WILD, WILD RAKE - Janna MacGregor
The Cavensham Heiresses
St. Martin's Paperbacks
England - 1805
Married against her will, and apparently her husband's too, Lady Avalon Warwyk spends her days hidden away in the country while her husband lives in London. Warwyk has not even tried to hide his hatred for his young wife from the day they were married. At seventeen, Avalon was hardly in charge of her life, and when she ventures into the city to announce her pregnancy to her husband, she finds, instead, that he has installed "the love of his life" in their city home, and this woman has already produced a son. Outraged and embarrassed by this spectacle being witnessed by her husband's friends, Avalon is determined to make the best of a horrid situation. She will spend Warwyk's money, raise their son on her own, and have nothing more to do with him. When Warwyk dies suddenly, Avalon decides not only to remain in the country, but to pursue a dream she's had of rescuing fallen women and helping them build businesses in her village. Ironically, her city ally is none other than Warwyk's mistress. For ten years, Avalon and Mary (the mistress) work to take vulnerable young women off the streets of London.
Devan Farris, a youngest son, vicar, and with a rakish reputation, is sent by Avalon's son's guardian, Devan's older brother, to take over the church in Avalon's village. He witnessed Warwyk's treatment of Avalon ten years before, and he's not sure how he will be received. It was Devan who nicknamed her Lady Warlock, so he's not exactly high on her list of respected men. Devan's brother wants him to keep an eye on how Avalon is spending her son's inheritance, worried that she's "wasting" it on the fallen women's program. Devan is enchanted right away with Avalon's honesty, beauty, and her determination to help fellow women. But she knows of his reputation, and she's wary of his being inserted into her life by her son's guardian, who was mandated by law upon her husband's death. Trusting men is not high on her list. How can Devan convince her that not only does he care about her and her son, but that he's not the rogue so many have portrayed him to be?
Avalon allows Devan to tutor her son to prepare him for Eton, but she remains aloof from his charms. Or does she? Her son, Thane, adores Devan, so Avalon avoids confrontations. The longer he is in her life, the warmer her feelings grow for him.
Devan's good looks and kindness endear him to the villagers. He becomes aware of a young girl, a friend of Avalon's sister, who has set her sights on him, she even reveals to Avalon that Devan is pursuing her. How can Devan convince Avalon that not only is that not true, but that if he were to pursue anyone, it would be Avalon?
WILD, WILD RAKE is the latest novel in the Cavensham Heiresses series , and it's excellent. I love the slow melting of Avalon's resistance to Devan's charm, and his realization that this is the woman for him. Thane is a delightful, intuitive young boy, and the conclusion of this delightful story is fulfilling.