The Book Gourmet

Book reviews à la bookworm...The good, the bad, and everything in between.



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Waking Up With the Duke by Lorraine Heath

Waking Up With the Duke - Lorraine Heath

Ransom Seymour, the Duke of Ainsley, is being emotionally blackmailed (by his own cousin, mind you) to give the cousin’s wife what she desires (and what she lost three years ago after the accident provoked by Ainsley himself leaving her husband in a wheelchair and unable to feel anything below his belt)—a baby.

Ainsley would have no problems siring a child, since he’s virile and able, but it’s the willingness that is lacking. Not because of who he would be bedding (a woman he’s been mourning not meeting first), but because she is a married, respectable woman. Thankfully, she’s even less willing that he is...Or is she?

This series has been “dealing” with unorthodox historical romance themes and premises since the beginning...A betrayed husband exiling his new bride to the country while fornicating his path through London, a woman “tricking” his younger brother into marriage by making him believe she was his son’s mother, and now the youngest of the three brothers serving as an early-model Victorian sperm bank falling in love with the woman in the process.
Unorthodox, as far as formulaic templates as they can get, and in the hands of someone else they probably wouldn’t have worked (I’m doubtful some other author would actually tackle something like it), but since Lorraine Heath is a master (in my humble opinion) she’s managed beautifully.
Yes, I didn’t like one of the themes, but that’s on me. There’s no dispute the writing or storytelling.

This story was, in all aspects up there, alongside (okay, to me it was even better) Passions of a Wicked Earl, the first installment about the oldest son of the scandalous Duchess of Ainsley, who also got her HEA in this book.
The why it was even better comes down to the characters. I actually liked Ainsley, the hero, who in no circumstances was a jerk or jackass. He was considerate, honorable, tender, protective (yes, emotionally blackmailable, but that’s on his cousin), so was it any wonder the heroine fell in love with him? I liked her as well, despite some instances toward the end when I wanted someone to slap her silly for being an idiot, but she came through in the end, and her emotional journey was pretty realistic.

Their romance was beautifully written, the progress organic, believable, and rather realistic (despite it being fiction). It was emotional, bittersweet, emotionally draining in a few chapters and/or paragraphs, beautiful...and hopeless. She was married to his cousin, and he was acting merely as stud. No matter their feelings, those were the facts, and sometimes (oftentimes) love doesn’t conquer all.

But if you’re like me and you’ve read some spoiler-y reviews, you know about the twist, and although knowing might lessen the emotional impact of the story (for me it didn’t, really, I was still leaking at the appropriate times), it certainly can heighten the anticipation of the moment. It actually made the plot even more gripping, and although the pacing was spot-on, it was a little torture reading while waiting for the other shoe to drop.
If there was a character in this book I didn’t like, it was the cousin, the blackmailing rat-bastard. Handicap or no handicap, his explanations, reasoning, and motivations were puny and self-serving, and his actions (except the smartest idea he had about the human sperm bank) unforgivable.

If you like your books with wonderful characters, explosive chemistry, beautiful romance with just the right amount of drama and bitter-sweetness, spot-on pacing, and masterful storytelling, this is definitely the book for you.