"There is no way this couple can have a future together." That's what you'll be saying to yourself right up until the last few pages of this story, and by my standards that makes for a pretty darn good book. It's Romancelandia, so we know that an HEA is guaranteed, but how . . . ?
Lorraine Heath is one of my go-to HR authors, and although I did not love the first books in this trilogy, She Tempts the Duke, I was excited to receive an ARC of this book from Edelweiss.
First, a quick update on the story of the three Pembroke lords. Their father was the late Duke of Keswick, and their uncle was the devil himself. After arranging for the duke's apparently accidental death, the uncle imprisoned the young brothers in Yorkshire and made plans for their demise. This cra-cra uncle really want to be a duke! In the first volume, the brothers flee from their home, split up, and return as agreed twelve years later to claim their birthright. Eldest brother, Sebastian, becomes the duke; the uncle gets his just deserts; and we get intriguing glimpses of the two younger brothers, Tristan and Rafe.
Tristan went to sea at the age of 14, shortly after escaping from their mad uncle. He grew to love life on board a ship, and after helping his brothers expose their uncle's crimes, all Tristan wants is to continue his life as Crimson Jack, captain of his own ship. One day, a beautiful young woman wants to hire him to take her to the Crimea, so she can bid a personal farewell to her soldier fiance, who has yet to return from the Crimean War. (This is a weak link in the story. It's a long, costly trip, and it seems like a Dear John letter would suffice. I won't spoil things for you, though.)
Tristan becomes smitten with Lady Anne, however, during the course of the voyage, and just before returning to England they engage in a night of passionate lovemaking. No one in Society knows of Lady Anne's scandalous behavior, so she returns to her father's house and resumes her traditional duties. At a ball, however, Tristan shows up, and only then does she learn his true identity.
Lady Anne wants to lead a conventional life -- titled husband, a country estate, and children -- so she agrees to marry a marquis. Tristan wants nothing more than to sail the seas. Will love be enough to bring these two together?
Heath almost spoiled the book for me by dreaming up a truly over-the-top wedding scene. It's flat-out ludicrous, even by Romancelandia standards. Things were somewhat redeemed, however, by the truly lovely epilogue showing how these lovers devised a life together.
The last book in the trilogy is the story of Rafe, who was only eight years old when his brothers were forced to leave him in a workhouse. Rafe now owns a gambling hell in London, and he's still angry with his brothers. I'll definitely be reading this one.
Many thanks to Edelweiss and Avon for the opportunity to read an ARC of this book.