They call him the Devil Earl—a scoundrel and accused murderer who grew up on the violent London streets. A proper young lady risks more than her reputation when consorting with the roguishly handsome Lucian Langdon, but Lady Catherine Mabry believes she has no choice. To protect those she loves, she would do anything—even strike a bargain with the devil himself.
Lucian desires respectability and a wife above all else, but the woman of his choosing lacks the social graces to be accepted by the aristocracy. Catherine can help Lucian gain everything he wants. But what she asks for in exchange will put their very lives in jeopardy. When danger closes in, Catherine discovers a man of immense passion and he discovers a woman of immeasurable courage. As secrets from his dark past are revealed, Lucian begins to question everything he knows to be true, including the yearnings of his own heart.
'In Bed with the Devil' was my first reading experience by Lorraine Heath and I was nicely surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
Lucian Langdon, Earl of Claybourne, was a fraud. Saved from the hangman's noose as a teenager, Luke was taken off the streets and into the home of his supposed grandfather who believed he was his long lost grandson and heir to the earldom. Although Luke to this day believes himself a fraud for imminent death has a way of bringing you to your lowest and the young Luke had no problems telling the old man exactly what he wanted to hear. Now several years later, Luke stands before a woman requesting that he once again commit the crime that he had once been accused of and nearly hanged for - murder.
Lady Catherine Marby is as far from being a killer as any other respectable lady of the ton, yet when the life of her dearest friend hangs in balance, Catherine feels she has no choice. Lack of knowledge in the murder field propels Catherine to seek out the Earl of Claybourne whose is rumored to have killed a man and is known about town as the Devil Earl. Catherine has fantasized about the earl since the moment their eyes met at the one and only ball he ever attended, now five years past. Since then Catherine had tried repeatedly to get him out in society by having a servant hand deliver each invitation for every function she had ever hosted, but to no avail. Now standing in the Earl's lair, Catherine begins to believe the rumors to be true as she faces down the devil.
Luke agrees to do Catherine's bidding, but on one condition. She must teach Frannie, his desired wife and fellow street urchin, how to function in polite society. Once he has seen sufficient results, he will then dispatch the man of her choice. Catherine agrees, but with one condition of her own, that the identity of the man she wishes to have killed will not be revealed until the deed is ready to be done.
Thus, at the stroke of midnight on every night to follow, Catherine bounds secretly into the Earl's coach to provide one on one lessons with Frannie, all the while making a valiant attempt to keep Luke from stirring her heart. But with each encounter, the Devil Earl soon is revealed as a gentle man who would do anything, including murder, for the ones he loves. It is strikingly apparent that the murder he committed in the past was heroic and much deserved, yet still a piece of Luke's soul was taken that long ago night when he walked away with blood on his hands. Now Catherine begins to question the validity of her own murder plans and instead decides to fight to save the remaining pieces of Luke's soul.
Meanwhile, Catherine is a mystery to Luke. Her strong selfless nature leaves him intrigued. Her beauty, while undeniable, is not flaunted nor does she use it to work wiles upon him. She's closed lipped about her family life yet somehow provokes him to reveal his deepest and darkest secrets. And after Catherine performs a harrowing act in which she stops a blade determined to end Luke's life with her bare hand, all attempts to suppress his fascination fails. As the two race to eliminate the danger against Catherine and her friend, Luke discovers that Frannie has slipped further and further away from his heart's desire while Catherine has embedded herself into his soul.
Luke was an extremely tortured soul. Ridden with guilt over his masquerade as the Earl of Claybourne, his greatest desire is to be accepted by society. Now that he's lived the life of luxury and privilege, he's loathe to give it up. Yet, marrying a woman of the ton is out of the question due to the fact that her reputation would be ruined beyond repair for cavorting with the Devil Earl. That's why his fellow street urchin, Frannie, seems the best choice. He's loved her forever and has always imagined her as his wife, yet with Catherine clouding his thoughts, he realizes that he holds merely a sisterly love for Frannie while feeling passionate desire and yearning for Catherine. I loved Luke. He was a dangerous hero with the least significant reason being if Catherine were ever caught with him, she would be ruined indefinitely. Luke was mostly dangerous with the fact that he was a known murderer. While never convicted he also never denied it. But with his friends and Catherine, his beautiful heart became apparent and one can't help falling for a man who would commit murder in order to save and avenge his loved ones.
One of my favorite moments with Luke is when he tells Catherine that he would forgo her end of the bargain, and kill the man she has chosen if that man had forced himself upon her. At this time Luke still did not know the identity of the man Catherine wished dead and Catherine and I were both in wonder that he would give up the last pieces of his soul to avenge her honor. For her to say yes, that this was the reason, she then would not have to endure her nightly visits with Frannie while helplessly falling in love with Luke. She could kill and forget but instead she does the honorable thing and says no, her virtue was still in tact. Of course this further ignites Luke's interest in the mystery that is Catherine.
Meanwhile, Catherine was an amazingly strong and brave woman. She was definitely one of those modern day heroines trapped in a historical romance but I enjoy strong heroines, whether or not it's conducive to the time period. Insipid heroines leave me with a twitch. Catherine's reasons to wish death upon another were valid and truly I didn't see any other option to save her friend. In those days women has little or no power. I also enjoyed that she didn't let Luke run over the top of her like Frannie did. Catherine challenged him at every point and while at first Luke was irritated, her strength soon left him intensely interested.
I enjoyed Heath's writer voice and how bits and pieces of the characters were slowly revealed. I think this is one of my favorite styles for it keeps me engrossed in the story and flipping rapidly through the pages in order to discover the missing pieces and thereby completing the puzzle.
'In Bed with the Devil' was fast and entertaining. Perfect read for a rainy day.