|Lorraine Heath has written an exceptionally intriguing story that this reader really did not want to like Anytime the love story involves a married woman, it is hard to root for a happy ending. Add to that the fact the cuckolded husband is a cripple and it adds to my angst. Yet Heath overcame all my concerns and had me turning the pages to see how she could possibly resolve the tale without too much melodrama. With a little help of science, she did it and did it well.
The Earl of Walfort and the Duke of Ainsley were cousins and friends. They were renowned for their mischief and their friendship. One night, three years before the start of our story, they were carousing…Walfort had just come from his mistress and Ainsley was just drinking. Both were sotted and yet they decided to race their curricle. As a result of the accident, Ainsley has a scar on his chin and Walfort is paralyzed. Needless to say, their lives had been irrevocably changed.
Ainsley had always felt attraction for Walfort’s wife Jayne Seymour and it only added to his guilt when he found himself having to tell her about her husband. Of course, Jayne did not know that Walfort was seeing his mistress and two children. She loved her husband and assumed he loved her. As a result of the ensuing misery, she lost the child she was carrying and since Walfort was rendered unable to love her again, she resigned herself to a childless life. But she always blamed Ainsley – after all, he was the reckless rogue who encouraged her husband to drink that night or…was he?
Walfort is comfortable with his life and yet treats Jayne without passion or even much touching. He, however, realizes how much she wanted a child and having actually fallen in love with her since her devotion following the accident, he is determined to give her some happiness. He confronts Ainsley with the proposition to get his wife with child, allowing the child to be his heir and thus assuaging all guilt from his mind.
Of course, Ainsley is tempted due to his feelings for Jayne and yet appalled, knowing that Jayne would never agree to going against her vows that way. Jayne reacts exactly as predicted and things seem at a stalemate. A revelation occurs and the course is set. Reluctantly and with much trepidation, Ainsley and Jayne agree to a month-long “holiday” at a remote estate owned by Ainsley. The goal: one pregnant woman.
Of course, what starts off as a passionless mechanical activity shifts into a lovely mix of courtship and lovemaking, something that changes both of them. Yet there is a heart wrenching knowledge that this cannot last and once the month is over, Jayne will go back to her husband and have a child that Ainsley can never call his own.
Now we have two people in love with a major barrier in their way. Heath resorts to some melodrama using science (which she explains more vividly in her note at the end of the story) to open the way for true love. Obviously revealing more would give it away, but suffice it to say that Heath delivers.
Ainsley is a great hero with a lot of depth to his feelings. Jayne is a tortured heroine and yet, her burgeoning passion at Ainsley’s hand opens up her womanhood and her sense of who she really is. Her journey is joyous even while disquieting. Their relationship was engaging and helped the reader relish their love story.
The secondary story about Ainsley’s mother and her younger lover was also enjoyable. Walfort was an intriguing character and while on one hand he was the victim, on the other he was a bit of a villain. In the end, he was just a man seeking his own happiness, but with a warped sense of how that happiness would influence others.
Waking Up With the Duke is a story to be read. If the reader is squeamish about adultery, my advice is to give the story time to develop and possibly, like me, you will be pleasantly surprised by the entertaining love story that arises from it.