April 17, 2020 07:21 PM Posted by juliannadouglas
These first few months of 2020 have been very light on five-star reads for me. As with January, I only read one five-star book in March, but it was an excellent one. It was actually a re-read of a book by a favorite author, the same one that started me on my reading journey with her. It’s also the first in a seven-book series, centering around the Knight siblings, whose mother’s scandalous exploits led to most of them having different fathers. In it, our titled hero, Robert, seeks to take down Dolph, the man he believes killed the woman he loved. In order to accomplish that, he teams up with Belinda, the object of his quarry’s obsession and a beautiful, famous courtesan, who has only recently taken London by storm. Bel has every reason to desire retribution against Dolph as well, so when Robert makes his offer, she gladly accepts. She becomes his mistress in name only, but the more time they spend together, the more admiration and respect they gain for one another. Before their mission is complete, they find themselves hopelessly in love, but a real future between a duke and a courtesan is all but impossible.
Belinda is a woman wronged on many levels. Because of her father’s reckless spending, he is now in debtor’s prison, leaving Bel to fend for herself. She’s managed to retain her dignity and independence in spite of Dolph’s selfish machinations to try to get her marry to him. But one night, as she’s returning home from her work, she’s accosted by the warden of the prison where her father is held and raped. Thinking she’s an abused prostitute, a night watchman takes her to a home for soiled doves, where she’s at first despondent until another girl gives her the idea to become a courtesan. What better way to spite Dolph than to show him that she’d prefer being another man’s mistress over being his wife. With the help of a trio of well-known courtesans, she remakes herself into the toast of the demonde, with every man in London vying for the chance to be her protector. However, Bel has certain standards that the man she accepts must meet, along with some skittishness over the idea of sharing a man’s bed after her ordeal. The only man who’s caught her eye is Robert, so his offer is an agreeable one in more ways than one. Bel is an incredibly strong, courageous woman, who even though she’s been victimized, never allows herself to be a victim. Throughout the story, she maintains her dignity by upholding her personal moral code, which she won’t break even for the man with whom she’s fallen in love.
Robert has spent his life attempting to overcome his mother's scandalous legacy, living by his own moral code. He still fell in love with the beautiful young wife of his father's old friend. However, seeing first-hand the destruction of infidelity, he always kept their relationship platonic, but he's devastated when Lucy tragically dies. Robert doesn't believe that her death is an accident, and when her widower reveals a suspicion that Dolph, his nephew and heir, is responsible, Robert is happy to seek justice for the elderly earl. Burning with a need for revenge himself, Robert sets about looking for a way to prove Dolph's involvement. While attending a party where Belinda is present, Robert can't help but notice the beauty or the way that Dolph seems to think he owns her. Knowing that Bel is Dolph's Achilles heel, Robert makes her an offer she can't refuse, act the part of his mistress in name only in hopes of manipulating a confession from Dolph about his involvement in Lucy's death. Bel exhibits an air of innocence for a woman who is supposedly so worldly, not to mention she is capable, intelligent, vibrant and compassionate, all qualities which Robert finds irresistible. Soon he realizes he’s in love with her, but Bel still harbors all the secrets of her past which threaten to ruin their budding relationship. Robert was a kind, gentle, and patient man with the heart of a romantic, yet he became Bel's protector in both word and deed. He’s a man who is torn between love and duty, and as such, he could sometimes be a bit hard-headed. I enjoyed seeing him grow and change, eventually breaking free of the mold he had been placed in by his father and allowing himself the freedom to experience his heart's desire.
This book was a truly swoon-worthy romantic read, yet it also had enough angst and complexity to keep me on the edge of my seat, wondering how the author would pull off a happy ending. Robert and Bel’s relationship was thoroughly beautiful with each of them giving very generously, unselfishly, and in equal measure to one another, creating some very lovely and sensuous love scenes. I don't think I could have asked for a more romantic and well-matched couple. The author has an amazing writing ability which contains many wonderful nuances that make the reader feel as though they are actually experiencing the story as it happens. I was quite impressed with all the historical details and the way the author was able to deftly weave a number of real-life individuals into the story. Best of all, though, was the absolutely breathtaking ending, which gives the reader a grand romantic flourish and a two-for-one happily-ever-after. In fact, I was so impressed with this re-read that I felt it warranted bumping it up a half-star from my original rating and giving it the full five. That’s why I’m naming Gaelen Foley’s The Duke as my March Book of the Month. If you enjoy historical romance with relatable characters, deeply emotional and passionate interactions, and a touch of mystery and suspense that will keep you guessing, then you should definitely give this book a try. Keep reading to learn how you can win a copy for your own library.
Driven to uncover the truth about the mysterious death of his ladylove, the Duke of Hawkscliffe will go to any lengths to unmask a murderer. Even if it means jeopardizing his reputation by engaging in a scandalous affair with London's most provocative courtesan--the desirable but aloof Belinda Hamilton.
Read my complete review of The Duke.
If you would like to win a copy of The Duke to see how wonderful it is for yourself, just enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below. One lucky winner will receive their choice of an eBook or print copy of the book. If the winner chooses an eBook, I will gift it to them via the eBook retailer of their choice (Amazon or B & N). If the winner chooses a print copy, I will have it mailed directly to them via Amazon. Good luck!
International Entrants: You are welcome to enter my contest, but please note that not all eBooks are available in all countries due to copyright restrictions. If this is the case, Amazon does offer an option to trade for a gift card (I'm not sure about B & N). If you choose print, I can mail it to you via the Amazon website that services your country, pending availability and cost. Otherwise I will mail it to you via U. S. Amazon's standard international shipping, but it may take up to 6-8 weeks to arrive, and I may not have the capability of tracking the package.
Tags: Gaelen Foley