The Mad Earl’s Bride by Loretta Chase

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Publisher and Release Date: Avon Impulse, 4 June 2013
RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1820s England
Genre: Historical romance (novella)
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Lady Blue

This story was originally included in the anthology Three Weddings and a Kiss

Dorian, at age twenty, is living a dissipated, jaded life, following in the footsteps of his mother. They both pursue sensual pleasures without any regard for the consequences. Dorian is also fighting his grandfather, the earl, who wants to control him as he does the rest of the family. Then mother becomes very ill, both physically and mentally. Grandfather has her committed to an asylum, and nothing Dorian says will change his mind. Eventually, she dies there.

Rather than submit to his grandfather, Dorian chooses to move to town and work for a living. Grandfather calls a family summit meeting (which Dorian refuses to attend) and the roof collapses, killing all of the family and making Dorian the new earl. But Dorian has started to have symptoms of the same illness which plagued his mother. A doctor confirms that he doesn’t have long to live. He chooses to move to the country with one trusted man to care for him for the remainder of his life, so he won’t have to be put in an asylum, as his mother was. When he is not plagued by the violent headaches (during which he douses himself with laudanum) he actually feels almost normal.

A distant relative, one who is not in line to inherit the title, tries to convince Dorian to marry quickly and try to have a child to carry on the name and the title. Dorian is just as happy to let both die with him. The girl picked to be his bride, Gwendolyn, turns out to be a cousin of one of his few genuine friends. She agrees to the marriage because it will let her fulfill her dream of building a hospital. Now everyone just has to convince Dorian to go along with it. Dorian responds by running away, and becoming trapped in a quicksand-like bog. Gwendolyn, ever practical, rescues him. He is attracted to her and when he finds out her reason for wanting the marriage, he agrees.

Thus begins the bittersweet story of their marriage. Of course they fall in love. Dorian has become a better person. Gwendolyn uses all of her medical knowledge to try to help Dorian battle the illness. He is expected to only have about six months to live. She is able to bring him comfort when he suffers his attacks, and manages to wean him off the laudanum. She discovers she is pregnant, and tries her best to encourage Dorian to want to live long enough to see his child.

This novella packs a lot of punch and emotion into a short story. That usually doesn’t happen. What we have here is an excellent example of love and redemption and happy-ever-after? You bet! Highly recommended.

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