Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday Review: She Tempts the Duke

She Tempts the Duke
By Lorraine Heath
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: January 31, 2011

Sebastian Easton, the eighth Duke of Keswick, was only fourteen and his two younger brothers were only children when, with the help of Sebastian’s best friend, Lady Mary Wynne-Jones, they escaped from the tower in which their uncle had imprisoned them and fled into the night. Twelve years pass. The Easton heirs are presumed dead, and their uncle it just about to be recognized as duke with all the wealth and power that entails when Sebastian and his brothers return. The children who left are now men hardened by all they endured to survive and by war. Keswick, the most scarred psychically and physically by their experiences, is filled with determination to claim what is rightfully his and see that his uncle pays for his crimes, which Keswick suspects includes the murder of the seventh duke.

The years have brought change to Lady Mary as well. When the twelve-year-old Mary asked her father to help the Eastons, he ordered her never to mention the help she had given them to anyone and sent her to a convent where she remained for many years. Although she gives up hope after long years with no message, she has never forgotten her friend Sebastian, the night he left, or his promise to return. Although the scarred, maimed man who returns looks very different from the beautiful boy who left, Lady Mary recognizes him when he and his brothers burst into the ballroom to challenge their uncle’s right to the title.

Mary is betrothed to a man with whom she expects to create a happy life, but the attraction the adult Keswick holds for her is as strong as the tie they shared as children. She is undeterred by his wounds and by her father’s warning that she is courting disaster by maintaining her friendship with the dangerous duke. When her father’s fears are realized and Mary’s betrothal is ended, Sebastian feels honor- bound to marry her. But happiness for the two is possible only if Sebastian’s desire for a life with the woman he loves proves greater than his hunger for vengeance against the man who destroyed his youth.

She Tempts the Duke introduces a new series, the Lost Lords of Pembroke, from Lorraine Heath. The prologue introduces the hero and heroine as children. They are brave and loyal to one another, and it would take a reader with a harder heart than mine not to be won over by the characters in this first scene. While there is nothing unexpected in the way the relationship between the adult Sebastian and Mary develops, it remains easy to feel sympathy for them and to root for the two to find their HEA. Sebastian is a tortured hero in many sense of the word, and Mary’s strength and tenacity are admirable. The younger Eastons, Tristan and Rafe, are interesting characters as well.

I liked many things about this book. Heath is an experienced writer who knows how to craft an emotional tale. While this one is not the equal of her best work, Always to Remember and her Texas trilogy, it is an engaging story with characters I cared about. It is also a story weakened by a villain who is little more than a placard reading “Evil Man,” but that’s not a big enough flaw to stop me from looking forward to Tristan’s and Rafe’s stories. With that one cautionary note, I recommend this book.

What do you expect to see in a successful villain? What’s your favorite Lorraine Heath novel?

Note: You will see that I assigned no stars to this novel. This will be my practice with all subsequent reviews. Assigning a grade was often an exercise in anguish when I was teaching, and I find it no less difficult as a reviewer. I don’t have a problem summarizing a story and explaining what worked for me and what didn’t. But not infrequently I spend as much time deciding whether a novel should have three or four stars as I do writing the review. So for Tuesday Reviews here, I will continue to rave about books I love, share the hits and misses of books I like, remain silent about the rest and refrain from “grading” any book.  I have no problems with reviewers who make different choices. When I do guest reviews at The Romance Dish or other sites where the policy is to rate the books with stars or some other symbol, I will follow the policy of the site.


quantum said...

I have 'A rogue in Texas' on the TBR but haven't yet read any of Heath's work.

It sounds as though the Texas trilogy would be a good introduction to this author.

I actually found your star ratings very helpful. These things are always ultimately a personal preference though and your summary of pros and cons will do just as well. *smile*

I don't much like villains that are pure evil and leave me with a creepy feeling .... like in Stieg Larson's 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'. Every villain should have some redeeming features that make me feel a little sympathy. I guess if the villain mixes my emotions with both revulsion and sympathy, then the author has succeeded!

Nice review Janga!

irisheyes said...

Hands down my favorite Lorraine Heath is Texas Destiny. I love the whole series, but Houston and Amelia's story is amazing.

I like LH's voice and how she chooses her villains, whether they be concrete people or the H/H fighting their own demons. Her villains do tend to get really nasty, though. I suppose I don't dwell on the villains as much as I do the H/H.

I am right there with you on the rating, Janga. I find myself paralyzed at times at Goodreads trying to come up with the right star rating. And the fact that you can't do half stars drives me crazy. LOL More often than not I've rated something, then gone back several weeks later and changed it. When I like a book I know why "I" like it but have a hard time assigning a concrete value to my opinion.

irisheyes said...

Q, I also loved "A Rogue in Texas"! It has one of the most heartrending love scenes. She also throws kids in the mix and I love that.

If you can't track down her Texas Trilogy, ARIT is a good one to start with. I liked the others in that trilogy also.

Jane said...

My favorite book by Lorraine is "A Matter of Temptation." I do love a virgin hero.

quantum said...

If you can't track down her Texas Trilogy, ARIT is a good one to start with. I liked the others in that trilogy also.

Thanks Irish.

I must look up some of your reviews on good reads. Is there a handy link?

irisheyes said...

Hey Q, I'm at Goodreads under Irisheyes. I don't really post reviews just put stars next to the books I've read - rating them from 1-5 stars.

I'm pretty sure I've given Lorraine Heath 4 or 5 stars on everything of hers I've ever read:)

PJ said...

Great review, Janga. It's been awhile since I've read a Heath book though I've usually enjoyed her writing. Too many books, not nearly enough time!

Janga said...

Q, I've read and reread the Texas trilogy. I think they'd be a great place to start with Heath.

I'm a big Nora Roberts fan, but I don't have a copy of Divine Evil because the villain, particularly in the final scene, totally creeps me out, although in her case, it's because she seems too real rather than over the top.

Janga said...

Irish, I hate not being able to give half stars on GoodReads too. But then I sometimes gave a student a B++ to signal that although it wasn't quite an A, it was an exceptional piece of writing. LOL

I'm also bothered by the fact that the stars mean different things on different sites, and I think peple tend to interpret them as letter grades, GoodReads says 3 stars means "I liked it," and that's how I use it, but from comments I've received, I think some people equate three stars as a meh, kind of a C grade.

Janga said...

Jane, A Matter of Temptation is the evil twin one, right? Parting Gifts is another one that I love, although it makes me cry.

Janga said...

Thanks, PJ. I understand about the lack of time. But just think how much great reading you have when you do have a little more time. :)