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October 29, 2013
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What does it matter if Kate, Lady d’Allenay, has absolutely no marriage prospects? She has a castle to tend, an estate to run, and a sister to watch over, which means she is never, ever reckless. Until an accident brings a handsome, virile stranger to Bellecombe Castle, and Kate finds herself tempted to surrender to her houseguest’s wicked kisses.
Disowned by his aristocratic family, Lord Edward Quartermaine has turned his gifted mind to ruthless survival. Feared and vilified as proprietor of London’s most notorious gaming salon, he now struggles to regain his memory, certain of only one thing: he wants all Kate is offering—and more.
But when Edward’s memory returns, he and Kate realize how much they have wagered on a scandalous passion that could be her ruin, but perhaps his salvation.
This is a wickedly delicious historical romp. It’s one of those romances where the readers get to wallow in the delightful froth of it all, but the characters never do, because it’s not really frothy. The heroine is pragmatic and even the women who seem flighty at first glance turn out to be hiding considerable brains under their curls. As they should be.
Kate is the practical and pragmatic Baroness d’Allenay, and it is she who manages the estate at Bellecombe Castle, all of the d’Allenay family holdings, and for that matter, all of the d’Allenay family.
She got the reins just in time to save the estate from the ruin left by two generations of inveterate gamblers; her father and her brother. Not that the family line isn’t riddled with gambling men, but they were the most recent.
Kate is fortunate, the d’Allenay title is one that can legally pass to a female child if there are no sons. (These do exist, and have existed since at least the 14th century, according to Wikipedia) She didn’t have to marry to keep her home. On the other hand, the man she was engaged to turned out to be a womanizer and a gambler. She cried off and good riddance when she caught him in flagrante delicto.
But she’s 28 and it looks like she’s married to the estate, which is not the best way for her to ever have children. But it is the best way to protect that estate from being drained to pay off yet another wastrel’s gaming debts.
She had hoped that her younger sister, Nancy, would have a real London Season and marry both happily and well. Instead Nancy has managed to fall in love with the local vicar and doesn’t want to wait until she reaches her majority in two more years to marry the man. It’s just one argument after another.
Into this mess rides either salvation, disaster, or both. After a shouting match, Kate tears off on her horse and collides with another rider. The man takes the brunt of the accident and pitches off his horse onto the ground, hitting his head. Kate feels responsible and takes him back to Bellecombe.
Kate always feels responsible. It’s what she does. This time, it just happens to be true.
But the man wakes up with amnesia. His clothes are bespoke, and excellent Savile Row tailoring at that. His horse is well cared for. His saddlebags have the initials N.E.D stamped in them. And that’s all they know.
Until he regains his memory, the extremely handsome Mr. Edward is a guest at Bellecombe. Based on the few clues they have, everyone assumes that he must be a gentleman, even though Edward himself has the sneaking suspicion that he might not be.
But as the days slip away, Edward finds himself seduced by the life at Bellecombe. Not because of its luxury, because that’s not there. But because of its comfort and homeyness. The sense of being a welcome addition to a family.
Falling in love, as unwilling as he is to admit it, with the woman who makes it all possible; pretty and pragmatic Kate.
And then disaster strikes. Edward remembers who he is. And he is not a man that any respectable woman would welcome into her home. Least of all a woman who hates gamblers.
Escape Rating B+: In Love With a Wicked Man is simply a marvelous story that lets the reader fall in love with historical romance all over again.
Kate is a terrific heroine. The unusual amount of responsibility that she has been saddled with puts in her a unique situation and provides a reason for her to be the kind of take-charge woman that lets us identify with her. She’s no simpering miss waiting for a man to rescue her, she’s done quite nicely rescuing herself. But, her need to protect the estate has meant that she really can’t marry without finding someone who will love her for herself and will be willing to care for the estate as much as she does. It’s a difficult balance.
Yet she still has to take care of her reputation. She may be firmly on the shelf, and her title can’t be taken away, but if she causes a scandal it will affect her sister and her cousins.
While the amnesia plot has been done before (Shakespeare, anyone?), it has the effect of making Edward a blank slate, even to himself. He gets a vacation from who he used to be, and he needs one. He discovers that he rather likes being a mostly good man, albeit one who can’t resist seducing and being seduced by the lady of the house.
Their liaison feels almost safe, because neither of them knows who they ought to be. By the time they find out, it’s too late. They are past the point of no return. They both feel too much. Edward has discovered that he can’t go back to feeling nothing at all. Kate has discovered that it is wonderful to have someone to lean on, just a bit. Everyone else has always leaned on her, and Edward is the first person she’s ever had for herself.
The surprise in the story is Kate’s mother, Aurelie. Just when you think you have figured out what is going on, you discover a very large cache of hidden depths. Merveilleux!
Liz is giving away a paperback copy of In Love With a Wicked Man to one lucky winner (US)! To enter, use the Rafflecopter below:
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