Passions of a Wicked Earl

Lorraine Heath
Passions of a Wicked Earl
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Publisher
HarperCollins
Release Date
October 2010
ISBN
9780061922961
Series
Book 1 of London's Greatest Lovers
Genre
Historical Romance

SUMMARY
Known throughout for his prowess in the bedroom, Morgan Lyons, the eighth Earl of Westcliffe, cannot forgive an unpardonable affront to his honor. Discovering his young bride in the arms of his brother was a staggering blow—so he banished the beautiful deceiver to the country and devoted himself to the pursuit of carnal pleasure.

Claire Lyons was an innocent, frightened girl on her wedding day, seeking chaste comfort from a childhood friend. Now, years later, she has blossomed magnificently and has returned to London with one goal in mind: the seduction of her notorious husband. Unskilled in the sensual arts, she burns nonetheless for the kisses too long denied her. And she has but one Season to win back the heart of the rogue she betrayed.

They are masters of seduction, London's greatest lovers. Living for pleasure, they will give their hearts to no one . . . until love takes them by surprise.

Book Review by Sherri (reviewer)
Oct 29, 2010   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
318 people found the following review helpful
There are just some authors that can tug at the old heartstrings and Lorraine Heath is one of the best. In Passions of a Wicked Earl she delivers a novel with one of the most tortured and complex characters, Morgan Lyons, I've read in a historical romance book in a while.

Morgan is known throughout London for his prowess in the bedroom. At first this was a turn off for me. Although I do admire a rake, I really don't admire "married" rakes. However, we begin to understand through the book, why Morgan is that way, and what has driven him to this situation. On his wedding night, he discovered his new bride in a compromising position with his brother, banished her to their country estate and hightailed it off to London for some serious debauchery and bed hopping. The story line picks up three years after that wedding night with Morgan questioning his life.

Claire Lyons has come to London to plead for her husband's help in getting her younger sister married to a suitable young man and not the elderly gentleman their abusive father has selected. She has one season to succeed in her endeavor; otherwise her sister's future will not be one of her choosing. Over the three years, since Morgan banished her, she has had no contact with her husband, and has blossomed into a mature and beautiful woman, capable in everything she does, perhaps except seducing and keeping her husband.

The plot is typical of historical romances but the twists and turns of Claire and Morgan's relationship keeps the pace from feeling slow. What struck me about this story is the way that Ms. Heath deals with their reunion, and how they interact with each other. They just don't "see" each other and fall back into each other's arms. I loved how Morgan's character is slowly peeled back and his true heart revealed. The ending did seem a bit rushed and tidy but since Book 2, Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman will continue the series, I'm guessing some things needed to be wrapped up for that release. Also, for fans of The Scoundrels of St. James, look carefully and you may see some characters you know. It is interesting how they make an appearance and how they are perceived by Morgan and Claire.

Overall a great read and I would recommend this book for all historical romance junkies that just love a great love story!
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Book Review by CarolAnn
Sep 27, 2011   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
229 people found the following review helpful
Lorraine Heath is one of a select number of authors in the world of Historical Romance whose books are automatic buys for me. PASSIONS OF A WICKED EARL, the first book in her new series, London's Greatest Lovers, is a deeply emotional story of two people who must look beyond their feelings of hurt, fear and betrayal to discover trust and ultimately love.
Finding his young bride in bed with his own brother on their wedding night was the ultimate betrayal for Morgan Lyons, eighth Earl of Westcliffe. He banishes her to his country estate, Lyons Place, and then returns to London indulging in a string of affairs.

Having languished at Lyons Place for three years, Claire Lyons believes that she has suffered long enough for ‘the foolishness of youth'. She wants forgiveness and the chance to be a true wife to Westcliffe but as far as he is concerned, he no longer wants her. He intends to divorce her and marry his mistress, Anne.

However, he promises to consider Claire's request to use his influence to help her sister, Beth, to be accepted into Society. Their father has arranged a marriage for Beth with someone totally unsuitable and she has one season in which to find an alternative husband. Reluctantly, Westcliffe agrees to Claire's request and, as they spend more time together, he finds he can't stop thinking about his wife, whose very presence brings warmth and laughter into his life. Even as he falls more and more under her spell, can he ever truly trust her again? Claire comes to care for her husband, seeing a lonely and vulnerable man with an overwhelming capacity for tenderness and love, but can she convince him that she will never betray him again?

