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An Affair With a Notorious Heiress

(Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian – London 1872)

Cover Blurb:

The son of a duke and an infamous mother, Alistair Mabry, Marquess of Rexton, fought his way to respectability. Now, the most eligible bachelor in London, marriage-shy Rexton will take only a wife with an impeccable reputation, good breeding, and a penchant for staying out of the gossip sheets. But when he strikes a deal to be seen “courting” a sweet young debutante whose notorious older sister has blemished her chances for marriage, Rexton is unexpectedly drawn to the highly inappropriate, calamitous Tillie, Lady Landsdowne herself.

After a scandalous incident that sent shockwaves throughout society and disgraced her, Tillie refuses to cower in the face of the ton. Instead, she will hold her head high as she serves as chaperone for her younger sister, but Tillie is convinced Rexton’s courtship is shrouded with secrets—ones she vows to uncover. However, doing so requires getting dangerously close to the devilishly handsome and forbidden marquess…

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This is the 4th book in Ms. Heath’s Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series and, while I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel it had the same emotional intensity which I found so satisfying in the other books in the series.

As heir to the Duke of Greystone, Alistair Mabry, Marquess of Rexton (Rex) enjoys a life of wealth and privilege but, at an early age, he learned that respect didn’t come automatically, it had to be earned. He loves both his parents but, at school, he had been subjected to bullying and insults because of his mother’s scandalous past, but with physical maturity came the ability to fight back and he gradually earned the respect of his fellow pupils. He is determined that his own children will never suffer the same way he did and when he finally chooses a wife, she will be someone ‘with an impeccable reputation, good breeding, and a penchant for staying out of the gossip sheets’.

American heiress, Mathilda (Tillie) Paget, Countess of Landsdowne, caused a scandal when she was caught kissing a footman, leaving her husband no choice but to divorce her. Further scandal ensued when the divorce courts agreed, at Landsdowne’s request, to strip her of her title, but she had the audacity to appeal to a higher court and won her case.  Appalled by her behaviour, society has shunned her, friends have abandoned her, and she has become the target for gossip and disdain. Only her sister, Gina, has remained loyal to her. Tillie is determined to protect Gina and ensure her sister does not make the same mistake she did.

She wanted to help Gina find the right man to wed. She wanted nothing more than she wanted her sister’s happiness.

After seeing, Gina settled, Tillie has every intention of returning to America and making a new life for herself.

The sisters’ uncle, Garrett Hammersely, is aware that Tillie’s notoriety is having an adverse effect on Gina’s chances of finding a titled suitor and persuades Rex to feign an interest in Gina. Mr Hammersley hopes that, as Rex is the most sought-after bachelor in London and well respected by his peers, his attentions will pique the interest of other suitable gentlemen. If he succeeds, Rex will acquire the stud services of Hammersley’s prize Arabian stallion. It’s an agreement he simply can’t refuse. Rex and Tillie, who is acting as Gina’s chaperone, are frequently thrown into each other’s company and soon an undeniable attraction flares between them.

Unaware of the arrangement between Rex and her uncle, Tillie feels guilty because Rex is courting her sister and she would never jeopardise Gina’s happiness. Even when she discovers the true situation, she is wary of ever trusting a man again, which I could understand given her husband’s infidelities. Tillie is just the sort of woman Rex has sworn to avoid but he is fascinated and intrigued by her.

Rex comes to appreciate how difficult it must be for Tillie to chaperone her sister, leaving herself open to society’s censure and wants to protect her from the unkindness of others. I loved him for wanting to do things that bring Tillie joy, especially in the scene where he takes her to a secret destination and she is expecting something nefarious, only to find something magical.

I loved Tillie’s unconditional love for her sister and her determination that Gina would have the happiness she never did. I also admired her for having the strength, courage and determination to fight in any way possible to escape her unhappy marriage, knowing full well the personal cost to herself.

She’d sacrificed her reputation, her standing, her place in Society for a chance to be free of Landsdowne. She’d forced a life of solitude, an absence of friends, onto herself.

Landsdowne’s mother and sister always made it clear that they didn’t consider Tillie good enough for him and treated her atrociously. So, I loved seeing Rex’s sister Grace, the Duchess of Lovingdon, spike the sister’s guns, when she tries to have Tillie and her sister removed from The Royal Tea Palace.

“Come along,” the duchess said to Tillie and Gina.

 Lady Blanford had the audacity to step in front of them. “Mr. Wadsworth, I must insist you prevent this rabble from entering.”

“Come now, Countess,” the duchess said, her voice tight but controlled, “do you really think he is going to adhere to your wishes when doing so will mean that my party immediately leaves to never return? And let’s not forget Lady Landsdowne’s pistol. Scars can be a symbol of courage but I’m not certain that would hold true in your case. Now step aside and do not make a further fuss or you will find yourself being the one escorted out.”

