Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday Review: Waking Up With the Duke by Lorraine Heath

Waking Up With the Duke
By Lorraine Heath
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: June 28, 2011
Four Stars

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?


irisheyes said...

Great review, Janga! I cannot wait to read this book. Lorraine is usually a win for me. She seems to excel at putting her characters in impossible situations and then having it all work out in the end.

My favorite book of hers has to be TEXAS DESTINY. That is another book where the heroine is supposed to marry one man and falls in love with his brother. The thing that I loved about this book is that there were no bad guys - so you kept wondering how is she gonna pull this HEA off. The brother she marries is a good honorable guy even though she's not in love with him. I really liked how she resolved the whole situation. She made it believable and still heart rending.

The last book I can remember having a quibble with is Madeline Hunter's DANGEROUS IN DIAMONDS. I didn't like the little twist she threw in at the end (don't want to give spoilers). I think it would have been a much more engaging story if she introduced Daphne's big secret earlier and she and Castleford dealt with it together. Just my opinion, though.

quantum said...

I have Lorraine Heath's 'Just Wicked Enough' on my TBR.

I think it might have been the cover that attracted me.
It shows a pair of beautiful feminine legs and little else.
Reminded me of my early attempts at photography with missing heads, or some weed in sharp focus with the desired target a misty blur.

Janga, As I have come to expect, your review has brought Lorraine into sharper focus for me, sending her higher up my unread mountain. *smile*

When I read Lexi Revellian's 'Replica' I was captivated by the novel. By creating an identical replica of the heroine I seemed to be getting two leading ladies for the price of one. Then towards the end she had the replica killed. Damn! You just can't go killing heroines! Because of that I knocked a couple of stars of my rating.

I actually had an ARC to comment on and suggested a survival strategy for the replica and a few other improvements including the title. I wanted it called 'Fatal Symmetry'. Lexi acknowledged but ignored my 'improvements' anyway.

I won't be offering my brilliance to any other authors any time soon! LOL

MsHellion said...

I love Lorraine Heath, but even I am like, "How will this ever work out?" I wouldn't want to read another version of the book that came out a few years ago--the woman thinks her husband is dead and is dating his friend, et al, and then she loves BOTH of them and can't make a decision, blah, blah, blah.

I have to commit to one person or another. I don't like being torn like that.

It's a shame the husband wasn't nice--I hate when that happens--but I imagine it's so we know WHO the hero is. *shrugs* It's not often you can have a SWEET HOME ALABAMA love triangle that works out.

Janga said...

Thanks, Irish. Heath is a consistent author for me too. I love all the Texas Trilogy, Texas Splendor not quite as much as the other two. Always to Remember is another favorite.

I agree with you about Dangerous in Diamonds too. With both Heath and Hunter, I'm eager to see what's next. As long as I can say that about a writer, I'm happy with her--or him.

Janga said...

Q, that's authorial autonomy for you. LOL Replica doesn't sound like my kind of book. I don't like having characters killed off. I haven't read an Elizabeth George book since 2005. I may never read her again. :(

Janga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janga said...

Sweet Home Alabama! I love that movie. But I wouldn't like it nearly as much if it had ended the other way. I'm not a big fan of triangles generally, Hellie, although some writers win me over. Even when the HEA is the one I want, I like to see some promise of happiness for the loser.