. It doesn’t happen often. I usually either relate to the heroine or to both equally (think Colin and Penelope from Romancing Mr Bridgeton)
Throughout the book, I’m really enjoying the way the relationship develops, but knowing the moment has to come where she finds out the truth adds a layer of foreboding. Every time he doesn’t confess the truth I want to slap him, but I completely get why he chooses not to.
Despite its bumpy start, I really enjoyed this book.
From the back cover:
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 honour 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.