|Lorraine Heath writes some of the most delightful characters around, and she doesn’t disappoint with A Matter of Temptation. This tale of a man reclaiming his rightful heritage, and finding the perfect woman at just the wrong time, is intriguing and enjoyable from start to finish. And readers are going to fall in love with the hero.
When the story opens, Robert Hawthorne, Duke of Killingsworth, has escaped from a prison where his younger twin brother has had him incarcerated for the past eight years while passing himself off as Robert, the rightful Duke. (Ms. Heath did her homework, and in a fascinating author’s footnote gives the historical detail on this prison, which actually existed.) Robert has made his way to the ancestral home, where he surprised his twin, John, and managed to overpower him and tie him to a bed. Now Robert plans to send John back to prison in his place, just for a while. Just to give him a taste of what it was like, while Robert decides what he’s going to do.
When the corrupt warden arrives to report that his paid charge has escaped, the Duke simply returns the “prisoner.” Robert plans to enjoy his freedom and quietly assimilate back into Society, starting with a night of pleasure in a willing woman’s arms. His plans come crashing down when the valet reminds him that it is, in fact, his wedding day. It seems that John, under the guise of Robert, has acquired a fiancée.
Robert decides that the only thing to do is go through with the wedding. Crying off would cause too much of a scandal, and if the young woman truly loves his brother, well, all can be set to rights in a few weeks with a quiet annulment. But Robert is unprepared for Victoria Lambert. The dark-haired beauty is a warm, happy woman who obviously cares for the man she believes she’s marrying, and Robert is instantly smitten. This is the woman of his dreams, and now he can’t have her.
Torie agreed to marry the Duke of Killingsworth because she liked him and thought he’d make a good husband, but lately she’s been having doubts. What about love? She can’t honestly say she loves the man, but her mother advises her to marry him anyway and perhaps affection will grow. Besides, hardly anyone marries for love.
Torie and Robert leave London for his country estate, and there Torie and Robert get to know one another. But something about her new husband seems different to Torie. Robert is quieter, more thoughtful, more attentive, and he seems constantly looking at the world with a sort of wonder. This charming, clever man quickly steals her heart, and Torie finds to her delight that she does love her husband. Why then, won’t he consummate the marriage?
Robert and Torie find themselves in a perpetual state of longing, and fortunately for readers, the author doesn’t drag it onto the end of the book. Robert can’t quite figure out how to tell Torie the truth, however, since he has no way of proving he’s the rightful Duke. When John reappears, as readers know he must, their newfound love will be tested. And here the author takes the high road and allows Torie to be part of the solution, a move that delighted me.
Robert is, simply, a wonderful hero. Though initially filled with thoughts of revenge, his marriage provides a diversion from that path. Torie, with her charm and freshness, is just what Robert needs, and he ends up more sorrowful over John’s unexplained actions than enraged. More than anything, Robert mourns the loss of the brother to whom he was so close as a child. His gentlemanly handling of Torie is touching and strikes just the right note.
Torie is appealing in her warmth and genuine appreciation for her new husband. As their love deepens, the sexual attraction is unspoken but palpable, and their eventual consummation is both spicy and tender. They are a delightfully well-matched couple.
The details of John’s perfidy are somewhat sketchy, especially in relation to how he would have explained Robert’s disappearance to their parents. Since the parents have since perished, this is never answered. But the focus isn’t on what happened in the past; this is a story about a man getting on with his life. Lorraine Heath knows how to make it shine.
A Matter of Temptation is a wonderful historical romance and well worth a trip to the bookstore – a top-notch story from a talented, seasoned author. I highly recommend it. In fact, I think I’ll go back and re-read it.