I went into this book with a considerable amount of anxiety. For readers who may not be familiar with the set up for The Earl Takes All, the hero and his brother were both introduced in the first book of the series, Falling Into Bed with a Duke. Albert was portrayed as the good twin, one who lived responsibly and was steadfast. Edward drank too
much, went to bed with too many women and spent his nights gambling and chasing after a good time. But from the hints used to set up the second book, I knew Ms. Heath would somehow pair Edward together with Albert’s soon to be widow, Julia. I wasn’t sure how and to be honest was not really looking forward to finding out. For one thing ‘dead ex’s’ is probably my least favorite trope. I always feel like there is some kind of competition between the deceased and the new lover, and I hate that feeling. I have other reasons, but I’ll get to them later in the review. So why did I read this book? Because I adore Ms. Heath’s storytelling abilities. I also have this weird compulsion to read entire series’. I’m not the type of reader who will pick anything up halfway into a story arc or skip books when I think I may not like something, unless that something is huge. Chances are that if I skipped this book, I would have never returned to the series at all. So I decided to bite the bullet and give it a chance.
Albert and Edward Alcott were left orphaned as small boys and were sent to live in the mysterious, run-down castle of a friend of their father’s. Being twins they were especially dedicated to each other, but they also formed close relationships with the other two boys living at the estate. Through the years, they shared many adventures and traveled across the globe. That is until Albert fell in love with Julia Kenney and decided to marry. Which of course created a bit of resentment toward changing circumstances and Edward not having his brother’s full attention. But to make matters worse he desires his brother’s intended. So, of course, he does the worst thing possible… he pretends to be Albert one evening and lures Julia into a passionate kiss in the garden at a ball. She quickly realizes he’s the wrong brother and removes herself from his presence. But this act taints their relationship going forward.
Be me, he’d gasped. Be me. Edward had never realized how much power two small words, four letters, could hold.
It was supposed to be one last adventure together before the birth of Albert’s first child. Then suddenly Albert is slain and Edward makes a promise to pretend to be his twin until Julia is out of danger of losing the baby. Two months of pretending to be a loyal, loving husband. Two months of changing his mannerisms and trying to understand the workings of an estate that will be left for his brother’s heir. Just two more months until the baby is born and then he’ll tell Julia it was her husband who didn’t return from the trip.
So anxiety. I had it. Tremendous amounts of it if I’m being honest, and it all stemmed from the fact that Julia had NO IDEA who the man was before her. With every single page, I turned I wondered if it would be the page where she suddenly realized the man with whom she was sleeping, kissing, sharing confidences with was not her husband. With every intimacy or sexual embrace, I hurt a little for her because I KNEW it would be devastating when she finally found out. And it was, but even more so because you get the sense these two were perfect for each other and I didn’t know how they could possibly mend a relationship after such deceit.
In the meantime, Edward is not the same man who he was when originally introduced. Not at all. He’s kind and funny and compassionate and truly dedicated to Julia. Sometimes I think he struggled with doing the right thing too much, other’s not enough, but I did get the sense that he really, truly adored this woman who he always pretended to not like. My heart and head were at war with each other throughout the entire book. Wondering how I felt about certain situations, worried at what would happen next, but ultimately liking these two together. When Julia learns the truth there is anger and grief, but from that point on she and Edward’s relationship shines. All of the misgivings I had going in simply melted away and I found myself really enjoying this tale of second chances and new love.
At this point, I’m convinced there is absolutely nothing this author will write that I won’t read. Definitely recommend. Final Grade- B+
“If you kiss me, I’ll be lost,” she told him.
“I’ll find you, lead you back.”