Saturday, March 17, 2012
She Tempts the Duke
When the Duke of Keswick dies, his brother, Robert, imprisons his 3 young sons in the dungeon, ostensibly for their protection, but young Sebastian, Tristan, and Rafe know that there is something fishy going on. When their friend, Mary Wynn-Jones, overhears Uncle David talking about murder she frees the boys and they disappear into the forest leaving whispers and a haunting mystery that takes the ton by storm. Sebastian vows that one day he would return and claim his birthright with the help of his brothers. Sebastian joins the army and works his way up to become a way hero, even if he is scarred on one side of his face, while his twin Tristan becomes a naval captain and the youngest, Rafe, becomes a prominent figure in the London underground, running a prosperous gambling hall and brothel. Uncle Robert is horrified when the 3 return to claim their birthright, but Mary is overjoyed to find that her three childhood friends are alright after years with no word from them. Mary is now engaged to Lord Fitzwilliam but that doesn't stop her from sticking up for Sebastian when the ton turn on him.
She is determined to stick by Sebastian's side no matter what everyone says about him and even when it becomes obvious that someone is after Sebastian's life. Her fiance is not pleased by her actions and her own family discourages her because they want to see her married off but she will not back down. One night when Sebastian is attacked and wounded she moves into his family house and her reputation is at risk when her fiance politely calls of the wedding. Sebastian knows it is up to his family to make things right but he worries that he is not good enough for her with his scares, his dark past, and the fact that someone out there is trying to kill him. None of that matters to Mary as all the feelings she had for Sebastian when they were younger come to the surface and she realizes that her childhood crush has become so much more. Their marriage brings hope to both of them even while they know they must find Sebastian's uncle and determine if he is the man who is behind the attacks. Together they will overcome their fears about themselves and find a life together.
I was intrigued by the idea of childhood sweethearts who reconnect later in life after going through a bunch of ups and downs. In that regard this book did not disappoint at all as I felt like there was a really strong connection between Sebastian and Mary that was kindled when they were teenagers and blazed when they became adults. The years of separation really served to nurture their feelings and it was clear that it was always lurking just below the surface and there was a specific moment when Sebastian realized that it was a connection to Mary that had kept him going through all those years, that made their relationship so satisfying to read about. I cannot put my figure precisely on how Heath pulled it off because it was so subtly done, but I really felt like these two belonged together and that they truly had been destined to be together which I don't normally feel. As with most Heath books there was some sex, it was romantically written and meshed well with the story and the development of the relationship but it was not super sexy or hot.
Heath sets herself apart as an author because she took Mary, a character with do-gooder and other assorted traits that would normally drive me nuts, and turned me into a woman I really admired and was motivated to "root" for. She stuck by Sebastian through everything, including some situations that she knew would lead to her being ruined, and helped him when needed, supported him, and loved him. Sebastian was a little too tortured for me and while I felt like his feelings were justified because of his life, I just never really go for people who's angst and worry and torment borders on self-pity, especially when it is such an important part of his character. Sebastian's obsession with regaining hi ancestral home alienated Mary and I enjoyed the angst and turmoil that sprang from that desire interfering with his relationship with Mary. I was glad it didn't become the focal point of the book and that the hunt for finding Lord David and bringing him to justice was an important part of the book but did not take over the book.
Rating: Heath shows herself to be a very skilled writer with a romance I could not resist and a heroine I loved, but a hero was just a little too pained for me.