The Duke Diaries
Avon / February 26, 2013 / $7.99 print, $6.64 digital
Six Regency heroes—One royal hangover
After a royal bachelor party of the century, Lady Verity Fitzroy wakes up to find her brother's archenemy, Rory Lennox, the Duke of Abshire, in her bed. While Rory has always fascinated her, nothing can convince her to marry this rake even though her reputation is in peril. Indeed, there are far graver worries that plague her. If she is unmasked as the author of the infamous Duke Diaries, no one can save her . . . not even the man of her dreams.
Though he has known Verity since she was still in the schoolroom, Rory never imagined her to be such a spitfire! Which only makes the challenge of winning her hand more intriguing. Never mind that he has no interest in a wife. But when this secret war hero discovers the root of Verity's horrendous troubles, he realizes he must face down his greatest fears not only to save her . . . but to win her hand and her heart.
Sophia Nash’s Royal Entourage series has been described as “one part The Hangover, one part Entourage.” The Duke Diaries is the third book in the series, and the relationship between Rory, Duke of Abshire, and Lady Verity Fitzgerald, one of the five sisters of James, the Duke of Candover, is the kind that I enjoy most. The two begin with a history, but the relationship develops gradually. The reader sees Rory move by stages to a love for Verity so huge that it would have been unfathomable to him earlier.
Rory and James were once good friends, and a young Verity developed a crush on her brother’s friend. But Verity was disillusioned by something she witnessed, Rory and James became archenemies, and Rory hasn’t seen Verity, except from a distance, for fourteen years, not since she was an awkward adolescent—until he awakens to find himself in her bed the morning after the night of a bachelor party for James that stopped his wedding and is threatening the monarchy.
Confronted with a fire-breathing Candover and a sweetly sleeping bed partner, Rory is uncertain which of the premier duke’s five sisters is about to become his bride.
They all looked alike with that voluminous dark hair and aristocratic mien that matched their brother’s. Pretty was an adjective rarely used in their description—although, to be fair, Rory had always found them tolerable, far more intelligent than most, and no giggles to plague the ear.
Candover insists on a wedding (after which he intends to kill the groom), Rory accepts that marriage is the only honorable way out of the situation, but Verity refuses. She is packed off to her brother’s estate in Derbyshire where Rory, whose own estate is nearby, soon follows, only to have Verity again refuse to marry him. But Rory is discovering an appreciation for her outspokenness and her “lovely, open countenance.” As he continues to insist on marriage and Verity continues to refuse, Rory finds his polished charm deserting him and his determination to wed Verity becoming more entrenched. Persuading her to become his duchess becomes his raison d’être.
For the first time in a very long time, he had a mission. He hadn’t known he’s longed for an aim in life other than obliterating the past through every known method possible, the number one being a concerted effort to get himself killed, an endeavor that had failed miserably.
It didn’t matter that it involved winning the hand of a bride he did not want.
Finally, Verity agrees to a temporary betrothal, one she will end at the appropriate time. She explains to Rory that she refuses to marry a man who does not love her since she believes a loveless marriage means misery for both parties. In a rare moment of openness, Rory argues for a marriage rooted in friendship, an emotion he believes more enduring than love.
“Love fades. Friendship stands. If we marry, I can promise you that I would always respect you, honor you, and endeavor to make you happy.”
As Rory and Verity spend time together, they learn to trust one another. They become physically and emotionally intimate, but their vulnerability makes them retreat. Rory is unwilling to confront the changes in his feelings for Verity.
Even when they sparred or misunderstood one another, he still liked her. And after he had ferreted out what had obviously been some sort of misunderstanding, they would return to Derbyshire to resume where they had left off.
He merely had to convince Verity to truly agree to marry him—whether she liked it or not. He was actually starting to warm to the idea. If he was honest with himself, it was far more than that.
Some of Rory’s greatest insights concerning his feelings for Verity come in her absence, when he is in the company of those closest to her. It is when he is questioning Verity’s companion, whom Verity has described as the “perfect model of a lady” that he realizes the qualities he values in Verity.
Perfection held no appeal for him.
And that’s when he knew.
That’s precisely when he knew what he liked about Verity: she possessed all the important traits of a lady—true words, true actions, but confounding imperfection nonetheless.... She would never, ever bore him, and he instinctively knew she would never let him down.
A lethal combination.
Rory admits to Verity that he needs her, a powerful admission for a man who has allowed himself to need no one, but his first declaration of his love for her is made not to Verity, but to her brother James.
“I love her,” Rory said quietly.
“And I will promise to protect her, cherish her, and guard her with my life.”
It is this journey from bare recognition to the deepest commitment that makes his eventual declaration to Verity a perfect moment.
He looked down at her face, the face of the person he had come to love with every fiber of his being, and knew....
He gathered her into his arms slowly. Taking such care to hold her, so she would feel his great love for her. “V?”
“Yes?” she whispered.
“I love you.”
“I know,” she said very clearly.
The reader knows too, and even though some problems still have to be worked through, the reader trusts in their HEA from this moment. Sigh!
Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724.