Tuesday, January 30, 2018

ARC Review: Beyond Scandal and Desire by Lorraine Heath

Series:     Sins for All Seasons #1
Pub. Date:Jan. 30, 2018
Length:384 pgs

Beyond Scandal and Desire kicks off a new series from Lorraine Heath, Sins for All Seasons, featuring a family of unwanted by-blows sent off to a baby farmer as infants. I love that Lorraine has taken this sad and tragic historical detail and given it a lighter spin, while staying true to the life that faced bastards and the lower classes of the day.

Historically and most notoriously in the Victorian era, baby farmers would accept custody of unwanted children, usually by-blows, in exchange for a fee. Unfortunately, a good number of baby farmers pocketed the payment and killed the infants. Lorraine has put another spin on this baby farmer and matriarch, Ettie Trewlove. Rathering than planting the babes in her garden, Widow Trewlove raised five bastards to the best of her ability, and they are to be our adult heroes and heroines of this series.

The hero of this first book, and head of the family of societal outcasts, is Mick Trewlove. Mick has risen above his circumstances and become a self-made man, but doors are still closed to him due to the stain of his birth. There was some great imagery involved in Mick's character that got my imagination going... he approaches through encroaching darkness like the fog rolling in... with midnight locks, thick beard, and dark eyes. I could totally see this in my head. It was great. Mick has learned that his father is a duke, and he concocts a plan to force the duke to acknowledge him. Unfortunately this plan would end up hurting at least one innocent person, if not more. I normally do not like deception in my romances... but I found myself being somewhat forgiving of Mick. I guess this just proves what a heroine hater I am, because I would not have accepted this behavior from a heroine. I understood Mick's anger and pain and some of his justifications, but I always held out hope that he would abandon his plan. I did think he was a good hero despite his nefarious plans.

I was not a heroine hater in this particular book. I actually liked our heroine, Lady Aslyn Hastings. Asyln was orphaned as a child and became the ward of the Duke of Hedley, who raised her in his household with his legitimate son and his frail duchess. I don't think a person could really hate Aslyn if they tried... she was genuinely a good person. She wasn't a snob and didn't look down on people who were a victim of their circumstances, and she displayed good moral character. Despite being a good person to begin with, there was still room for Aslyn to grow as the story progressed, and she did so with grace and maturity.

The relationship between these two took some time to unfold. Mick was intent on seducing Asyln for his own purposes, and Asyln was intrigued by the mystery and freedom that Mick could offer her. I really liked watching this relationship unfold. I particularly enjoyed the contrast of Aslyn and Mick's characters. Asyln was  a representation of light (fair and good) whereas Mick represented the dark (broody and dangerous). I thought this worked really well within the confines of the story.

I'm not always a fan of the aristocratic lady being paired with the commoner love interest, but I think I am going to like the dynamics of this series. The Trewloves were all interesting characters in their own right, and I think every character was engaging enough to warrant their own story. I am looking forward to following along with each new release.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, Avon. 

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