Posted by: Jennifer | January 25, 2009

When a Stranger Loves Me – Julianne MacLean

MacLean, Julianne. When a Stranger Loves Me. (New York: Avon, 2009). ISBN – 9780061456855.

Main Characters: Lord Blake Sinclair and Lady Chelsea Campion

Related Works: This is part of Julianne MacLean’s The Pembroke Palace series. Books in the series include the following:

  • In My Wildest Fantasies– story of Lady Rebecca Newland and Lord Devon Sinclair
  • The Mistress Diaries– story of Lord Vincent Sinclair and Cassandra Montrose
  • When a Stranger Loves Me– story of Lord Blake Sinclair and Lady Chelsea Campion

Description from book:

I saved his life . . . and I had much to demand in return.

When he washed up on shore, I knew my prayers had been answered, and that I Lady Chelsea Campion, need no longer fear poverty and heartbreak. To secure my family’s estate, all I needed was a child. Handsome, clearly noble-born, and with no memory of his previous life, the mysterious man was perfect. All I had to do was visit his bedchamber and seduce him. I had expected him to be a skillful, scandalously wonderful lover, but once in his arms I was overcome by something more than mere passion. I had fallen hopelessly, desperately in love.

My plan has gone shockingly awry. But I will not give up a man who makes me feel such wicked ecstasy. No matter his true identity, no matter the secrets he struggles to remember, I will do anything in this world to make this stranger love me.

My Thoughts:

Ok, I am definitely having a bizarre love/hate relationship with Julianne MacLean’s Pembroke Palace series. I really, really enjoyed In My Wildest Fantasies. I enjoyed both the main characters and the overall plot. I was hooked on the Sinclair-family-curse part of the plot which made me continue to read the forthcoming books in the series. However, I had serious issues with The Mistress Diaries. I hated Vincent, who was the hero, and his treatment of the heroine. I was bothered by the illegitimate-child portion of the plot – something which came up again in When a Stranger Loves Me when we are told that Vincent and Cassandra live quietly away from Pembroke Palace because of the scandal. This particularly irks me because the illegitimate child is Vincent’s. It is his poor behavior that allows his daughter to be born out of wedlock. Despite my issues with The Mistress Diaries, I did persevere with the series.

When a Stranger Loves Mewas on my list of books to automatically buy when they come out. It arrived in the mail on Friday. I read a synopsis of the book and was surprised that I had bought the book. I had forgotten that it was part of a series – and wasn’t too excited about the heroine-who-seduces-the-hero-to-get-pregnant plot. Despite my concerns, I had lots of reading time this weekend – so, I picked it up. Oddly enough, I was rather pleasantly surprised by the book in general. I can’t say that I am a huge fan of the heroine’s decision to seduce the amnesiac patient staying in her home in order to provide an heir for her brother and sister-in-law, but I think that MacLean handled this plot well.

Chelsea and her mother live in exile on an island off the English coast. Chelsea had attempted to elope with a fortune hunter when she was eighteen. Her father stopped the elopement, but not the resulting scandal. At the point where the story takes place, Chelsea is 25 and happy to be left alone. However, her cousin has offered her marriage. The cousin is her brother’s heir and he believes that Chelsea should jump at the chance for security. Chelsea’s mother believes the marriage to be Chelsea’s duty and has every intention of accepting on Chelsea’s behalf. Chelsea has no intention of marrying the cousin and in order to protect her way of life concocts the plan to seduce the man that she found naked on the beach. If she were to conceive a child, she would give the child to her childless brother and sister-in-law to raise as their own. It helps that she is extremely attracted to the stranger.

Oddly enough (or not, I guess), her seduction of the stranger is accomplished quite easily. The two have a real connection, and I think that Chelsea starts to understand the problems with her plan quite quickly. She continues to visit the stranger at night because she can’t really stay away. Unfortunately, Chelsea’s mother finds out about the pregnancy plan and think it is a wonderful idea. She badgers Chelsea about doing her duty, making her visits to the stranger seem sordid. The stranger, who we might be calling Jack at this point, overhears Chelsea’s mother order Chelsea to Jack’s bed – and Chelsea’s refusal. Jack is hurt and angry to discover Chelsea’s plan.

To complicate matters, Lord Devon Sinclair arrives right after Jack’s discovery of Chelsea’s plot to see if the mysterious man pulled out of the water is his brother Blake Sinclair. Jack is indeed Devon’s brother. Devon immediately launches into an explanation of how their mad father is making all of the brothers marry before Christmas. Between this and Chelsea’s betrayal, Blake is rather overwhelmed. He leaves for Pembroke Palace with his brother the next morning. However, he will not leave Chelsea behind; after all, she could be pregnant with his child. There are, of course, more complications waiting for him at home – most notably a wife, but one with whom he did not consummate the marriage.

Fortunately, I definitely liked the characters of Blake and Chelsea. I thought that MacLean did a great job explaining or setting up Chelsea’s motivations for such an unethical attempt to conceive a baby. Her regret and her real feelings Blake were quite apparent. I also thought the amnesiac Blake was rather endearing. His confusion once he found out who he was touched my heart. I think that the unconsummated marriage that could then be annulled was a bit over the top, but I liked the book enough to forgive that.

One complaint that I do have deals with the Sinclair curse/mad duke plot. There was very little mention of this here. Is there more to this story? Will we find out if the Sinclair’s are cursed? The duke played a much more prominent role in the first two books, and I did miss him here.

Read first January 24, 2009

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