HIS WICKED REPUTATION – Madeline Hunter
The Wicked Series , Book 1
The late Duke of Aylesbury acknowledged four sons, three of them legitimate: Percival, his heir and the present duke; and Lords Lancelot, and Ywain (called Ives). The fourth is Gareth Fitzallan, born of the late duke's beloved mistress. Gareth is in Amsterdam brokering the sale of some paintings when he learns of the sudden death of his eldest half-brother, the duke. It's a good thing Gareth was out of the country, for he and Percy were not friends. Percy was claiming in court that Gareth's inheritance from their father truly belonged to him. So now Lance is duke (a rather wild one), and he and Ives, a barrister, are well-disposed to their half-brother. The disputed house and estate have been unoccupied for several years, and the citizens nearby have made free of the house's contents, even of the rocks from the garden wall.
Eva Russell and her sister Rebecca live not far from the neglected house. They are all that is left of their once prosperous family. Only necessity made Eva help herself to a bit of furniture to sell to feed them. But while searching the old house, she came upon a hidden attic filled with beautiful paintings. She could never take anything like that, but she thought she could copy them well enough that her copies might sell. She found a stationer in Birmingham who took them on consignment, and she was able to start putting coin by to give Rebecca a chance at a good marriage.
Gareth and Eva meet suddenly as he rides up toward his new house. It's not a friendly meeting; his horse scares her, and she's carrying home another painting to copy, fortunately well covered in old burlap.
Meanwhile, someone important wants Ives to look into a matter of valuable paintings belonging to many in the House of Lords that disappeared after being sent into hiding during the time the country feared invasion by Napoleon's forces. Napoleon was known to liberate such treasures.
So now we have the makings of a volatile romance and a bit of mystery in a character rich tale. It's a good tale, though some may find the lusty and detailed loves scenes interrupt the flow, while others may relish them. On the whole, HIS WICKED REPUTATION is well worth the read. And you will want to catch the next in the series, TALL, DARK, AND WICKED, previewed in the back of the book, and starring the intriguing Lord Ywain (Ives).