“I know what it is, Evelyn, to have no options.” He was still stirring the fire, not looking at her. “To think: this cannot be my life. It is not where I was headed, and yet… it is where I have arrived. To survive, you learn to make the best of it. It’s not easy. It’s not what you want, but you can still own it, make it yours.”
Evelyn Chambers is the bastard daughter of the Earl of Wortham. She’s grown up loved and sheltered, protected by a father who she adores. When he dies her brother becomes Earl and she is suddenly thrown into a new life with no choices. She is devastated when she realizes that his plans for her don’t include a husband and or respectability, but rather being sold to the highest bidder. Enter in the last Lord of Pembrook. Rafe Easton is only at Wortham’s gathering to make sure that the man will soon be able to back up the debts he owes and have the ability to fund his gambling addiction. He has no intention of taking on a mistress. So when he finds himself claiming Eve he’s just as surprised as everyone else in the room.
Rafe is born the pampered third son of a Duke. His life takes a sudden turn when he is forced to flee his home with his brothers and ends up in a workhouse and on the streets of St. Giles. He’s done horrible things in the name of survival. Has had experiences that still haunt him and make him think he is less. His brothers have both returned to London, found love and settled down. But Rafe has no plans to rekindle those relationships after the feeling of abandonment he felt when they left him behind. He is such a tortured soul, cold, gruff and so very alone. When he first takes in Eve, it’s with a promise that when he’s done with her he will leave her better off and with more choices than what she currently has. He keeps telling himself he doesn’t need anyone, especially her, but can’t seem to stay away.
She would leave him. If he gave her power over him, she would leave.
As Rafe gives Eve time to adjust to her new circumstances they slowly build a trust and friendship. He sees her fire, loves her back talk and relishes her strength. Eve starts out so naïve and sheltered. A virgin who has no desire to be anything else but a wife. But as her character evolves so does their relationship. Lorraine Heath creates the best tortured heroes. Here she has gifted us with two, both who start out incredibly damaged and alone. While Rafe might seem to be the stronger one in this relationship, it soon becomes clear that it’s all a façade. He’s deeply wounded inside, by things he did as a young man in order to make his way in the world and by his feelings of abandonment by his brothers. I was a little frustrated at times by Eve’s naivety, but ultimately I think that it was this very thing that broke through the shell Rafe has built around himself. Rafe portrays himself as the hardened man with no cares, who doesn’t need anyone in his life, but his actions call him a liar throughout the story. He may not say the words, but he proves himself over and over to be the hero with a heart of gold.
While there is a small action plot revolving around Rafe’s safety and Eve’s brother, ultimately this is a love story about acceptance. Eve’s acceptance of her place in the world and how she will choose to live in it, and Rafe’s coming to terms with his past and learning to move past it and embrace life. I not only loved watching this couple save each other, but seeing Rafe forge a new relationship with his brothers.
This is the third book in the Lost Lords of Pembrook series, but I honestly think it can be read as a stand-a-lone. Whether you have followed this series from the beginning, or have just picked this one up based on good reviews, I think Rafe and Eve’s romance is lovely all on its own. There is just enough back story to lend the reader an idea of Rafe’s past without giving the feeling of being lost. I was sucked in right at the beginning and ended up reading late into the night to finish. Lorraine Heath is one of only a few historical romance authors on my auto-buy list. If you haven’t been introduced to her yet Lord of Wicked Intentions is a good place to start. Final Grade: B+
“Who would have thought the illegitimate daughter of an earl would one day be a lady?”
“You were a lady the moment you were born.”
“You once told me I was ruined the moment I was born.”
“That was before I knew you. I was a foolish man then.”