The Sins of Lord Easterbrook
In my mind, Madeline Hunter stands for excellence in Medieval romance first and foremost. I faithfully (and a bit unenthusiastically) followed her through her subsequent Regency-set Seducer series, all the while debating if she should remain on my auto-buy list. Then along came the Rothwell series and from its first installment, Rules of Seduction to this, the conclusion of the series, I found myself, once again, looking forward to each book and usually finding a great deal of satisfaction.
Raised in the Far East, Leona Montgomery carries an exotic air – particularly by English standards. Traveling for the first time to London, Leona purportedly has come to establish new ties for her family’s trading company and is content to hide her real reason: Continuing the investigation her father began before his death into the smuggling of opium.
As a part of his very makeup, Christian acknowledges that he is quite simply Easterbrook – a name that signifies untold power and the ability to do things his way no matter his eccentricities. As Marquess of Easterbrook, Christian is certainly known to be unconventional although odd, peculiar, and suspicious are also words commonly used to describe him. He prefers spending time alone and sees little need in his own home for shoes, cravat, vest, or coat, preferring instead a dressing gown and bare feet. Christian is familiar to readers of this series and I, for one, always wondered why he lurked around and acted so strangely. But now, with some relief, I can say that I finally understand the reasons for his eccentric behavior.
As the opening scene portrays Christian attempting to meditate and keep all the emotions of others at bay, the reason for his reclusiveness is immediately revealed. Christian sees events through the emotions of others and has been bombarded for most of his life by others’ dismay, fear, desperation, and anger. Isolating himself brings him some measure of peace and he has learned to wrestle some control over his unwanted sensory ability. Since most people unknowingly broadcast their emotions, Christian has rarely found peace in the company of another, but remembers Leona as one who provided a calm to his storm. It has been years since he has seen her while he traveled through the Far East, but he recalls that parting from her was particularly painful.
When Christian discovers Leona is in London, he suspects she is there for more than the promotion of her family’s shipping business. Believing her investigation will ultimately place her in danger, Christian steps in to warn and protect her.
Leona remembers Christian as a young naturalist and adventurer by the name of Edmund and is shocked to discover his actual identity. Although she secretly yearned to see her beloved Edmund once again, she can’t quite reconcile his memory with the autocratic Christian who has her kidnapped off the street and brought to him for their first meeting. Christian is what we would refer to today as a “tell-oriented” man – to put it mildly. He austerely tells Leona (or anyone else) what to do rather than trouble anyone with the asking – he quite simply knows best so there is no need for discussion. His domineering nature was hard to connect with at first (and I prefer alpha heroes) but he always had Leona’s best interest at heart and quite clearly wanted her for his own.
To counter such a hero, Hunter has given Leona a strong personality as well and she is a smart businesswoman, albeit a stubborn lady, who borders on TSTL behavior at times. Her search for the truth and need for revenge move the story forward, but Leona acts more as a backdrop to Christian’s evolution.
Christian and Leona’s romance is intense and a struggle of dominance, despite the fact that I was never convinced it was a battle Leona could win – or particularly wanted to. Although I easily understood her objections to any short term affair with Christian (and agreed wholeheartedly), her objections to any possible future scenario eventually wore thin and seemed contrived as the battle of power raged on. However this war of wills did provide an effective environment for sensual scenes that bordered on a burning rating at times. This couple’s chemistry definitely works.
Christian’s dictatorial nature was the greatest deterrent to my initial enjoyment of the book, yet it was that same nature, realistically honed and calmed by his love for Leona, that in the end made for a very rewarding read.
And for those of you who have followed the series, Hunter states this is her “first ever Epilogue to tie everything down” and it certainly does that effectively with glimpses of past books’ characters, as well as providing a satisfying HEA for Christian and Leona.