Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Belated Bride by Karen Hawkins

Book Description:
She'd Never Marry Him!

The last man Arabella Hadley ever wishes to see again is Lucien Devereaux, the handsome, dissolute Duke of Wexford - who broke her innocent heart years ago and disappeared to London. So when she finds an unconscious man on her deserted country road and sees that it's Lucien, she's tempted to leave him there. But even more appalling than his presence is the brazen kiss he plants on her shocked lips and her response! So it would be totally insane to take him home to recover - wouldn't it? Except For One Small Thing... Lucien dares not reveal why he's returned to his country estate - or why he abandoned the strong-willed beauty years ago.  Especially since Arabella clearly has secrets of her own. But when her scheming, marriage-minded aunts successfully compromise them, the two are forced to become man and wife.  Which makes it ever harder for both to battle the passion that never disappeared...

This was a double-edged story of Lucien Devereaux, Duke of Wexford who returns by accident to the woman he loved - and ruined - ten years earlier.  What he did to her was despicable, but at the same time, he felt he had no choice at the time, and now years later he has his chance to make it up to her.  Will she let him?

I love Persuasion like stories.  Long lost love returns - can feelings be rekindled?  Can past sins and disappointments be forgiven?  Lucien and Arabella had fallen in love before he was a big, important duke. He had intended to marry her, but then his father died, he inherited the dukedom and all the debts that went with it.  His only alternative was to marry for money and he ignominiously deserted Arabella.  She was heartbroken and would forever remember him as a rake who discarded her virtue and feelings with nary a backward glance.  She'll love hate him until the day she dies.

Of course, as fate would have it, her carriage nearly runs him over on a moonlit road one night.  What is he even doing near her estate so many years later - and such a long way from London?  Lucien has been busy for the past ten years.  Although he did marry for money, he vowed to never actually use it.  He managed to turn his fortune around by becoming an expert on jewels on the sly, selling and buying for profit.  In addition, the Crown uses his knowledge from time to time to uncover wartime plots and affairs, when feasible.   Lucien is now a widower, his wife turned out to be mad and died in a riding accident.  He never really loved her and he's carrying the guilt of not being there for his wife - could he have prevented her death, could he have stopped her from riding off, crazily on an unbroken horse? 

Now, here he is again, ten years later in Yorkshire, hunting for jewel smugglers at the Crown's behest, and he is smack dab in the bosom of his old love's family.  The old love that he never got over.  The biggest regret of his life.  Can he makes things right between them again?  Is there anything he can do to atone for what he did to Arabella so many years ago?  Arabella is having nothing to do with him.  She cannot forgive him or forget what he did to her and how he broke her heart.  Plus, she has a lot on her hands as it is!  There's only so much one single woman can do!  Busy running a clandestine business smuggling cognac off the coast of Yorkshire to keep her family estate afloat - barely, she worries about her younger brother, home from the war.  He is suffering from post stress traumatic syndrome and has lost the use of his legs.  Wheel chair bound, he is determined to find the secret fortune hidden by their pirate ancestor.  A lost cause, but it keeps him occupied.  In addition, Arabella's two elderly aunts are famous for their sheep "love potion" that is famous in the county.  An illicitly brandy-laced concoction, reminiscent of "the recipe" made by the Baldwin sisters in the old TV show, The Walton's, everyone in the county wants to know what's in it, including the nearby squire and constable.  Did I mention her aunt's gambling debts as well?   Now, on top of everything else, Arabella is dealing with the return of her old love and all the old feelings stirred up in regard to him. 

Does he still have to be just as handsome and tempting as ever?

His charms, passion and that old thing called love just won't let Arabella stick to her guns. Before she knows it, he's wormed his way back into her heart.  She is a goner.  Lucien was deliciously described and it's no wonder Arabella finds him irresistible - her aunts do too!  They were a hoot!  He takes advantage of his injury from the fall when they first meet and stretches out his stay at her home for as long as possible while trying to expose the traitorous jewel ring.  As he gets closer to the truth of who is behind it, can he also save Arabella from the someone that's trying to kill the two of them as well?  Will marrying her solve everything?

I really enjoyed this story despite a somewhat slow start.  I was sympathetic to both Arabella and Lucien.  He's trying his best to make amends to her and I was pulling for him.  The aunts were very funny, particularly the side story in regard to her aunt Jane and the randy squire that she gambles with.  I'm really enjoying Karen Hawkins, she's a favorite of mine now and this is turning into a pretty good Regency series.  I highly recommend it!



Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Sounds good! Think I'll make it a holiday gift to myself!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Julia, it really was fun, 2nd in the series, but this could be a standalone as well.

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