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Passions of a Wicked Earl (London's Greatest Lovers) Mass Market Paperback – October 26, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
A spurned wife confronts her profligate husband in Heath's dramatic Victorian romance series launch. Claire Lyons travels to London from her three-year exile in the country to ask her husband, the earl of Westcliffe, to allow her to stay in town for her sister's first Season. Westcliffe believes Claire cheated on him with his brother, but he reluctantly admires her tenacity, charm, and forthright nature. Romantic tension between the pair is heightened by the frequent appearances of Westcliffe's mistress, Anne, and her machinations to lure him away from Claire. Plenty of other twists and turns appear en route to the passionate conclusion. Complex, emotional romance and a hint of mystery complete this tale, which will have readers eagerly anticipating the next installment.
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From the Back Cover
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.
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Westcliffe, a cold hearted bastard of a man, demonstrated his shattered emotions at a perceived marital betrayal by banishing his bride and seeking comfort in the arms of wicked women.
Claire, his bride, barely out of the schoolroom, was desperate to avoid the unknowns of the marriage bed. Her hare brained plot with Stephen, Westcliffe's younger brother, to postpone her wedding night, finds her banished to the country for three years.
Claire's defiant return to London and her husband's townhouse triggers events that lead the two of them toward a tenuous HEA, but not without numerous instances of misunderstanding, hurt feelings and devastation.
I enjoyed this book the first time that I read it. This time, my enjoyment was tempered by the realization that Westcliffe actually was a man of very deep feeling. His story was ultimately quite tragic. The loss of Cooper the collie early in the story and his deep and abiding love for Cooper was the true indicator of his capacity for love.
In essence, this is not a story about adultery. This is a story about love and loss and living. I recommend it to all who have endured loss and come out on the other side battered, but not defeated.
Westcliff is conflicted about his feelings. On one hand, he believes his wife betrayed him, he doesn't want to get hurt again and the non-emotional relationship with the mistress seems safer. On the other hand, he has been enamoured of Claire since she was a girl and he might be willing to risk his heart again. The reader is fully aware of Westcliff's inner musings, and his vulnerabilites. It makes him very appealing. Claire is a good, supportive and intelligent heroine and we like her because Westcliff does. It's really his book.
Secondary characters include Claire's sister enjoying her first season in London, Westcliff's brothers, mother and her painter/lover. Obviously a huge conflict arises because of the mistress who refuses to relinquish Westcliff. Her last hurrah is a bit over-the-top, but hey, it's a romance, not great literature. I liked this book, but didn't love it. However, I'm rating five stars as I might read it again.
But 'Passions of a Wicked Earl' is not one of her best. For me, one important problem is the characterization of the hero. As another reviewer notes, Heath takes a risk right at the beginning of this story, by having the heroine commit a genuinely serious wrong against the hero. I appreciate her willingness to have truly flawed characters. I think this can be the foundation for a very interesting and satisfying romance. Heath handles the heroine quite well - she grows up, comes to truly appreciate what she did to the hero, and she understands that she cannot simply expect him to 'get over it'. So far, so good. But the hero does not have the same psychological depth, to my mind. He stays stuck in his anger. Perhaps this is reasonably realistic. but it felt more like his anger was prolonged so the story could keep going - if he forgave her in a mature manner, the novel would have become a very short novella.
But it's when Heath introduces a second 'problem' to the book that things go off the rails, for me. I won't give any details away, but basically, she creates a villain almost out of thin air, has the villain do villainous things fairly randomly, and ultimately, we learn that the villain did all this terrible stuff because the villain is simply very, very bad. Good grief! Heath can do SO much better than this.
If you really love Heath's writing, and you're looking for more Regency romances to read, you likely won't regret buying this book. After all, the genre is full of other writers who are much less skilled than she is. I wasn't irritated while reading, and was intermittently entertained. But I know I'm going to forget this story right after I finish writing this review. We Regency romance fans KNOW that this doesn't happen with the best novels in the genre. Be forewarned!