Oh, how I hated Westcliffe at first! He is arrogant, callous and his response to Claire's plea for forgiveness is so cruel and hurtful:

"You are never a consideration. Quite honestly, Claire, from the moment I delivered you to Lyons Place, I've not given a single thought to you."

However, I realized that to understand Westcliffe, I needed to understand why the marriage to Claire had been so important to him. His family relationships were fraught with difficulties; his mother showered love on his younger brothers, Stephen and Ainsley, whilst remaining distant with him and, because his father had left only debts, he was forced to go cap in hand to Ainsley whenever he needed funds. Not something a proud man like Westcliffe would relish. Marriage to Claire with her substantial dowry promised him complete financial independence and, on a personal level, he was attracted to Claire with her warmth and laughter, things sadly missing from his life:

He'd anticipated marriage to her to her as he'd anticipated nothing else in his life before or after.

So her betrayal completely devastated him and I found I could no longer hate this lonely, unfulfilled man.

It is Westcliffe's small acts of kindness that made me see him in a whole new light; such as making Beth's first ball so memorable (even if it does mean bribing all the young bucks to dance with her!) and giving Beth and Claire each a beautiful bracelet to remember their first ball by. These are not the acts of someone uncaring. He says he is incapable of love but the scene in which Westcliffe is sitting on the floor in the kitchen with his faithful old dog Cooper, trying to get him to eat, is so moving. He has been Westcliffe's only companion for so long – the one creature with whom he'd shared all his secrets, his disappointments, his dreams – and Westcliffe shows so much love and compassion for his dying friend. I think this is probably the moment when Claire falls in love with him and I know he finally found a place in my heart as well.

I admire the fact that he is willing to admit that he has never considered the effect his affairs have had on Claire. When he discovers how humiliated she has been by the malicious gossip, he tries to make amends by protecting her from further gossip. He arranges for the first ball they attend to be the one held by the Duke and Duchess of Greystone, fully aware that they would never permit anyone talking ill for someone else within their home.

I sympathize with Claire because, at seventeen, she was too young and naive to cope with the emotional turmoil she felt having to marry and be intimate with a virtual stranger. She had wanted to be courted so she could get to know Westcliffe first but, in his arrogance, he had assumed that she would fawn over him as other woman did and he wouldn't need to woo her. Turning to her only friend, Stephen, she had fallen in with his plan, not realizing what it involved and, by the time she did, it was too late. I appreciated how much she had matured in the intervening years. It takes a great deal of courage to approach Westcliffe about Beth's season, knowing the reception she will receive but she cares very much for her family. I admire her for being willing to accept how her actions on their wedding night hurt Westcliffe deeply:

For the first time she thought she might finally know what he'd experienced on that long-ago night. It shamed her that she'd been so young and self-centred not to have realised it immediately.

Their relationship develops slowly and their continuing conflict creates great sexual tension. I love the little things Westcliffe notices about Claire; her sweet rose fragrance, her delicate features, her freckles, the faint scars on her brow. It's as though he is really seeing her for the first time. Claire finds Westcliffe darkly appealing and the way in which he exudes power, influence and confidence is more intoxicating than wine. As always with Ms Heath, we are treated to some hot and sensuous love scenes in which she conveys her characters' feelings and emotions so well:

These moments were nothing like her aunt had described. There was no lying back while he lifted the hem of her nightgown. It was constant moving, constant stroking. It was giving and receiving pleasures. It was groaning while he growled, whimpering while he moaned. It was joy and satisfaction.

I love the secondary characters; Ainsley who demonstrates a maturity beyond his years; the scandalous Duchess of Ainsley and her much younger lover, Leo; Stephen still as irresponsible as ever and Beth full of youthful exuberance.

If I have one complaint about the book, it would be that the extra drama at the end seemed so unnecessary given the earlier scene in the conservatory but this is a minor complaint and in no way spoiled my overall enjoyment of the story.

Full of emotion and wonderful characters, PASSIONS OF A WICKED EARL is a book I can highly recommend. I'm now anticipating reading the next book in the series, Pleasures of A Notorious Gentleman, Stephen's story.
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