Dear Ms. Kendall,
It was a foregone conclusion I’d read An Heir of Deception, your latest entry into The Elusive Lords series. I’ve read the first two and novella and while neither the second book nor the novella rocked my socks like your debut novel A Taste of Desire, I’ve had fun reading them all. The heroes are gorgeous, dominant males with more self-confidence than Tony Stark, and are golden gods in bed. The women who love them are beautiful, smart mouthed, and able to orgasm on a single thrust. The course of their loves never runs smooth, the sex is always magnificent, and the happy endings plausible. I liked An Heir of Deception—although the protagonists Charlotte and Alex aren’t quite as sizzling as Amelia and Thomas (the leads in A Taste of Desire—I needed a fan while I read that book!)—and found it a good addition to the series.
Charlotte Rutherford has loved Alex Hastings from the moment she first saw him, when she was sixteen and he was twenty-six. He resisted her charms for years until, finally, when she turned eighteen, he seduced her, and fell as deeply in love with her as she was with him. The two were to be married at St. Paul’s Cathedral in a lavish ceremony but, as Alex arrived at the church, Charlotte was nowhere to be found. Her brother James, Alex’s best friend, told him Charlotte fled, leaving James a note:
“She wrote to beg my forgiveness for any scandal or shame her actions may bring upon the family but…says she can’t marry you.”
Alex is wrecked, ruined, destroyed, and hung up to dry when Charlotte leaves. He spends the next three years of his life a step away from total self-destruction. He knows, from a letter she sent him and from what he hears from her family, she’s settled in America. It’s only a near death experience—he fell into the Thames while soused and caught a near-killing fever—that knocks some sanity into him. He quits drinking, devotes himself to his estates, and vows to never let anyone near his heart again.
Then, at the beginning of An Heir of Deception, five years after she left him brideless at St. Paul’s, Charlotte returns… and she’s not alone. With her is her son, Nicholas, whom Alex takes one look at and knows without a doubt the child is his. (Nicholas apparently is the spitting image of Alex’s deceased older brother Charles.) Alex is consumed with rage. He can barely contain his anger at Charlotte—not only did she destroy his life, she stole his son’s early years from him. He vows to punish her and to claim Nicholas as his own.
Charlotte returned only because she was told, erroneously, her twin sister, Catherine, was on the brink of death. Charlotte is shocked to learn not only is Catherine in the pink, but Alex now lives in the manor next door and, the very day Charlotte arrives, is in the house picking up some papers for James. Charlotte can barely breathe when she sees Alex again.
Charlotte stood frozen, ensnared as deftly and completely as a rabbit in the presence of a rattler preparing to strike. She watched as he proceeded down the seemingly endless corridor toward her.
Senses starved for the flesh-and-blood man greedily tried to take him in all at once, hoarding away every minute detail to take back with her to feed the lonely nights when dreams and memories were all she’d have…and yet still not enough.
Save the measured fall of his footsteps, silence reigned with a parasitic presence that made speech a novelty and breathing a luxury. Charlotte could do nothing but wait in statue-like stillness while her heart picked up its pace. To even blink would have created too much noise.
Charlotte still pines for Alex like Buttercup pined for Wesley, but, when he actually appears, she’s completely unprepared for him to instantly see though her “it’s some other guy’s kid” tale. Realizing she has to come to some sort of terms with Alex over Nicholas, she seeks Alex out–he’s ignoring her–and tries to tell him why she abandoned him at the altar. Alex tells her he couldn’t give a damn about her or her reasons—he wants his kid and nothing more from her.
He’d let his heart and body rule him when he’d courted her, made love to her, gotten on his knee and asked her to marry him. He wouldn’t ever be that naïve again. In all his future dealings with Charlotte Rutherford, they would play by his rules and currently the only thing he wanted from her was his son.
However, given there’s no way Alex can suddenly have a four year old heir, he opts instead to backdate a fictitious marriage to Charlotte—it’s amazing what a man with money and powerful friends can do. Within days of Charlotte’s return, she and Nicholas have moved into Alex’s home, she’s his wife, and he’s working on winning over their son.
