(Scoundrels of St. James, #5)
Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lorraine Heath brings us the eagerly awaited final story in the Scoundrels of St. James series.
William Graves is the last of Feagan’s scoundrels. A onetime grave robber turned royal physician, he has devoted his life to saving others—because he knows there is no way to save himself. Especially not around a lady like Winnie. Though undeserving of her touch, he cannot resist. His passion cannot be tamed…even in the face of certain danger.
Winnie, the Duchess of Avendale, never knew peace until her brutal husband died. With William she’s discovered burning desire—and the healing power of love. But now, confronted by the past she thought she’d left behind, Winnie must face her fears…or risk losing the one man who can fulfill all her dreams.
I loved this conclusion to one of my all-time favourite series. The Scoundrels of St. James series (obviously inspired by Dickens’s Oliver Twist) tells the story of five child thieves Lucian, Jack, Frannie, James and William, all members of Feagan’s merry little band of ne’er-do-wells. Their lives are irrevocably changed when it is discovered that Lucian is the lost heir to the Earl of Claybourne. William was a constant presence throughout the other books and I am so pleased that he finally gets his own happy ending in this novella.
In the first book, In Bed with the Devil, Winnie is the dearest friend of Lady Catherine Mabry, the heroine of that book. She is married to the Duke of Avendale, a brute of a man who abuses his wife both physically and sexually. When Catherine discovers Winnie after a particularly severe beating, she fears for Winnie’s life and sends for William. He not only nurses Winnie back to health but also provides sanctuary in his home for her and her son, Whit. Shortly afterwards, the Duke of Avendale dies in a fire at his estate leaving Winnie free from his tyranny and free to explore her growing feelings for William.
William is drawn to Winnie but keeps a respectful distance because he believes he doesn’t deserve someone like her. He knows he has kept a terrible secret from her and fears that, if she discovers the truth, it will destroy any feelings she has for him. But when past deeds come back to haunt him, William must risk everything to protect the woman he loves.
William is such a wonderful hero. He has risen above his humble origins to become a renowned doctor but, he can never quite forget his past and the guilt he feels over his mother’s death. He has tried to make amends by helping others. I love how he treats Winnie with such tenderness and sensitivity. He sees her vulnerability but also her hidden strength. He makes her feel safe and protected and treats her with respect. I love how, with William’s support, Winnie gains in strength and confidence, facing her fears head on. She is no longer the timid, fearful woman she once was but a force to be reckoned with.
Those who have read In Bed with the Devil will know the terrible secret William and the others are hiding but I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t read that book. Suffice to say that things are not always as they seem and past events can often come back to haunt you. I enjoyed seeing the other scoundrels whose loyalty to each other still remains strong.
She was the kindest person he’d ever known. In his youth he had longed for one kind touch, one sweet caress that would ease all the hurts. He imagined she would be a balm to his harsh soul.
He didn’t need to save the world to atone for the sins of his youth. He merely needed to save a portion of it. He’d only needed to save her.
She relished his nearness, his holding her . She’d never been held simply for the pleasure of being held. There was comfort in it, an easing of loneliness without words.
She saw a woman who stood a bit taller, had no fears, was confident regarding the path she was on. A woman who was loved.
She lightened his days, eased his burdens, brought joy to his nights.
This is was a wonderful end to a fabulous series. Now I can look forward to reading the stories of the next generation in Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James.
REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: HOT
Read May 2014
Scoundrels of St. James series (click the book covers for more information):