One summer night, Edward Alcott gives in to temptation and kisses Lady Julia Kenney in a dark garden. However, the passion she stirs within him is best left in the shadows as she weds his twin, the Earl of Greyling. But when tragedy strikes, to honor the vow he makes to his dying brother, Edward must pretend to be Greyling until the countess delivers her babe.
After her husband returns from a two-month sojourn, Julia finds him changed. Bolder, more daring, and more wicked—even if he does limit their encounters to kisses. With each passing day, she falls more deeply in love.
For Edward the embers of desire sparked on that long-ago night are quickly rekindled. He yearns to be her husband in truth. But if she discovers his ruse, she will despise him—and English law prevents him from marrying his brother’s widow. Yet he must dare to risk everything and reveal his secrets if he is to truly take all.
Publisher and Release Date: Avon 26 April 2016
Time and Setting: England, 1878
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Jill
Be me, he’d gasped. Be me.
Edward Alcott and his twin brother, Albert had always been there for each other. Orphaned at seven, they’d gone to live with the Marquess of Marsden, where they’d been raised with the marquess’s son, and another boy, the future Duke of Ashebury. The four had been not just friends, but brothers.
When Albert started courting Lady Julia Kenney, Edward felt that she was stealing Albert away from him. The brothers had always been together and Edward resented the intrusion into their relationship. One evening Edward had recklessly and stupidly kissed Julia allowing her to think he was his brother. When she realised what he had done, Julia barely tolerated Edward, and then only for the sake of Albert.
Some years later, Albert and Julia are happily married, and even though Julia is pregnant, Albert agrees to accompany Edward on one last adventure before his baby is born. But it all goes horribly wrong and Albert is killed. With his dying breath he asks Edward to take his place and pretend to be him, fearing that the shock of hearing of his death may cause Julia to miscarry. So Edward promises Albert he will give Julia every chance to carry the baby to term. It’s just a few weeks of deception which will end when the baby is was born.
Lorraine Heath writes great sexual tension, allowing readers to see the unfolding romance. This is a difficult premise to sell to readers where the better, more likable twin is killed off, but Ms Heath manages to do just that. However, given the plot, I suspect there will be a few readers who aren’t going to get on board, regardless of the deft handling by the author.
Some readers may resent that the ‘good’ twin was killed off, and the selfish, irresponsible, whoring twin becomes the hero. And now we can add deceitful and lying to the other adjectives to describe Edward. Given the major deception that Edward perpetrates against Julia, it would be easy to dismiss him for the cad he appeared to be in the previous book. But he finds himself between a rock and hard place: His beloved, dying brother asked him to do this. And given that Julia had previously miscarried, how could he possibly refuse?
As Edward and Julia’s relationship progresses – and she remains unaware that Edward has ‘become’ Albert – Edward realises that the Countess of Greyling is not the prim and proper lady she has always appeared to be. Julia, despite her real sadness at losing her brother-in-law (supposedly), is happy to have her husband back with her safe and sound. And continues to fall even more deeply in love with him. Until it all hits the fan.
You do have to suspend disbelief to imagine that Julia wouldn’t recognise that her returned husband is not really her brother-in-law. A wife would surely be able to tell her husband from his twin, even if they are very similar. But this is romantic fiction, so I can buy it.
We also catch up with Ashe and Minerva from book #1 Falling Into Bed with a Duke. The Epilogue is lovely, and do read the informative Author’s Note at the end, in which Ms Heath explains the difficulties of some of the plot issues, given the era.
The Earl Takes All is an emotional read. Ms Heath takes a risk with a difficult plot, but handles it with aplomb.