I remember thinking at the end of the last book that something like this might happen. (No, I really did.) Edward and Julia had such a connection, I figured they had to end up together. Yet her love for his twin was too real to thwart with any impediment short of death. I was ok with the idea of Albert dying. But what I wasn’t prepared for was that Edward would assume his brother’s identity and live a lie for more than half the book. Yes, he really loves Julia, and yes, his heart is in the right place. But –A– that’s a lot of deceit to swallow and –B– it goes on for far too long.
Albert is already dead when the story begins. He died on a trip with Edward; his dying request: for his brother to see his wife through her pregnancy. (Side note: Apparently, her previous miscarriages make her vulnerable, but not so vulnerable that it would keep him from leaving her for several months.) Anyway, Edward fears that news of Albert’s death will make Julia lose the baby, so he pretends to be his twin. Then, he can’t have her thinking she is losing her husband’s love, so he has to be affectionate. He has to kiss her, hold her and whatnot. But it becomes quickly apparent that while he feels guilty over it, he is doing all that because he loves her, more than for any other reason. And eventually, when he is left with no more excuses, he still can’t bring himself to let her go.
I liked Edward. I did. The guy really worked to turn his life around. He was willing to give up his very identity for Julia and her baby. But the lie was just so big. I hate a “big secret” trope and this book completely centered on that idea. You spend all this time waiting for the truth to come out, and it puts such a cloud over everything.
I also found the pacing uneven. It felt like the book should have ended after the truth came out. (Maybe because the secret dragged on for so long.) But then, there was more. I felt like what was supposed to be a big gesture from Julia toward the end fell flat. She took a huge risk with the man she loved and her baby –for what? A noble ideal? Then it all works out conveniently in the end with both an HEA and the blessing of a dead man. It felt trite.
It wasn’t all bad. Edward’s abiding love and emerging inner goodness helped. So did his devotion to that baby –and his own self derision for his actions. Julia was just kind of… there. Neither good nor bad. There was just too much waiting. And frankly, I wasn’t a fan of the premise. I had just hoped that Lorraine Heath would spin her magic and reel me in anyway. Not so much this time.
*ARC provided by Avon
Click to purchase: Amazon
The Earl Takes All
by Lorraine Heath
Release Date: April 26, 2016