For the Earl's Pleasure
by Anne Mallory
Abigail can see and communicate with spirits, which caused her once best friend Rainewood to scorn her after revealing it to him, but now Rainewood needs Abigail's help because he has just become a spirit. Rainewood does not know how it happened, in fact he thinks it is just a dream, but he knows that Abigail knows something about it. Abigail and Rainewood grew up together sharing all of their adventures, and just when they were starting to see one another more romantically, Rainewood's older brother died leaving a wide social gap between them as well as an irreparable rift in their friendship.
During Abigail's season she is cut by Rainewood as well as the majority of the ton who follow where he leads, all of which Abigail could have borne, but the small touches and the whispered comments by Rainewood that threaten to expose her secret leave her trembling in fear…and desire. Just when Abigail is ready to return to the country, Rainewood disappears and without his leadership Abigail's social status rises as everyone wonders why Rainewood has vacated society. When he returns, he returns as a spirit that only Abigail can see and he begins to haunt her in earnest. He can touch only her, he can connect only her, and only when he is with her is he able to probe the mystery surrounding his disappearance.
For the Earl's Pleasure is a very different offering from Anne Mallory, her first paranormal set in Regency England, and she did a good job. It took me a while to get into the beginning of the book because I was confused about what kind of connection there was between Abigail and Rainewood, and I was still left with some lingering questions at the end. The rift between them is eventually explained, but it was confusing for about half the book.
I admit I did not like Rainewood for a good portion of the book because he was just such a huge jerk, especially as a spirit, but Ms. Mallory did a good job of developing his character and redeeming him as a worthy hero for Abigail. Poor Abigail, she began to see spirits after she hit puberty, but for her the spirits aren't amorphous, they are fully corporeal which caused some very painful and confusing moments for her. Her mother put Abigail in an institution to rid her of her “curse” and Abigail had managed to fool both her mother and the doctor for years, until Rainewood becomes a spirit. Her lingering feelings for him overrides her fear of being institutionalized again and she does everything in her power to help him, no matter how humiliating.
The villain and the final mystery of For the Earl's Pleasure caught me completely by surprise, which is where some of my lingering questions came from. I either missed something in the reading or not everything was explained fully, I'm not sure which. Despite this, I did believe how and when Rainewood and Abigail fell in love and I did enjoy their story. For the Earl's Pleasure is a slightly dark, sexy tale of terror, tenderness and temptation and Anne Mallory continues to enchant readers.
“A woman with an extraordinary ability has to help the man she has always loved…and hated.”
July 2009, 384 pages
They were once cherished childhood companions, until a scandalous secret tore them apart. Now Valerian Rainewood and Abigail Smart are the fiercest of enemies. To Abigail, Rainewood is a notorious rake, hell-bent on mischief and not fit for polite society. So what if it seems he can seduce her with nothing but his eyes? She will not succumb. But when the earl is viciously attacked, Abigail's distress tells her that something still binds her to the wild Rainewood.
Though the ton believes there is nothing between them, Rainewood knows the truth. Abigail tempts him the way no other woman has. Wanton lust overwhelms him whenever she is near. But keeping her too close may put her precious life in danger. He must destroy his enemies - so that with every touch he may prove to Abigail that though their past was filled with trouble, their future will be nothing but pleasure.