What a Wicked Earl Wants by Vicky Dreiling R
Laura Davenport, the widowed Lady Chessfield, is finding it difficult to control her stepson, Justin, during a visit to London. Unfortunately the Justin's guardian, Lord Montclief, is finally starting to take an interest in him and threatens to take Justin unless Laura can control him. Andrew Carrington, Earl of Bellingham, finds himself intrigued by the beautiful and very proper young widow and cannot stop himself from getting involved when he overhears a bit of her dilemna. When he visits her townhouse to offer his support he finds Montclief also there and in a fit of desperation Laura announces that she and Bell are secretly engaged. She knows that she should avoid Bell at all costs as he has a wicked and dissolute reputation and he knows that he should stay away to avoid harming her reputation. He agrees to mentor Justin and starts with fencing lessons, trips out with his comrades, Harry and Colin, and tips on how to be a gentleman.
Laura finds herself admiring Bell in spite of herself and is shocked when she discovers she is developing feelings towards him because of the love and support he has given her and her son. Bell's presence encourages Laura to step outside her comfort zone and be more adventurous and she finds that her respectable existence is not as much a comfort as having friends and family who support her like Bell. To aid her in keeping Justin safe, Bell agrees to investigate Montclief to find out if there is anything they can use against him. The more time he spends with Laura, the more fearful he becomes that he is getting too close to her. His own family passed away while he was away at school and he has not lived down the guilt of not being there for them so he is reluctant to form attachments to other people. Laura is heartbroken that he has pulled away from him and realizes that her feelings for Bell are not going away while their separation makes Bell realizes that with Laura's help he can overcome his fears of attachment and find love and a happily ever after with a family.
Vicky Dreiling has quickly become one of my must buy authors and her books are consistently fun, engaging, and enjoyable. This book deftly continues her hot streak as she wrote another book with two well developed and very well suited characters engaged in an adult relationship complete with problems and pitfalls, but filled with romance and love and, just as importantly, manages to avoid the cliches and minor annoyances that romance novels so often fall prey to. Bell is a wonderfully written romance novel hero with a tortured, but not overly so, past and a fear of commitment, but underneath it all he possessed a heart of gold. And the magic of Vicky Dreiling is that she writes this character in a way that I truly believe that a real person could encompass all of these emotions and dichotomies. His actions regarding Laura and her stepson were lovable and heart breaking and made me fall in love with him myself and root for his eventual evolution into a person capable of being in a loving relationship.
What marks a truly great romance novel is when both characters are great and then serve to make the other even greater and this book is such a one. Laura was shy and proper and her love for her stepson, and admiration and respect for her deceased husband, were commendable and showed her to be a perfect match for Bell. He in return helped her become more confident and learn to be a little selfish in a good way. The two of them spent a lot of time together in a variety of situations which went a long way towards showing how they would truly work as a couple and it was obvious that they got along very well. There was definitely a lot of sexual attraction between the two and it scorched up the pages until final consummation and Dreiling does a bang up job of writing hot and romantic sex and keeps it up throughout the book. In the little side plot with Justin and Montclief was a nice little way of getting Bell and Laura together and remained a constant throughout the book without overwhelming the romance.
Rating: An excellent book that I devoured from cover to cover and one of the best books I have read in quite a long time. I heartily recommend this to everyone.