Published by Avon on April 26th 2016
Genres: Historical, Romance
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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.
Twin confusion is a well-established trope of romance novels. Usually an author uses the trope to prove how true the love is. Only someone who really loves a twin knows them immediately. The twins’ own parents can’t tell them apart, but true love will always pass the test inevitably laid.
Not Lady Julia Kenney. Not once, but twice, then over and over every day, she is unable to tell her husband from his twin. The entire premise of this story depends on her being unable to tell them apart. To a degree that actually began to bother me for a bit. I’m being a hypocrite here, I know. The only-I-can-tell-them-apart trope bothers me, but here we have a couple who has been married for quite a while, and after a mere four months apart, she has no idea that her husband has died and his twin is masquerading as him. So I’m annoyed when telling twins apart is proof of love, and I’m annoyed when someone can’t tell them apart. I’m the worst.
So I struggled with the whole concept of this story. Especially when we’re in Julia’s head, and she’s thinking about all the differences in “Albert” since he came back. He lost weight, gained muscle, his shoulders broadened, he kissed differently, he constantly referred to himself in the third person (“your husband would do this”, “your husband likes that dress”) but she never questioned anything. And yet, would anyone? Anyone who isn’t a character on a soap opera or telenovela? Who would really think “My husband lost some weight and is better at kissing. I wonder if he was killed on safari by a gorilla and his twin is masquerading as him.”? So I’m torn on this concept.
And one of the few tropes that doesn’t work for me at all is deception. I really don’t like when one party in our relationship deceives the other. Working together to deceive outside parties is fine, but tricking each other is a different story. That’s no way to start any relationship, much less one that’s depends so much on trust.
The rest of the story was much more intriguing to me. Obviously, Julia was going to discover the deception at some point, and I had to know how that would work. The blurb mentions that English law at the time forbade a man from marrying his brother’s widow, and in 19th century England Edward and Julia weren’t going to just get an apartment and live together. I wanted to know how they would be together and how that the rest of society would handle it. As prominent members of society, they couldn’t just hide and hope no one noticed them.
Once Julia discovered Edward’s deception (it was horrible), the story picked up. I couldn’t see how she would come to terms with the fact that Albert was dead, and Edward, the twin she detested, had fooled her for months. Which meant not only was her husband dead, but she hadn’t even been able to mourn him. Obviously she would find a way to forgive Edward or this wouldn’t be much of a romance novel, but I didn’t see how.
Lorraine Heath’s story was a little uneven due to my unease with the first half, but the fact I was only uneasy and not outright disgusted by Edward’s deception is a testament to her skill. Heath convincingly conveyed just how much Edward’s own actions bothered him, how detestable he found the ruse. It bothered him, and he tried to straddle allowing his and Julia’s physical relationship to stay chaste enough so she wouldn’t feel as though she had been unfaithful when she discovered who he really was, but go far enough so she wouldn’t feel as though her husband didn’t love or want her anymore. It wasn’t the noblest of plans, but it was the only one Edward had that he thought would make Julia and Albert both happy. And, after all, this was Albert’s plan to begin with.
Lorraine Heath managed to take a storyline that could have been cringeworthy in the hands of a less adept author and make it believable and heartbreaking. As I read, I rooted for Edward in a way I hadn’t expected. I even rooted for Julia, who I didn’t like very much when we met her in the previous book. Lorraine Heath has quite a back list; I’m looking forward to diving into it.