The young Easton brothers, heirs of the Duke of Keswick, escaped from their uncle and certain death with the help of Lady Mary Wynne-Jones, their neighbor and good friend.
Twelve years later, the three men come together in order to regain their heritage and to exact their revenge on Lord David Easton, the man who strove to steal their father's legacy.
But the twelve years have done much to change the three men. Sebastian, the Duke of Keswick, became a soldier in Her Majesty's army, and has come home scarred -- inside and out. His twin, Tristan, hides his demons with his easy and carefree nature. And Rafe, their youngest brother, still refuses to say how he came to own a den of vice and what happened to him in the streets of London all those years ago.
It is a heartbreaking realization for these three men when they achieve what they have dreamed of for so long -- but the victory was not as sweet as they had imagined it. Instead, the path they take as they make their way back to society is filled with vicious gossip and lies -- and threats to their lives.
Even more heartbreaking when they discover that it is not only their lives that were altered irrevocably all those years ago --
After the incident, Lady Mary was sent by her father to live in the nunnery. And the years of obedience and service has changed Mary. She is no longer the brave, confident girl that they knew -- but one who is always painfully aware of what is proper and good. But the reappearance of Sebastian and his brothers has awakened something in Mary -- and she risks her reputation and her future in order to help them once more.
It is interesting to note that this is Lorraine Heath's second foray into writing about lost lords. There is an undeniable appeal having lost lords as heroes -- here we have men born to a title and a way of life but, due to circumstances, lose their place in society. One wonders about the missing years and how that has shaped these men. And it is compelling to read how they reclaim what is rightfully theirs but, at the same time, skirt the fine line between civility/nobility and wildness.
Sebastian, particularly, embodies this -- he is half-blind and half of his body carries the scars of war. He has forged on, believing that Pembrook and the title would be his end goal. But it is only the beginning for Sebastian: Mary's presence in his life is one side of the scale and his heritage is on the other -- and he must make a choice.
There are some parts of the story that were glossed over that I wished Heath took more time to develop: Lord David Easton's sinister side, for example. There are glimpses of it in the novel -- and the way Heath ultimately resolves this was a little too ... quick and easy.
But there are also parts of this story that were done wonderfully -- I love the play on Sebastian's half-blind state and Mary's insistence that she only sees the good in Sebastian, which shows that she's half-blind, too! (In a sense.) I love the tension between the three brothers -- they were not only lost to society but to each other -- and they have to deal with the painful process of sharing each other's pasts.
Lastly, I like the reflection on lost and found -- in Sebastian's case -- he realizes what it was he lost long ago (and has found once again). (And, no, it's not his dukedom. ^_^)
She Tempts the Duke is the first book in Lorraine Heath's Lost Lords of Pembrook. The second book, Lord of Temptation, is (I hope) due out later this year. ^_^