Title: She Temps the Duke
Series: The Lost Lords of Pembrook #1
Author: Lorraine Heath
Sebastian Easton always vowed he would avenge his stolen youth and title. Now back in London, the rightful Duke of Keswick—returning from battle a wounded, hardened, changed man—cannot forget the brave girl who once rescued him and his brothers from certain death.
Lady Mary Wynne-Jones paid dearly for helping the imprisoned young Lords of Pembrook, and she remembers well the promise she made to Sebastian all those years ago: to meet him once more in the abbey ruins where they shared a bold, forbidden kiss. While Mary is betrothed now to another, a friendship forged with dark secrets cannot be ignored. Unexpected passion soon burns dangerously between them, tempting Sebastian to abandon his quest for retribution to fight for a love that could once again set him free.
SHE TEMPTS THE DUKE is the first book in Lorraine Heath’s The Lost Lords of Pembrook series, and I am already anxiously awaiting the second and third books.
After their uncle kills their parents, Sebastian and his brothers were forced to escape as boys or be killed themselves. Mary, the heroine, was Sebastian’s close childhood friend and was instrumental in helping the three boys escape. They kissed when they were young, an experimental kiss, and while both the hero and heroine wondered what could have happened between them had Sebastian not had to leave, neither is really in love with the other.
In present day, Sebastian returns at a ball to publicly denounce his uncle and claim the dukedom again. He is horribly scarred from military duty–so much so that he hides one side of his face lest the sight of his disfigurement turns the stomachs of the ladies of the ton. As soon as she sees him, Mary is his champion. She’s thrilled to realize that he’s alive again, and she is the only one who welcomes him into Society with open arms. Despite his scars and his rough temperament, she finds herself attracted to him. Unfortunately, she is nearly engaged to another man. In the end, the two fall in love with each other (of course 🙂 ), but her near-betrothal, Sebastian’s uncle (who is still trying to kill him), and Sebastian’s own belief that she deserves someone better than him stand in their way to happiness.
I’ve read and loved Lorraine Heath’s books before, although I haven’t had the chance to read her most recent series. While this book kept me turning page after page and was truly an enjoyable story, the thing that makes SHE TEMPTS THE DUKE stand out in my mind is that it seemed to me to be incredibly romantic. I’ve lamented before what I see as a recent trend in romance to focus more on lust and heartache than actual romance, but thankfully SHE TEMPTS THE DUKE provides all the romance my reader heart craves. While some might see this as a tortured hero book or a friends-to-lovers book–and while they’re right about those, too–I see this as more of a story about star-crossed lovers. The attraction and developing love between Sebastian and Mary is clear; the question is how they get past all the obstacles in their way to finally be together. I also want to add that I’m not usually a fan of tortured heroes as I think it’s very easy for authors to cross the line between tortured and whiny, but I absolutely fell in love with Sebastian.
Highly recommended, though there are a few points (a specific unbelievable TSTL action on the part of the heroine toward the end of the book, and the rather flat and predictable villain) that keep SHE TEMPTS THE DUKE from being perfect in my opinion. Still, it’s going on my keeper shelf to stay.