The Earl Takes All
Lorraine Heath     

Genre: Historical
Series: The Hellions of Havinsham
Book: 2

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.

Other books in the series:

The wonderful thing about Lorraine Heath is that she rarely (if ever) disappoints. She doesn’t in The Earl Takes All.

After reading this book, I need to go back and read the first book in the series, Falling into Bed With a Duke (Minerva and Ashe’s story), and not just to inhale their romance, but to get a glimpse of the Edward before his twin's death. Was he truly as wild and irresponsible as he was made out to be?

Personally, I loved Edward. What he did to ensure that Julia didn’t lose her child took more than just love and loyalty, it took guts. He risked his own reputation—as there was a chance he would be the new earl of Greyling—and he risked exposing his true feelings for Julia. The poor man was living his deepest, darkest dream and at the same time living an utter nightmare. Forced into an intimacy with her that had him constantly teetering on the edge. He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. Does he show her the affection she expected to his own emotional and physical peril, or deny her it and risk her somehow suspecting the truth—that he wasn’t her husband—and potentially jeopardizing the life of his niece or nephew.

Julia is one of those inherently good people. She’s loyal to a fault and is both emotionally strong and fragile at the same time. The kind of heroine a reader can relate to and empathize with. When we meet her at the beginning of the book, she’s heavily pregnant after several previous miscarriages. She has one goal: deliver a healthy child.

So for her, ignorance is bliss. Not knowing it was her husband who died and not the ne’er do well brother-in-law she can barely tolerate is her saving grace. At least for a time. What she does note with her husband’s return after four months in Africa with his twin, is that Albert is different. He’s more assertive and commands more respect from the men in his employ and his tenants. No one will take advantage of kindness as they may have done his brother. But since she doesn’t know the truth, Julia simply marvels at the change in him. There are times, however, when he comes close to giving himself away.

“Your husband would never be unfaithful to you.”

“You’re my husband. Why would you speak of yourself in the third person?”

“I simply meant that any man fortunate enough to be your husband would adore you to distraction and never stray. Any man. Including myself.” He squeezed her hand. “Why would you think I would kiss other women.”

But as with all good romances, all deceptions must come to an end, and that’s when Julia and Edward’s relationship is tested.

Their path to a Happily Ever After is complicated. At this point in history, British law doesn’t permit a man to marry his brother’s widow. I was wondering how Ms. Heath would handle what appears to be an unsurmountable problem. After meandering down a couple different paths, she sets the lovers on a course that leads them to that HEA. And if you’re like me and love a good epilogue, you’re in for a wonderful treat.  

All in all, a great read with a lot of emotion and heart, and I’m very much looking forward to reading Locke’s book.

- Beverley