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Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman
Lorraine Heath

Avon / HarperCollins
November 30, 2010/ ISBN 978-0-06-192295-4
Historical Romance / London 1854

Reviewed by Linda Young

Captain Stephen Lyons is a lover of women. He has no desire to become attached to any one woman. His only interest is in enjoying the pleasure of them and giving them pleasure and treating them as all women deserve to be treated. “Life was to be embraced, enjoyed, and explored.” He is just leaving one of those women to go out and join his ranks to leave for Crimea. He has a commission bought and paid for by one of his brothers. He has been told more than once that he lacks character. Maybe this will give him some. He is a second son, so he has nothing except an allowance from the family estate. His choices are very limited because of his status. Stephen figures the only choice he has is the military. So off he goes to war.

November 1855
Mercy Dawson was one of Miss Nightingale's nurses in Crimea, where she met Major Stephen Lyons, tended his wounds and cared for him. He rescued her from an attack and spent the night comforting her. She fell in love with him, like all other women who fell victim to his charming ways. Now Stephen has been killed in battle , and she is facing his family, holding Stephen's son, with her father by her side. All her father wants is to make sure Stephen's family does right by her and maybe receive a little compensation for himself. Mercy just wants her son, John, to have a good life and be with his family. She loves John dearly and hopes she will at least be allowed to stay with him and care for him, even if only as a nanny, just so long as she can watch him grow and be a part of his life. She would sacrifice anything for John.

Mercy's father suggests that the Duke of Ainsley, Stephen's brother, marry Mercy and make things right in his brother's place. Mercy is appalled. She tells the Duke that all she wants is to be near John; she doesn't want any monetary compensation. The Duke asks Mercy if John is truly Stephen's son. She again states that he is. The Duchess, Stephen and the Duke's mother, doesn't doubt it. She sees the resemblance to Stephen in John’s face and knows he is her grandson.

Then the Duke asks a servant to find Major Lyons. Mercy is in total shock. How can that be done when the Major is dead? The Duke tells her that although the initial reports had stated he had been killed, it was later learned he had survived. Mercy's fears rise within her. Although she has told the truth, there are secrets that could rip John from her. She wonders if the Major will reveal those secrets, call her a fraud, throw her out, and keep John with him and his family.

When Stephen walks into the room, he is walking with a cane and a limp. Mercy can see the ravages of war in his face. But, in spite of it all, she sees the man she fell in love with. Strong, albeit thinner than she remembered him, and very masculine. However, within his eyes, she sees confusion. She wonders if he will reveal her secrets and her shame. Why does he look as though he doesn't remember her? And why did the Duke go to such lengths in introducing her and her father to Stephen?

Stephen tries desperately to remember Mercy. Unknown to everyone other than his immediate family, Stephen has no memory of the last two years. Not the fighting, the injuries to himself, comrades lost in battle, not even leaving England to go to war. The last thing he does remember is having tea with Claire, his sister-in-law, sometime before he left and then waking up in a hospital two years later.

Who is this woman? If they had a child together, did he love her? But he didn't fall in love with women. He always made it clear up front that he wanted no strings. But here is this woman with his child. Why can't he remember her?

Mercy has secrets she doesn't want revealed because they could take what is most precious to her. Her son, John. Will Stephen reveal them and call her a fraud? Will Stephen remember what happened in those two years or the night they had spent together? Will Stephen ever be able to see and realize the love that Mercy has for him? The Duke is suspicious of Mercy. Will he uncover her secrets? Mercy never lies to anyone about being John's mother and spending time with Stephen in Crimea. She just never tells the whole story. Can she hang on to Stephen and finally find happiness?

Lorraine Heath is a magical writer. All throughout Mercy and Stephen's story she keeps you on pins and needles wondering when the anvil will drop and Mercy's secrets will be revealed. Stephen is always afraid of being out in public, running into someone he knew during the two years who he can't remember, and not being able to acknowledge them. Heath keeps you in suspense throughout the book and when the one person Mercy never wants to see again shows up, all hell breaks loose. Mercy's worst fears come to light and she ends up with an unlikely supporter. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I stayed up ’til 2:00 am to finish this book. I couldn't go to sleep until I found out what would happen next. This book will not disappoint you. If I had more thumbs I'd give it more than two thumbs up. Maybe I need to start using stars instead.

Reviewer's Note:

Reviewed 2011
© 2011