As a child, Lord Sebastian Hawkestone, Marquis of Coldstone witnessed both his mother and father try to outdo each other’s infidelities in retaliation for perceived hurts, supposedly as a response to the heartache from their all-consuming love. After his parents’ death, Sebastian was left the guardian of his two younger sisters, Marisa and Helen, raised by their capable Aunt Alison. As a defense mechanism, the Marquis pledged to never get personally involved with any woman, even refusing to take a mistress. Despite his repulsion of love, Sebastian still was obligated to get married and start a family, so when Lady Beatrice Hennessey confronted him about the damage he had done to her family after the dueling death of her brother, Douglas Hennessey, the Baron of Larkwell, he decided that she was an adequate choice. Her plain looks wouldn’t tempt him, and after she was with child he could leave her at his country estate and continue his rakish ways. Plus marriage would give him the respectability necessary to launch his sisters into society.
Unfortunately, Sebastian’s plans fall by the wayside when the newly weds discover there was a plot to discredit and destroy the Libertine Scholars and that Doogie’s death was really a murder used to besmirch Lord Coldstone’s good name. Beatrice was horrified for guilting the Marquis into marriage, but he felt she was just another victim in this evil plot of revenge. Together they try to discover what really happened that fateful day and the more they work as a team, the more Sebastian recognizes her outward beauty and inner integrity. What started as a marriage of convenience becomes much more than he had planned. She, too, feels an attraction to her handsome husband who tenderly teaches her the intricacies of lovemaking and awakens her passionate side. Who knew that Henpecked Hennessy would have such a depth of character.
In A Promise of More (Book Two in The Disgraced Lord Series) by Bronwen Evans, we once again meet the six comrades of the Libertine Scholars (minus one who is off in Egypt rescuing the kidnapped daughter he has pledged to protect, the subject of Book Three, A Touch of Passion). On the sidelines is Christian Trent, Earl of Markham and his wife Sabrina whose story is found in A Kiss of Lies, (Book One). Both are in hiding to prevent the enemy from discovering they are still alive after an almost successful murder attempt. Some additional clues concerning the overarching mystery binding the series together are revealed.
While I was looking forward to reading Sebastian’s story since he was so likeable in the previous book, I was disappointed by his behaviors towards Beatrice. Instead of being understanding, he treats her with disdain and threats any time she crosses him or behaves contrary to his wishes. He would often abandon her in search of someone else, behaving like a bastard, even though he eventually returns home realizing it is his wife he truly desires. Beatrice wasn’t a blameless spouse as she kept a big part of her life a secret, although I couldn’t blame her for not wanting to share her news with such an inconsistent husband. Neither inspired the trust which they both sought.
A major problem, as in the first book, was the repetition of thoughts and even actions as each of the protagonists continue their bad behaviors and agonize over their situations including a wife searching for true love and a husband avoiding any semblance of emotional commitment, doing his best to ignore his wedding vows. Sebastian could see the love sick look in his wife’s eyes, a condition which usually sent him running to the next lover. Beatrice wanted to seduce Sebastian into loving her, but often earned her reputation as “Henpecked” Hennessey by berating him. He in turn got angry and viciously lashed out, hurting them both. This made it difficult to root for the couple. The sex, however, was steamy. Sebastian certainly earned his reputation as an accomplished lover. The villains, Lord Dunmire and Lady Christina, were truly evil, with actions totally motivated by self gratification, to the point of insanity.
While I liked Book Two in the Disgraced Lord Series better than the initial book, the promise shown in the first half was marred by aspects which dragged, especially the repetitive introspective flow of thoughts which resulted in a sappy love story instead of a romance. With some more even pacing and editing, this would have been a tighter, more enjoyable read. Once again, a little research into the terminology and life style of the Regency Period would have been appreciated.