Thursday, August 6, 2020

Duke of My Heart

Duke of My Heart (2016) by Kelly Bowen

Captain Maximus Harcourt, the tenth Duke of Alderidge, comes home for an infrequent visit to find his sister missing and a very naked and very dead earl tied with scarlet ribbons to her bedposts while a ball in her honor goes on downstairs. The Duke isn't exactly the sole of propriety himself, captaining a ship and fending off pirates on the high seas, but he does expect his little sister to have been a bit more conventional. He also finds Miss Ivory Moore in possession of the scene, at his aunt's request. 

Miss Moore represents Chegarre and Associates, a company who specializes in sweeping all the high-class nastiness under the rugs. Ivory is giving orders in his house...and he's not sure he likes that. Especially when she starts ordering him about. But he soon realizes that Miss Moore knows what she's doing and if he wants to save his sister Lady Beatrice from scandal then he'll have to follow orders.

He finds it hard to believe that a woman could meet such a situation without turning a hair. In fact, Miss Moore acts like this is just a small matter and easily handled--like a package that has been delivered to the wrong address. Like she does this every day. And for all he knows, she does. 

Once the immediate crisis is averted and the earl is discovered dead (and fully clothed) in the guest room, where--after telling Alderidge that he felt poorly and would just lie down for a bit--he apparently died of overindulgence (in food and drink...not anything more scandalous than that), Max and Ivory turn their attention to tracking down Lady Beatrice...and each other. For Max can't deny that he's never met a woman so fascinating, so self-possessed, and so unimpressed with his ability to cope with this particular crisis. And Ivory can't deny that she's never a man who so intrigued her and made her forget her job. Notes arrive purporting to be from Beatrice and telling her brother that she's fine and don't bother looking for her, but Max is sure there's something wrong. 

The trail leads to an "antique" dealer who offers rare and hard-to-get (read stolen) treasures to the highest bidder and Ivory will wind up making a bargain she just might regret in order to save the sister of the man she loves.

[Possible spoilers ahead]

The first book in the Seasons for Scandal romantic intrigue series by Bowen doesn't have quite the mystery flair of Between the Devil & the Duke. Having read Between as an entry in the Monthly Awards challenge, I decided to go back to the beginning and see how Ivory (who helps Lady Angelique and Alex get to the bottom of who framed Angelique's brother for murder) met her Duke. The story of their meeting and working out their relationship was pretty good, but I have to admit to being disappointed that there wasn't as much mystery involved in this one. We know pretty quickly where Lady Beatrice is and there wasn't nearly as much tension in the rescue scene as anticipated. I'm glad I read this for the backstory on Ivory and her Captain--but I'm also glad I didn't read it first because I don't think I would have read any more.  ★★ 

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