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Posts Tagged ‘Scoundrels of St. James Series’

(Scoundrels of St. James #1)

Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb (Goodreads):

They call him the Devil Earl—a scoundrel and accused murderer who grew up on the violent London streets. A proper young lady risks more than her reputation when consorting with the roguishly handsome Lucian Langdon, but Lady Catherine Mabry believes she has no choice. To protect those she loves, she would do anything—even strike a bargain with the devil

Lucian desires respectability and a wife above all else, but the woman of his choosing lacks the social graces to be accepted by the aristocracy. Catherine can help Lucian gain everything he wants. But what she asks for in exchange will put their very lives in jeopardy. When danger closes in, Catherine discovers a man of immense passion and he discovers a woman of immeasurable courage. As secrets from his dark past are revealed, Lucian begins to question everything he knows to be true, including the yearnings of his own heart.

(First published 6 October 2009)

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This was the first series I read by Lorraine Heath and it established her as one of my favourite Historical Romance authors. Over the years, she has continued to captivate me with her beautifully written and deeply emotional love stories. Re-reading this series, I found myself falling in love with her wonderful characters all over again.

Inspired by Charles Dickens ‘Oliver Twist’, the series tells the stories of Luke, Jack, Frannie, Jim and William, all orphans and members of Feagan’s notorious gang of child thieves. Their lives are irrevocably changed when it’s discovered that Luke is Lucian Langdon, the long-lost heir to the Earl of Claybourne.

The entries in Luke’s journal, which form the Prologue, were an unusual way of opening the story. Not only did they provide intriguing details of his past, but they were also an effective hook which certainly had me eager to read on.

As the Earl of Clayborne, Luke has all the trappings of wealth and privilege but he is shunned by society. It’s well known that he once murdered a man, something he has never sought to deny, and his unsavoury past has led many to question the validity of his claim to the earldom, earning him the title Devil Earl. No lady dare risk her reputation by dancing with him and no gentleman would be seen conversing with him in public for fear of having his respectability questioned. Haunted by his past dark deeds, Luke leads a lonely existence, plagued by debilitating headaches. He is torn between his old life and his new one, neither of which he feels he truly belongs to.

Luke is such a complex and appealing hero. He’s strong, loyal, caring and willing to do anything to protect those he loves. Murder can never be condoned, but I understood why Luke felt that he had to take the law into his own hands to protect someone he cared for. Justice was in short supply for those living on the streets of Victorian London.

I couldn’t condemn him for deceiving the old Earl of Claybourne into believing he was his long-lost grandson. Who wouldn’t choose a life of wealth and security when the alternative was being hanged? It says a lot for Luke’s character that he feels so much guilt for his deception, especially as he grew fond of his ‘Grandfather’.

“I wish I had been his grandson. He showered me with love that rightfully belonged to another, and that I was never comfortable with.

Catherine is an independent, strong, bold and determined heroine and I loved how she proved more than a match for Luke and Jack Dodger…

 “Shh! I’ll not tolerate your interference in this matter. Take Mr. Dodger with you as I don’t much care for him. Be sure to close the door smartly on your way out.

She is selfless in the way she took on the heavy burden of looking after her invalid father and his estates in her brother’s absence. It has given her a level of independence that was generally denied to other women. She is also a kind and caring person which is evident in her obvious love for and devotion to her father.

 “I wish you could tell me what you wanted.” She brushed her fingers through his thinning silver hair. “I hope you’re not in pain.”

I also admired her loyalty to and her fierce desire to help her friend, Winnie, who is trapped in an abusive marriage.

I loved how their relationship developed… the heated kisses, the simmering sexual tension, their undeniable passion for each other, culminating in a sensual love scene. During their time spent together, Catherine comes to see a different side to Luke. She is surprised by his honesty, his gentleness towards Frannie, and how much he cares about the plight of children on the streets and prison reform. In Catherine, Luke finds a woman who is independent, strong, determined, loyal and courageous. Even though I was often frustrated by his misguided determination to marry Frannie, I enjoyed the moment when Luke finally realised that it’s Catherine he truly loves, thanks to some wise words from Frannie. It spoke of the depth of her love for Luke that Catherine was willing to sacrifice her own happiness, believing that Luke loved Frannie.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that Luke truly is the Earl of Claybourne’s grandson because there are strong hints throughout the story. It’s the mystery of what happened on that fateful night that kept me intrigued, and the denouement is quite shocking.

We are introduced to the other members of Feagan’s gang who have each overcome their pasts to become successful in their own right. They all take an active role in the story and all have interesting stories of their own to tell. I felt desperately sorry for Catherine’s friend, Winnie, who’s spirit had been broken by her abusive husband, and I was delighted to see the Duke of Avendale get his just deserts. I took a dislike to Catherine’s brother, Sterling, who left her with the burden of looking after their father and his estates, whilst he swanned around the world. I also hated the overbearing way he treated Catherine after he returned home. As the hero of Surrender to the Devil, the third book in the series, I think there will be some serious redeeming to be done.

I like how Ms. Heath doesn’t shy away from showing the grim realities of life for the young, orphaned children living on the dangerous streets of London. Forced to steal to survive, they are subject to terrible punishments if caught. She also highlights the plight of those woman trapped in abusive marriages, who have no redress to the law because they are considered to be their husband’s property.

The excerpt from Luke’s journal, which forms the Epilogue, is very moving and captures the essence of the story beautifully.

This story combines everything I look for in Historical Romance – an emotional and sensual love story, unforgettable characters, passion and drama. Highly recommended.

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