Lady Grace has been in love with the Duke of Lovington since she was a young girl. Nine years older, he was the object of her childish dreams. Then he married and moved on to his happy ever after. Lovington was madly in love with his wife, and the addition of a daughter only painted a happier picture. Until illness took them both and crushed him. Now, years later, he is a shell of the man he once was. He has removed himself from society, choosing instead to live a life of detachment and debauchery.
Grace has resigned herself to the idea that Lovington can never be hers, but she hasn’t given up on love. In fact, she devises a plan to ensure that her marriage will be with a man who loves her –not just her sizable dowry. She seeks out Lovington, enlisting his help to weed out the fortune hunters and recognize the men of quality. He has no interest in helping her at first, but she intrigues him. Moreover, she doesn’t give up. She finds inventive and enticing ways to covince him to assist her. Of course, the more time they spend together, the more the each come to realize there is no other man for Grace than Lovington, himself.
When Grace first comes back into Lovington’s life, he still sees her as a child. Then, he finds himself realizing she is actually a woman. Not one of my favorite tropes. Much of the book is spent with him teaching her lessons about men, lust, and love. Some of those lessons are delivered a bit callously. It bothered me a bit, because while Lovington has every right to his grief, it’s quickly apparent that not only is he deluding himself, he is jerking Grace around while he does it. He also sleeps with other women through about half of the book, trying to hold on to his empty heart and debauched ways. No one wants to see that. (But don’t worry, there is no cheating.)
Those issues aside, I did enjoy the book overall. Lorraine Heath always does such a great job putting me in the heads and hearts of her characters. Through Lovington’s reticence to fall for Grace frustrated me at times, I understood his grief.. I believed in the way Grace squirmed inside his heart. She is a very likable character, if a bit young and naive. She is smart and independent. She is looking for the right things. She knows what is important. And even though she can’t admit it to herself for some time, she loves Lovington, warts and all. The sexual tension between these two is really hot. Every time they touched… or did more… it burned up the pages.
Fans of Heath’s Scoundrels of St James series will recognize many of the characters here as the next generation from those books. Grace is, for instance, the daughter of Frannie and Greystone from Surrender to the Devil. You don’t have to be familiar with those stories to enjoy this book, though. It’s the beginning of a spinoff series and a great entry point.
There’s a poignant secret Grace is hiding, which gives the story an unexpected extra layer of emotion. (And shockingly, it has nothing to do with a baby!) The love scene are outstanding and the ending is satisfying. Not my favorite from Heath, but I did like it.
*ARC Provided by Avon
Click to purchase: Amazon
When the Duke Was Wicked
by Lorraine Heath
Release Date: February 25, 2014