Waking Up With the DukeBy Lorraine Heath
Release Date: June 28, 2011
Three years ago, two men were involved in a horrific carriage accident. One walked away with no visible scars; one was left paralyzed and impotent. The two men, the Duke of Ainsley and the Marquess of Wolfort, are cousins and close friends. For three years, Ainsley’s reputation as a lover had grown. For three years, Wolfort has adapted to a radically changed life. Now Wolfort has a request of Ainsley: impregnate my wife. Jayne, Lady Wolfort, who was three months pregnant when her husband was injured, suffered a miscarriage brought on by grief and stress. Wolfort believes Ainsley is the ideal man to give Jayne the child she longs for and Wolfort an heir with Seymour blood in his veins.
Ainsley’s shock at the request is exceeded only by Jayne’s. He has always secretly wished that he had met Jayne before Wolfort did and had the chance to win her heart and hand, but Jayne despises him, holding him responsible for the accident and her husband’s injuries. Jayne is also offended by the idea of breaking her marriage vows. Wolfort plays on Ainsley’s guilt and on Jayne’s desperate desire for a child until the two agree. They will spend a month together at Ainsley’s country cottage engaged in a physical relationship, one bound by Jayne’s rules. Theirs will be a relationship devoid of even a hint of intimacy. There will be no kisses, only sex.
But the Ainsley Jayne discovers at the cottage is far different from the conscienceless rake she has created in her need to blame someone for the accident. Not only is he a tender and considerate lover who brings her greater pleasure than she has ever known, but he is also a thoughtful, sensitive, vital man who brings joy to their days together. She falls in love with Ainsley, and he falls more deeply in love with her. A happy ending seems impossible, but this is a romance after all. It doesn’t take a perceptive reader to know there is only one way the requisite HEA can be achieved.
This is the third book in Heath’s London’s Greatest Lovers series, following Passions of a Wicked Earl and Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman, but the book works well as a standalone. There are fleeting references to Ainsley’s brothers and his unique relationship to them, but the focus is solidly on the Ainsley-Wolfort-Jayne story. Jayne is a sympathetic character—a woman, young, vulnerable, honorable, who truly loves her husband. Ainsley is all a reader could ask for in a hero—wealthy, handsome, sexy, intelligent, compassionate . . . In a word, he’s irresistible. The love scenes between the two sizzle, and Heath includes enough scenes that show genuine liking and emotional intimacy developing between the two to make their falling in love credible. I would have liked to see more of the latter, but given their reason for being at the cottage and the popularity of a high hotness factor, I probably speak for a slim minority.
A secondary plot involving the Duchess of Ainsley, Ainsley’s mother, her much younger lover, and the man she considers the great love of her life adds an extra dimension to the story. The triangle is interesting within itself, and the duchess, a woman who has lived largely and meets the world on her own terms, serves as counterpoint to Jayne who is fearful and concerned about appearances.
Heath is an author who excels at providing the kind of emotional read that has a reader reaching for a second hanky, and she is at her best in parts of this book. I confess when Jayne and Ainsley part at the end of the month, I was a sodden mess. And that was not the only scene that evoked tears. All that kept this from being a five-star book for me was Wolfort’s character. His coldness, his manipulation, and his dishonesty rendered him so unlikeable that it was mandatory that all sympathy be directed toward Jayne and Ainsley. I would have found the story more complex and exceptional had Wolfort been as noble as his wife and his friend.
Do you have a favorite book by Lorraine Heath? Have you read books that fell just shy of your top rating for one specific reason?