It’s hard to be respectable… Jasper Sinclair, Earl of Saxton, made a bargain with the devil—his father—to marry in one month's time. But instead of declaring his intentions for an acceptable debutante, he indulges his long-buried baser needs by joining a fighting club and pursuing a delectable woman who may not be what she seems. Soon he finds himself battling addictions that threaten his already wicked heart.
When you’d rather be wicked Orphaned seamstress Olivia West wants the chance to lead an honest, respectable life, but the arrogant Earl of Saxton launches a daunting campaign to make Olivia his mistress. Destitute and desperate, Olivia agrees to one night with the dangerous peer, and draws upon her mother’s courtesan experience to seduce him. After binding and blindfolding him, she brings him to the edge of release, only to switch places with an actual prostitute. However, Jasper detects Olivia’s deception and vows to claim what he's owed— not his money, her
Darcy Burke is yet another new author to me and I must say that I wasn't disappointed. Of late I've been having some difficulty getting into books but His Wicked Heart got my attention from the off.
Olivia is the impoverished daughter of a well known actress/courtesan who is trying to make her own way in the world, a way furthest from that carved by her mother. Strong willed and moral Olivia's motivations throughout the book are wholly relatable. Skilfully treading the line between martyr and disciplined, Olivia makes some mistakes in judgement and yet retains her principles throughout. She is the heroine that every woman can relate to. I also like the fact that in regards to Olivia's backstory not everything is tied up neatly at the end of the novel, Burke may come back to this in later books of the series but for now I like that, like life, not all loose ends are neatly tied off.
Jasper is an altogether too appealing hero, albeit with a worrying penchant for fighting which gets him involved in some sort of regency version of Fight Club. Although I haven't read the first in the series, it is clear that Jasper has a rich and detailed backstory that is initially explored in Her Wicked Ways - a book I will definitely be seeking out. With occasional autocratic moments and some questionable leaps in logic and judgment, Jasper is your typical historical romance hero. Like all good romance protagonists Jasper has a hidden softer side that isn't overdone but instead lends his character more depth.
I really appreciated the fact that the novel was driven by familial duties and troubles rather than any attempts at political intrigue or mystery on behalf of Burke. Jasper's tempestuous relationship with his father is well handled by Burke who manages to strike the right balance, making the actions of both Jasper and his father credible. As I said I did really enjoy the fact that the novel was driven by family and emotion rather than some external, over arching evil. Burke clearly has a talent for crafting a convincing cast of characters from everywoman's heroine Olivia and charming Jasper to detestable Lydia, and the complex Duke of Holborn. It is no surprise therefore that the novel is a character driven tale, the only negative cast by this method is the somewhat anticlimactic ending.
All in all I really did enjoy His Wicked Heart and found it a pleasant interlude in the recently overcrowded historical romance genre. While nothing groundbreaking I found that Burke had managed to craft a refreshing and captivating novel that I really couldn't put down.
Let me know if you give the book a go or if you've read Darcy Burke before.
*Free copy received from publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.