Lord of Temptation
The premise of Lorraine Heath’s Lost Lords of Pembrook hooked me. Three boys flee their home because they’re in danger of being killed by their uncle, who is after the family title. Ten years later, they return to society, but the time they’ve spent on the run, struggling for survival, has changed them. Lorraine Heath does excellent tortured heroes, so I was eager to give this one a try.
Lord of Temptation begins with Lady Anne Hayworth in need of a passage on a ship, so she goes to Tristan Easton, a ship’s captain. He’s immediately attracted to her. However, Anne wants to go to Scutari to meet her fiancé, whom she hasn’t seen for years. Tristan tells her that if she’s traveling on his ship, she’ll barter something other than money for the trip. Indignant, she leaves, but he’s bored and she’s more of a challenge than all the women who fall at his feet, so he decides to get her into bed.
I wouldn’t mind this in a historical if both parties are on board, but here the heroine misses her fiancé and the hero just wants to lift her skirts. Anne tries to find another ship, but Tristan pays every other ship’s captain to refuse her and then sneaks into her bedroom at night. For some reason, even this fails to move her, so he says he’ll take her to Scutari in exchange for a kiss, and she agrees.
On the journey, Anne discovers there’s more to Tristan than his off-putting first (and second, and third) impressions, and the fiancé turns out to be deceased – which is for the best, since Tristan had considered killing the man. By the time they return to England, Tristan is obsessed with Anne, but he’s a commitment-phobe, and what Anne wants most is a husband and family.
He didn’t want her for any longer than the voyage. As with all things in his life, the constancy of something bored him. He needed new adventures, new women, new challenges.
Other than the fact that he doesn’t rape her, Tristan is a throwback to the old-skool romance hero. He addresses her as “Princess” before she can even introduce herself, so at least you know right away what you’re in for. He has a few moments of empathy and thoughtfulness, but soon reverts to being a jerk who reacts to his confusing new feelings by doubling down on his I Will Never Marry conviction, although he’s happy to have sex with Anne anytime and anywhere.
As for Anne, she’s a mass of contradictions. She’s supposed to be intelligent, but in a storm at sea, she runs up to the open deck to watch. She’s determined to have a husband and children, until the plot requires her to give in to whatever Tristan wants. There’s also a hilarious moment where he’s set upon by four ruffians, and naturally he thrashes them, then compliments Anne on her bravery for watching this without screaming or crying like most women would do.
So these two engage in a back-and-forth where he tries to persuade her to join him in his nomadic lifestyle (and I don’t recall reading what he does with his ship other than sail wherever he likes), and she reiterates that she wants security. Then she meets a gentleman who wants to marry her, but he’s courteous and kind, which is equated to timid and boring. Meanwhile, Tristan keeps insisting – between bouts of unprotected sex – that he’ll never marry, but when he realizes he has competition, he decides to cause enough gossip to ruin Anne’s reputation, reasoning that he’ll be doing both her and the other man a favor. It got to the point where, when her brothers finally have enough of this and beat him up, I was wishing they’d done a great deal more.
A story with an incredibly selfish, entitled hero could work if it showed him realizing he’d been wrong and becoming a better person. Unfortunately, about ninety per cent of Lord of Temptation seemed to be dedicated to making me loathe the hero, and the single scene at the end where he confronts his past is not enough to redeem him, nor were the book’s few good moments enough to salvage the rest of it. All I could think was that this particular Lord of Pembrook should have stayed lost.