Series: Scoundrels of St. James
Author: Lorraine Heath
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: July 1, 2008
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 himself.
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.
Lucian Langdon, the Earl of Claybourne, is not what one would expect from a peer. For one, he's not even sure he is one. Having grown up on the harsh streets of London, Luke knows how to lie to survive. It was one of those lies than earned him the title and it is his dark past, tainted with murder, that has earned him the nickname "Devil Earl". He is openly shunned by society, no one would dare be seen conversing with him in public, everyone in high society fears him.
Enter Lady Cathrine Mabry. Five years ago she was the only one who "dared" hold his gaze at the one and only ball he attended, she's proceeded with sending him invitations he didn't bother to read...She represents everything he wants to steer clear off, yet he can't fight the strange attraction he feels toward her.
He should feel nothing, in fact. He is in love with the woman he's known since his childhood and he would do anything to make her his wife. Even strike a bargain with Lady Catherine to teach her all she needs to know to feel comfortable in society.
Catherine needs Luke's expertise to dispose of a vile, wife-beating peer. His previous two wives had died in "freak" mishaps and she would do anything to prevent the same happening to her best friend. If that means murder, so be it.
So the devil and the angel strike a strange bargain...
This book's major strength is in the characterization. Not only of the main characters, but the supporting cast as well. Also, the twist from the "normal template" (the hero is in fact in love with someone else at the beginning) was amazing.
At the moment, Luke is at the top of my favorite-romance-hero list. Despite his murderous reputation, the reader (and Catherine) quickly discovers there's more under the scoundrel veneer than he lets out. He was positively tortured, not only by the outside world but on the inside as well, with his doubts about his true identity and guilt for having deceived the man who saved him. His loyalty and fierce protectiveness (even of a complete stranger - Catherine in the beginning of the book) make him a truly great hero.
Catherine was one of my favorites as well, Luke's perfect match. She was strong and courageous with a stubborn streak a mile wide. I loved the fact Lorraine Heath stuck with the character throughout the novel and didn't turn her into a simpering, whining female by the middle of the book. She shared Luke's traits of loyalty and protectiveness (even toward him), but I especially liked her selflessness in the end, when she was prepared to give up her happiness for his.
The romance between them was beautifully done, it grew and evolved, making it believable and heart-wrenching, faced with Luke's "indecision".
This was a beautiful story of redemption, self-discovery, and salvation. Totally "unputdownable" and completely recommended.