Madeline Hunter finishes her "Rothwell Brothers" series with the enigmatic head of the family, Christian, Marquess of Easterbrook. He's been an eccentric and omniscient figure in the previous books, manipulating people into doing his will even while holed up in his home, a recluse, perpetually barefoot and wearing a robe. In The Sins of Lord Easterbrook, all his secrets are revealed in a quite satisfying manner.
Christian is so very odd because he has always been able to sense other people's emotions, a "curse" his mother had as well. He grew up being bombarded by his parents' emotions - his mother's fear of what her son would see in her, and his father's hatred of his mother - and almost went half-mad himself until he wound up in Macao. There he met the Montgomery family, who ran a shipping company that traded with China, and fell for the daughter of the house, Leona. She is the only one whose emotions he cannot feel, and so he finds peace in her company and the opportunity to be "normal." It is she who introduces him to someone who teaches Christian to meditate, an activity that eventually allows him to get through life.
Christian left Macao the night Leona's father's ships were attacked and his journal chronicling corruption in the East India Company went missing. She has always wondered if Christian was responsible. Seven years later, her father has died a broken man, her younger brother is struggling to keep the business afloat and Leona is in London seeking trade partnerships to shore up the family business. Her secondary mission is to seek out information about those who hounded her father and see they pay. It is inevitable that she meets Christian again, and of course, everything changes when she does.
Christian has spent the intervening years a near recluse, withdrawing into himself through meditation to cope with the world. Since inheriting the title - and in seeing his brothers settled - he has been forced to leave his sanctuary more than he'd like. When Leona arrives in London, the ton is frankly shocked - and titillated - to see the hermit attending balls, driving in Hyde Park - and wearing shoes. Who is this woman who has done the impossible?
Christian and Leona tentatively rebuild old bridges - for it requires an effort for Christian to be out and Leona isn't sure how much she can trust him - while danger lurks. There are those who do not wish Leona to search into the past and will do anything to stop her.
It is fun to watch the relationship develop; Christian is such an outrageous, eccentric character, and Leona a strong, though confused, woman. The sexual tension is well done, and each acknowledges a sense of fate that they belong together, even if Leona fights it more than Christian does. The Macao setting and information on the Opium trade is fascinating and unusual in a romance, and becoming reacquainted with Christian's brothers and their wives was enjoyable. Their bemusement - and then glee - in watching Christian fall in love is lots of fun. The Sins of Lord Easterbrook is a fitting ending to a very good series.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, December 2, 2008