What makes Ms. Heath’s books so special for me is her ability to write beautiful and emotionally moving love stories, but the romance between Rex and Tillie didn’t elicit the same strong emotions that I felt when reading the other books in this series. For me, there were no moments when I thought my heart might break or tears streamed down my face.

I liked Gina who is much wiser than anyone appreciates and I’m looking forward to following her own journey to a Happy Ever After in Gentlemen Prefer Heiresses. I loved how Rex’s family and friends offered their unconditional support for Tillie and it was wonderful to see Rex’s parents, Frannie and Sterling and know that their love is as strong as ever despite the obstacles they face. Their story is told in Surrender to the Devil, the third book in the original Scoundrels of St. James series.

I like how Ms. Heath highlights the unfairness of Victorian society where a divorced wife would be ostracised while her unfaithful husband could carry on as before without any repercussions.

As with all the books in this series, Ms. Heath ends with a lovely Epilogue.

MY VERDICT: This may not be my favourite book in this series but there were still many things I enjoyed about it.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series (click on the book covers for more details):

When the Duke Was Wicked (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #1) by Lorraine Heath Once More, My Darling Rogue (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James #2) by Lorraine Heath The Duke and the Lady in Red (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #3) by Lorraine Heath An Affair with a Notorious Heiress (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #4) by Lorraine Heath Gentlemen Prefer Heiresses (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #4.5) by Lorraine Heath

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(Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

Sparks fly in the finale of the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James Place series, as the last wicked rogue meets his match.

When Rosalind Sharpe gains the attention of the deliciously wicked Duke of Avendale, she’s torn between her distracting attraction to the notorious rogue and the knowledge that he—rich as Croesus—is the perfect target for a deception that will put her swindling days behind her.

However, Avendale is no fool. After he discovers the tantalizing lady packing up to leave London with his coins in tow, he confronts her with a scandalous proposition: she can have all the money she requires…for a week in his bed.
Desperate for the funds, Rose agrees, but on one condition: he must never question her motives. Avendale quickly sees beneath her mask and discovers she is more than passion and pleasure—she is everything he has ever desired. But claiming her requires he unveil her secrets and lose her forever. Unless he can put his own dark past aside and risk everything for a chance at love.

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THIS BOOK WAS JUST AMAZING! Lorraine Heath weaves a beautiful, deeply emotional and moving story that is both heart-breaking and heart-warming.

I love how both Avendale and Rose are such multi-layered characters… far more than they first appear. Avendale seems to be a typical rake, indulging in a life of drinking, women and gambling, caring for nothing except his own personal needs, while Rose is a con-artist fleecing wealthy noblemen. But they each have secrets that have shaped them into the people they have become.

At the age of seventeen Rose ran away from an abusive father taking her younger brother Harry with her. She was forced to do whatever was necessary to support them and her small extended “family”. Avendale had chosen to bury his dark secret beneath a life of debauchery rather than face it head on. It has left him very much a loner, afraid of becoming emotionally involved.

I love how Ms Heath takes the time to build the romance between them showing the gradual changes in their relationship and the love growing. Here are some of my favourite moments.

It had been building between them from the moment she felt his gaze on her that first night, from the first word, the first assessing glance, the first touch.

Then all thoughts fled her mind as he slowly stroked a blunt-tipped finger along the inside of her upper arm, above the glove. Down. Up once more.

He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “I’m not the caring sort so I’m at a loss here, Rose. Tell me what I can do to make it better.”

Within her, he ignited flames that began at the tips of her toes and rose ever upward.

Strange how, looking at her now, he experienced a flash of contentment, surrounded by this unusual assortment of people.

If Avendale and Rose are the heart of the book then Rose’s brother Harry is surely the soul. He totally captured my heart and his story is so poignant and heart-rending that I was reduced to floods of tears. Every time I think of the book he is writing, it brings a huge lump to my throat. It’s wonderful to see the genuine friendship that develops between Harry and Avendale and the scenes they share are some of my favourites. They also reveal so much about Avendale that he has kept hidden…his compassion, his caring nature and his generosity of spirit. I love how he gives Harry the opportunity to have so many amazing experiences. It was easy to fall in love with this Avendale. I also understood the driving force behind Rose’s actions…her overwhelming love for her brother. For this reason, I couldn’t condemn her even though her actions were morally wrong. After all, she only conned wealthy men who could well afford it!

I must mention Merrick, his wife Sally and Joseph, Rose’s unusual little band of servants and her stalwart supporters who add richness to the story.

In the Epilogue, the final entry in Avendale’s journal is both beautiful and romantic, but most moving are the last words which are from Harry’s book.

How I imagine Avendale –

How I imagine Rose –

My Verdict: This is such a beautifully crafted and emotionally satisfying love story which really touches the heart. A MUST READ!

REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read June 2015

The Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James (click on covers for more details):
When the Duke Was Wicked (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #1) by Lorraine Heath Once More, My Darling Rogue (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #2) by Lorraine Heath The Duke and the Lady in Red (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #3) by Lorraine Heath

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(Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

They are England’s most eligible bachelors, with the most scandalous reputations. But for the right woman, even an unrepentant rogue may mend his ways…

Born to the street but raised within the aristocracy, Drake Darling can’t escape his sordid beginnings. Not when Lady Ophelia Lyttleton snubs him at every turn, a constant reminder he’s not truly one of them. But after rescuing her from a mysterious drowning he realizes she doesn’t remember who she is. With plans to bring her to heel, he insists she’s his housekeeper—never expecting to fall for the charming beauty.

While Ophelia might not recall her life before Drake, she has little doubt she belongs with him. The desire she feels for her dark, brooding employer can’t be denied, regardless of consequences. So when her memory returns, she is devastated by the depth of his betrayal. Now Drake must risk everything to prove she can trust this rogue with her heart once more.

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I loved this book! Lorraine Heath is a consummate storyteller and weaves a captivating and deeply emotional love story laced with delightful touches of humour.

Drake owes a debt of gratitude to the Duke and Duchess of Greystone who took him in off the streets, gave him a home and raised him as if he were their own son. He has always tried to make them proud of him but he has never felt that he really belongs in their world. Raised on the streets and the son of a convicted murderer hanged for his crime, Drake is constantly haunted by his sordid past. He believes his father’s tainted blood runs through his veins…that one day he won’t be able to control his temper and he will strike out with his fists just as his father had.

But no matter how far I journeyed, I could not escape my sordid beginnings. I could not be anything other than what I was born to be.

This belief is only reinforced by the haughty, spoiled Lady Ophelia Lyttleton who never misses an opportunity to rebuff him and remind him publically of his common origins. So when he rescues her from drowning in the Thames and discovers that she has lost her memory, he sees it as the perfect opportunity to exact revenge for all her slights…let her have a taste of what’s it is like to be a servant. So he leads her to believe that she is his housekeeper, a ruse he only intends to continue until he can find out why she was in the Thames and why no-one is looking for her. As the time passes, Drake sees a very different woman emerging…a woman who is “far too layered, far too intriguing, far too distracting”. He is reluctant to let her go but afraid of what might happen should she regain her memory.

Ms Heath does a wonderful job of transforming the dislikeable Ophelia into “Phee” whom I adored. Stripped of her memories, she is no longer constrained by the rigid rules instilled into her by her father or haunted by her dark, shameful secrets. She is free to be the woman she truly wants to be. Just as Drake sees a lady he has never seen before, so I saw a young woman who is warm, kind and compassionate; who has no hesitation in confronting a brute of a man who is abusing his horse or taking in stray animals; who finds contentment in her work and happiness in her life.

Even if she had all her memories, she doubted she’d recall a moment when she’d been happier.

Phee is able to see Drake for the first time with unprejudiced eyes…

A remarkable man with so much good in him, good he failed to recognize.

…a man who makes her feel safe and cherished.

Ms Heath develops the romance between Drake and Phee so beautifully and I loved every tender, poignant, sensual, passionate, funny, heart-warming and heart-breaking moment of it. There is one particularly memorable scene involving a bath tub, a bar of soap and a dragon tattoo which I guarantee will make you hotter than the steaming water in that tub!!

The scene where the Duke of Greystone gives Drake the specially engraved watch is so moving and when Drake calls him “father”, the tears were streaming down my face.

There is a wonderful Epilogue and Drake’s entry in his journal just tugs at the heart strings.

How I imagine Drake –

How I Imagine Phee –

MY VERDICT: An enchanting love story with characters that will capture your heart. Highly recommended.

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read May 2015

The Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James (click on covers for more details):
When the Duke Was Wicked (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #1) by Lorraine Heath Once More, My Darling Rogue (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #2) by Lorraine Heath The Duke and the Lady in Red (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #3) by Lorraine Heath

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Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

(Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

Sparks fly in the finale of the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James Place series, as the last wicked rogue meets his match.

When Rosalind Sharpe gains the attention of the deliciously wicked Duke of Avendale, she’s torn between her distracting attraction to the notorious rogue and the knowledge that he—rich as Croesus—is the perfect target for a deception that will put her swindling days behind her.

However, Avendale is no fool. After he discovers the tantalizing lady packing up to leave London with his coins in tow, he confronts her with a scandalous proposition: she can have all the money she requires…for a week in his bed.

Desperate for the funds, Rose agrees, but on one condition: he must never question her motives. Avendale quickly sees beneath her mask and discovers she is more than passion and pleasure—she is everything he has ever desired. But claiming her requires he unveil her secrets and lose her forever. Unless he can put his own dark past aside and risk everything for a chance at love.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

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