Courtesy of LorraineHeath.com: 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.
What I liked: Not liked - I loved this book. I loved everything about it. It reminded me very much of an early Kleypas novel, in both its characters and its settings. I loved that the characters are not all from the aristocracy - they can be rough, yet we see them as human, not caricatures. Especially our hero - dare I say, he reminded me frequently of my favorite of all-time hero - Nick Gentry? Yes, I loved him that much. He's a rough around the edges guy, with a heart of gold that needed the right woman to see and accept him for himself, flaws and all. He grew up on the streets of London. Several parallels are drawn between the characters in this book and Dickens' Oliver Twist, both as allegory and overtly by Catherine as she compares Luke's upbringing to that of Oliver in the new Dickens novel she is currently reading.
I also loved that we see into Luke's personal journal. It was great that he kept a journal. What a fabulous way for Heath to let the reader into his thoughts and feelings. I love that he is overwhelmed by his feelings for Catherine, and that we, as readers, get to see that. I was also pleased that we see his journey toward recognizing that his feelings for Frannie, which he thought were true love, were those of boy-girl love, rather than man-woman love. It would have been wrong to leave that unresolved, and to witness Luke's internal journey toward that resolution was satisfying.
Catherine - excellent heroine. Strong. Doesn't put up with any of Luke's crap. She recognizes that hiring him to kill somebody is because she hasn't the know-how or the guts to do it herself, then second-guesses both of those reasons for much of the book. She is smart, gutsy, compassionate, audacious - Luke's perfect match.
The secondary cast of characters. I liked that Luke's circle of friends from his childhood all made something of themselves: a doctor, a Scotland Yard inspector, yes, even a gaming hell owner and a bookkeeper. They were all strong, interesting characters in their own right. The one I found the least intriguing, actually, was Frannie - Luke's intended. She seemed too milquetoasty for him.
What I didn't like: There was only one small thing I had an issue with, and that was that Luke and Frannie were so close, yet she never shared with Luke the real reason she didn't want to marry him. If she didn't feel more than sisterly love for him, she should have felt comfortable telling him. I always had the impression that she was in love with somebody else. Why had she not shared those feelings with him in the past? Small detail, really when the rest of the book truly overwhelmed me.
If you love those old Kleypas novels, where the heroes are the anti-hero, and the heroines are their strong, gutsy match, you will love this book. Luke has won a very special place in my heart. But no worries, Nick. You're still the man.