30 April 2013

Lord of Wicked Intentions (The Lost Lords of Pembrook #3)

Summary from Goodreads:

Three young heirs, imprisoned by an unscrupulous uncle, escaped—to the sea, to the streets, to faraway battle—awaiting the day when they would return to reclaim their birthright...

Lord Rafe Easton may be of noble blood, but survival taught him to rely only on himself and to love no one. Yet when he sets his eyes on Miss Evelyn Chambers, and earl's illegitimate daughter, he is determined to have her, if only as his mistress.

After her father's death, Evelyn Chambers never imagined she would be sold to the highest bidder, yet circumstances give her little choice except to accept the lord's indecent proposal. Rafe is wealthy, as well as ruthless. Yet his coldness belies deep passion and deeper secrets. If she must be his, Evelyn intends to lay bare everything the Lord of Pembrook is hiding. But dark discoveries threaten to destroy them both until unexpected love guides the last lost lord home.

Having read the first two Lost Lords of Pembrook novels and the novella - and noting the extreme similarities in plot regarding broken engagements – I was a bit worried about the final book in the trilogy. Because I really couldn’t see Rafe – gambling hell owner, tough-guy, and very, very wounded soul – in the same situations his brothers were in. Worried in vain, I did, because Heath really pulled out the stops for Lord of Wicked Intentions.

Miss Evelyn Chambers has been sheltered all her life. Though she knows that she is illegitimate her titled father raised her in his house and she happily kept him company at home. On his death, however, her half-brother – now the Earl of Wortham, who hates her and is in debt up to his eyeballs – decides to rid himself of her by selling her to one of his lowlife friends. Lord Rafe Easton is invited to the viewing because he holds Wortham’s gambling debts. He intends only to observe, not bid, since the purpose of the meeting is for Wortham to prove he can scrape together the ready. As Evelyn greets all the guests (aka lascivious pieces of filth, my words, not Heath’s) Rafe is taken with how soft and sweet she is. When it becomes obvious that Wortham would let all those men violate his sister, Rafe simply says that he will take Evelyn. He’s not going to pay for her, he’ll just take her and let her brother continue to breathe air. Unfortunately, Evelyn is under the impression that the gathering is so that she might find a husband. When Wortham drops her off at Rafe’s house with nothing but the clothes on her back she is confused. When Rafe explains what she’s meant to do, she bolts and runs all the way back to her brother’s house in the rain. The house is barred to her, the servants won’t let her in, her brother won’t see her. Rafe is forced to break one of his cardinal rules – never allow someone to touch you – by carrying her home. Rafe and Eve come to a detente of sorts – Eve agrees to stay, be his mistress, and Rafe promises she will want for nothing. Just as Rafe systematically breaks down Eve’s naivete, Eve starts to break through Rafe’s solid wall of disdain. She brings touch back into Rafe’s life, body and soul, and underneath she finds the frightened ten-year-old who never understood why he was left behind and can’t bring himself to trust and forgive.

Of Heath’s three Lost Lords, Rafe is the one with the largest internal scars and the longest road back to forgiveness. Lord of Wicked Intentions brings the Lost Lords trilogy to a strong conclusion. Through Rafe Heath brings the horrors of the Dickensian workhouse to life and created a character too terrified to show care or love about anything for fear it might be used against him. From a twenty-first century perspective Evelyn is a bit much at first, so naive that she doesn’t even conceive of the reason why she’s been deposited on Rafe’s doorstep like an unwanted parcel, but she does make sense in the Victorian period. She very quickly develops a backbone – I actually like her slightly more than Mary, the heroine of the first book in the series.

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