Initially, Alex treats Charlotte like the vile scum he’s determined to see her as. He knows she’s wildly warm for his form, but, he, determined to protect himself from being hurt by her again, torments her physically—an abrupt kiss here, a suddenly aborted lengthy make-out session there. There’s just one problem with his strategy: Alex is as blasted by lust as Charlotte. He wants her in his bed more than a tween wants an iPhone and, as each day she sleeps under his roof, in the very next room, he believes less and less in the efficacy of his “celibacy is swell” philosophy. His desire to remain non-conjugal is also constantly derailed by Charlotte who wants to be Alex’s wife in every way possible.
An Heir of Deception is hard to put down once begun. Not only is the sexual build-up beautifully done, the reasons Charlotte left are compelling. Those who’ve read the earlier books in the series know Charlotte and Catherine are by-blows of James’s father, an earl. It’s never been clear, however, who the girls’ mother was. Charlotte and Catherine found out this information a month before Charlotte was to marry Alex. Charlotte’s fear her unacceptable parentage might be made public is the reason she ran. The 19th century British peerage was an unforgiving lot; Charlotte trusts neither the ton nor, sadly, Alex, to not damn her and those close to her for her lineage. She left, in fact, because she received a letter stating if she married Alex, the letter-writer would expose the sisters’ damning pedigree to the press and would, by doing so, cause great harm to Alex, James, and the others Charlotte loves.
I liked both Charlotte and Alex, even when they were stubbornly idiotic. They are a captivating couple, full of passion, love, and will. They don’t find their way to trust with ease but that doesn’t keep them from making love, working to co-parent, and demanding from the other better behavior. The dialogue in this book flows smoothly and it’s effortless to follow the shifts in feeling the characters undergo.
“I’ll make it better for you next time,” he said, his heated breath next to her ear.
She laughed lightly and pushed the tangle of her hair from her eyes. “I don’t know I’d survive if you made it better.”
A low laugh rumbled from his throat as he ran his hand over her long, tousled locks. The years apart hadn’t changed this between them. In fact, their lovemaking had only gotten better, more intense.
“May I ask a question?” he asked after a minute of contented silence.
Angling her head around to regard him, she replied, “But of course.”
“What was Nicholas like as a baby?”
Charlotte shifted in his arms until she faced him. Clasping the narrow indent of her waist, he pulled her until their hips were flush, his member lying just above the nest of hair of her sex. He was already semi-erect.
“He was a good baby. At four months he was sleeping through the night. By seven months he was crawling and he took his first steps at eleven months.”
A faint smile curved his mouth; not in anger or sadness, it appeared to be more one of regret. Charlotte looked deeply into his gray eyes and her heart ached for him.
“And when did he begin to speak?”
Charlotte found herself laughing softly, remembering the sweet sounds of Nicholas’s baby babble. “The moment he came into the world it felt like. But if you’re speaking of words one could comprehend, I believe that occurred when he was nine months. It’s difficult to remember exactly when.”
“He’s a wonderful child,” Alex said after a pause.
Her heart swelled and then lodged itself in her throat. In terms of compliments, it was the greatest he’d ever given her. “Yes he is. And Alex, he thinks you are wonderful too.” Nicholas thought his father hung the sun, the moon and the stars. It did not hurt that Alex was making every attempt to win his son’s affections. Two days ago, he’d begun to teach him to fish.
Alex swallowed and inhaled a prolonged breath. “Tell me about your life in America.” He spoke quietly and watched her beneath a hooded gaze.
My big complaint with the novel is the identity of the blackmailer. I just couldn’t believe the person responsible would have done such a thing. Other readers will have to make their own judgments. Fortunately, the identity of the original-letter writer, when revealed, has little impact on the overall plot. I do think, however, that Charlotte’s parentage, were it made public, would be ruinous. In this book, the past stays in the past—it has to for Charlotte, Alex, and their family to retain their place in society. The next book will be, I suspect, Catherine’s story and I’m interested to see if such a big secret is able to be kept one as time goes on.
I love your books in large part because they are wonderfully sexy. As I read An Heir of Deception, I gave less truck than I might usually to perfect prose and sense of place. I looked less at the philosophical issues upon which you built your plot that I might have in another novel. Don’t misunderstand me—An Heir of Deception is well-written and seems Regency real. But, that’s not what I took away from its pages. I just enjoyed the hell out of Alex, Charlotte, their lust, their love, and their battle to live happily ever after. This book is a happy B read for me. It was such fun to read, I’m now re-reading A Taste of Desire…fan in hand.