(The Helllions of Havisham, #3)
Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian, 1882)
Love begets madness. Viscount Locksley watched it happen to his father after his cherished wife’s death. But when his sire arranges to marry flame-haired fortune hunter Portia Gadstone, Locke is compelled to take drastic measures to stop the stunning beauty from taking advantage of the marquess. A marriage of mutual pleasure could be convenient, indeed . . . as long as inconvenient feelings don’t interfere.
Desperation forced Portia to agree to marry a madman. The arrangement will offer the protection she needs. Or so she believes until the marquess’s distractingly handsome son peruses the fine print . . .and takes his father’s place!
Now the sedate—and, more importantly, secure—union Portia planned has been tossed in favor of one simmering with wicked temptation and potential heartbreak. Because as she begins to fall for her devilishly seductive husband, her dark secrets surface and threaten to ruin them both—unless Locke is willing to risk all and open his heart to love.
It is wonderful books like this that have made Lorraine Heath one of my top favourite authors. Her beautifully written and deeply emotional love stories keep me coming back for more.
After his mother died giving birth to him, Viscount Locksley (Locke) watched his father, the Marquess of Marsden, slowly driven mad with grief over the loss of his beloved wife. Locke intends to marry eventually, but it will never be for love having seen first-hand the devastation such an emotion can cause. He chooses to bury himself in working alongside his men in the mines and managing the estates.
Concerned that Locke shows no signs of marrying soon and determined that his title and estates will not pass into the hands of his greedy cousin or his cousin’s son, the marquess plans to marry and acquire a “spare”. When he meets the prospective bride, Portia Gadstone, Locke is immediately suspicious of her motives and convinced she is nothing more than a social climbing, fortune hunter. He will do anything possible to protect his father from her clutches, even marrying her himself. In fact, she could prove the perfect wife for him.
Locke slid his gaze over to Portia Gadstone and, for the first time, clearly saw her for what she truly was. A mercenary, a title chaser, someone wanting to rise so badly above her station she would use any means necessary to accomplish her goal, including taking advantage of an aging gentleman. The sort of woman he could never grow to care for, could never love, could never give his heart to.
She was bloody perfect.
Locke is right about Portia in one respect – she will do anything to achieve her goal but not for the reasons he thinks. Penniless, homeless and with a secret she must hide at all costs, marriage to the marquess will provide the safety and security she so desperately needs. What she hasn’t bargained for is the Marquess of Marsden’s son thwarting her plans! She could have charmed the elderly marquess but the handsome, virile, arrogant Locke is a very different proposition.
Ms Heath builds the romance between Locke and Portia beautifully, showing the gradual changes in their relationship. The scene where they first meet is full of barbed, witty exchanges and I enjoyed watching Portia getting a rise out of Locke in every sense of the word! Neither is looking for love but they are not averse to enjoying a physical relationship, leading to some steamy sex scenes.
I enjoyed watching Locke reluctantly accepting that his initial opinions of Portia are wrong. He sees how soft hearted she is when his father is talking about his beloved wife; she has no desire for “constant compliments, numerous baubles, and his undivided attention” like every other woman he has known; she makes him laugh and he finds that he wants to spend time with her as much out of the bedroom as in it.
I like Portia’s boldness in standing up to Locke and expressing her own views. She sees how deeply he cares for his father, his estates and his men and it is heart-warming to see how she brings light, joy and music back to the once dreary Havisham Hall. She draws the marquess out of his reclusiveness and is the catalyst for Locke discovering so much about his mother he never knew.
It is obvious that Locke and Portia are falling in love –
Coming to know her husband filled her with a sense of satisfaction as well as a measure of dread, because she feared he had the power to shatter what remained of her fragile heart.
It didn’t help matters that it always caused this odd sense of swelling in his chest that made it difficult to breathe for a few seconds whenever she flashed a smile.
but I knew any future happiness would soon be tested when Portia’s secret is finally revealed. The scene where she tells him of her deception is so heart-breaking and, although I understood Locke’s initial reaction, I very much sympathised with Portia and the choices she was forced to make. I like how Ms Heath always brings an element of social commentary to her books; in this case, the lack of women’s rights in the late Victorian era which forces Portia to take such drastic action to protect all she loves. Despite Locke’s cruel words, once he learns Portia’s full story and accepts his true feelings for her, I love how he confronts her sanctimonious father and moves heaven and earth to find her.
I especially adored the marquess who is kind, gentle and perceptive, such as when he tells Locke –
“Your mother’s beauty was all inside. Portia has a good bit in there as well. Don’t forget to look there”.
I like how he cleverly tricks Locke into marrying Portia. Perhaps he’s not as mad as everyone believes.
Although tinged with a little sadness, the Epilogue left me with a warm glow and a desire to read the forthcoming WHEN THE MARQUESS FALLS, the love story of the Marquess of Marsden and his beloved wife, Linnie.
MY VERDICT: Another captivating and beautiful love story with characters that will touch your heart. Highly recommended!
REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: WARM
The Hellions of Havisham series (click on the book covers for more details):
**I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via Edelweiss in return for an honest review.**