The charming, dissolute Raymond, Earl of Pembroke, is the most notorious rake in London. Home from the war against Bonaparte’s forces, he spends his life gaming, drinking and bedding courtesans, trying to forget the only woman he ever loved.
Arabella, Duchess of Hawthorne, is the woman who betrayed him. Forced into a marriage with an old man against her will ten years before, Arabella never saw Pembroke again. But now her elderly husband is dead, and the new Duke of Hawthorne wants to force her into his bed.
Desperate, Arabella goes to Pembroke in the dark of night and begs for his help and protection. In spite of his anger and bitterness, Pembroke can not turn his old love away. He and Arabella journey to Derbyshire during the midsummer festival to escape the marauding duke. Arabella and Pembroke find that their attraction for each other has not diminished, but has grown to a conflagration beyond their control. They find themselves falling under an enchantment, caught in a dream from which they never want to wake.
Publisher and release date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 6 August 2013
Time and Setting: Regency England, 1818
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating; 5 STARS/ TOP PICK
Review by Francine Howarth
Packed with sensual prose, Christy English sets a fine pace in the telling of Arabella, Duchess of Hawthorn’s love for the Earl of Pembroke. At the same time Arabella’s tragic early life and the awfulness of an arranged loveless marriage embodies the daring of the author to tackle unsavoury practises enacted within the period depicted.
After ten years as a dutiful wife to a man she neither loved nor desired, Arabella is suddenly set free from a marriage which has served only to bring further pain and heartache to her young life. With the death of her aged husband, her new-found freedom affords liberty to more or less do as she might wish. Meanwhile, social decorum necessitates the wearing of widow’s weeds and no fraternising with a gentleman (alone) until the ending of a suitable mourning period. That’s all very well to say and expect of a young lady in the full flush of womanhood, but when an old flame, a man of some renown as a rakehell and who stirs the senses and brings an effervescent flush to her cheeks with mere eye contact, Arabella is lost in a whirlwind of emotions with guilt the greater driving force.
She has much to consider: for if she dares to let her heart rule her head, the agony of rejection will surely be worse in knowing what exactly the Earl of Pembroke truly thinks about her and about what happened in their past. But the earl is the least of her worries, for the new duke covets the duchess and has it in mind to embrace and plunder all that belonged to his predecessor – including Arabella. Worse, anyone suspected of aiding and abetting her avoidance of his presence will suffer the consequences of his wrath.
The Earl of Pembroke, undaunted by threats from the duke becomes her champion knight, albeit his armour is tarnished by the cheap perfume worn by his mistresses. Whilst Arabella ponders whether she dare trust her heart to the man she so badly wanted ten years beforehand, there is the added concern that he might be intent on enacting revenge for past emotional pain inflicted upon him in a most cruel manner. She has much to answer for and one way or another the earl is guarding his heart from further damage inflicted by Arabella, and likewise wonders can two hearts heal and again find love?
I do feel I must point out something that is close to my heart, because I really am a stickler for accuracy within historical novels, fiction or otherwise. This novel is set in 1818, and the hero is none other than the Earl of Pembroke, a supposed rakehell. Of course in 1818 there really was an Earl of Pembroke, so that fits nicely within the precise time frame. Or does it? You see, the real Earl of Pembroke was far from a rakehell. He did however have a relative who was. I dare say a research mishap has occurred, but I did find the knowledge pulled me out of the story somewhat. I’m sure that for many readers, this may not be an issue, but thought I would mention it as a point of interest.