In Love with a Wicked Man
Avon / October 29, 2013 / $7.99 print, $6.99 digital
What does it matter if Kate, Lady d'Allenay, has absolutely no marriage prospects? She has a castle to tend, an estate to run, and a sister to watch over, which means she is never, ever reckless. Until an accident brings a handsome, virile stranger to Bellecombe Castle, and Kate finds herself tempted to surrender to her houseguest's wicked kisses.
Disowned by his aristocratic family, Lord Edward Quartermaine has turned his gifted mind to ruthless survival. Feared and vilified as proprietor of London's most notorious gaming salon, he now struggles to regain his memory, certain of only one thing: he wants all Kate is offering - and more.
But when Edward's memory returns, he and Kate realize how much they have wagered on a scandalous passion that could be her ruin, but perhaps his salvation.
The Amnesia Plot. I can't tell you how many of these books I've read, and all too often I've been left unconvinced. Not many have done a good job of making the experience of the amnesia victim believable. I can only imagine how terrifying and frustrating it must feel to have no memory, but I read about characters whose attitude is fairly blasé—“Oh well. Whatever. yawn.”
Liz Carlyle's latest book features a man who contracts amnesia through a riding accident and is taken to the nearby Bellecombe Castle, where its mistress, Kate (that rare creature, a baroness in her own right), tends to him. His luggage has the initials NED on it, so she asks if his name is Edward.
He blinked again, and shook his head, his lips thinning. “Edward-?” he said.
But it was not a statement. A cold chill washed over Kate. Impulsively, she returned her hand to his face. “And . . . and your surname? Your home?”
She watched in horror as something like fear spread across his face. “I . . . I do not know.” For a moment, his throat worked furiously. “Good God!” he rasped. “I do not know!”
Carlyle does a nice job of showing the fear and panic Edward feels as he strains to remember something. Anything.
“Perhaps you oughtn't try to think so much.”
“Try not to think?” he said irritably. “How can I not think? I'm trying like the devil to remember something - anything - about myself.”
She returned to the chair, and regarded him gravely. “I rather doubt memory is something one can force,” she murmured, pensively setting her chin on her fist. “Not even someone as formidable as you.”
“Formidable?” He snorted. “I'm terrified.”
“And yet you maintain your - I don't know - your gravitas, perhaps? Or composure?” she said evenly. “You seem very much in command of yourself.”
“Frozen, with fear,” he muttered.
Edward and Kate become friends, and then each feels something more than friendship, but with Edward's memory gone, they are reluctant to act upon it. Aside from his fear of never regaining his memory, Edward feels peaceful at Bellecombe and with Kate. There's a comfort and acceptance that he somehow senses isn't a part of his “real” life. He begins to fear regaining his memory as much as having lost it.
“We will eventually discover where you've come from, Edward. We will. And when we do, you can return to - to your family, or to whatever it is you've left behind. And that will almost certainly reawaken your memories.”
But there was an increasing tension inside his chest. The last of her words came at him as if from a distance. And then the strangest thing happened. Suddenly the tension became a rush of emotion - no, dread - so strong he had never known the like. As if the whole of his body had gone numb. For an instant, his breath stopped.
He didn't want to go back.
He was sure of it.
He exhaled sharply. Good God, what kind of life had he led? What was it that lay there like a chunk of hard, black tar in the bottom of his heart? Had he been unhappy? Or, God forbid, unhappily married? He had been so sure he was not. He was still sure. But there was a darkness in his past he truly did not wish to revisit.
“Edward?” Kate's voice was gentle, but probing. “What is it?”
He lifted his gaze to hers, and knew that it was bleak. “What if I don't want to remember?” he said, forcing his mind to be calm. “I . . . Kate, God help me, but I sometimes think I don't. And how can that be?”
He really doesn't, you know. But, there is no escaping it, for eventually his memory does return and it will change everything.
Bits and pieces of his memory began to go click, click, click, sliding back into their logical places like beads on an abacus, making for a horrific total.
He could see the picture being laid out before his very eyes. Knew his face must look white as a sheet. He could feel the hope and the joy draining out of him, and he knew without a doubt what that hard black knot inside him was. It was his heart.
Edward's journey from his initial head injury, dealing with his fear and panic, the frustration of trying to remember, the glimpses of memory that run from him when he tries to pin it down, the crash of reality when his memory finally returns; these all feel real to me, as if this is how a real person would react in a similar situation. I found the depiction of this amnesia victim to have a refreshing air of authenticity to it. Nicely done, Liz Carlyle!
Learn more or order a copy of In Love with a Wicked Man by Liz Carlyle, available October 29, 2013:
Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com.