When the Duke was Wicked
Avon / February 25, 2014 / $7.99 print / $6.64 digital
Lady Grace Mabry’s ample inheritance has made it impossible for her to tell whether a suitor is in love with her - or enamored of her riches. Who better to distinguish beau from blackguard than her notorious childhood friend, the Duke of Lovingdon?
With no interest in marriage, Lovingdon has long lived only for pleasure. He sees little harm in helping Grace find a proper match. After all, he’s familiar with all the ploys a scoundrel uses to gain a woman’s favor. He simply has to teach the lovely innocent how to distinguish honest emotions from false ones. How better than by demonstrating his wicked ways. But as lessons lead to torrid passion and Grace becomes ensnared in another man’s marriage plot, Lovingdon must wage a desperate gamble: Open his heart fully - or risk losing the woman he adores…
Grace and Lovingdon have been friends since childhood and she once harbored a girlish passion for him. But she is all grown up now and is saddened by the transformation of her friend. Lovingdon changed after his wife and daughter died of typhus; he withdrew from good society and has spent the last two years wallowing in drink, gambling and low women.
Grace is a great heiress and is inundated with suitors, but how can she tell which of them will love her for herself? She enlists the help of Lovingdon in sorting out the men, knowing that he will be able to spot the ones who care more for her money than for herself. She also hopes that aiding her will drag him back into the world and, who knows, maybe he could learn to love her? But it is not going to be easy.
“I fell in love with Juliette the moment I set eyes on her.”
He stepped back as though he needed to distance himself from the memory.
“She wouldn't want you to be alone,” she said.
He grinned, the cocky yet sad smile that had become such a part of him. “I'm hardly alone.”
“Love, then. She wouldn't want you to go without love.” “Love is rare. There are those who never know it, but having known it” - he shook his head - “I have no desire to know it again. I could never love anyone as I loved her.”
Once he begins to take a really good look at Grace's suitors, he finds that he is quite put out with them. All of them.
Before he even knew what he was about, Lovingdon grabbed Vexley's lapels and jerked him forward. The man's eyes grew so wide that the whites were clearly visible, even in the dimly lit gardens. “Seek your wife elsewhere. Grace is not for you.” …
Dammit all! When he thought of any man touching Grace, his blood fairly began to boil. He didn't want to assist her in her quest for a husband, but how could he live with himself if she ended up unhappily wed? …
None of them was good enough for her.
But who was? There had to be someone with whom he wouldn't find fault, someone who would love her as she deserved to be loved. But for the life of him, he could think of no one.
He's starting to look outward again, and it takes him by surprise, though he is kind of dense as to just why.
He felt as though he'd been wandering through a fog and sunshine was beginning to burn it away. Although he didn't have a clue regarding what had caused the sun to appear.
But he is a man who has suffered terribly, and finally facing and dealing with his grief will not be easy.
“Juliette never struck me as demanding.”
“She demanded that I not let her and Margaret die.”
With that admission, her stomach fairly fell to the floor. She realized there was more to his change in character than loss. There was the burden of guilt, horrible guilt. It was a wonder he managed to get out of bed at all with the weight of it. “Oh, Lovingdon, do you not see? You could not have stopped their deaths. You're not God.”
“I brought the typhus to them.” …
She held him, listening to his harsh breathing, willing him to unleash the tears that she was certain he had been holding at bay ever since his wife and daughter died. She understood now the burden he carried, the life he led, the reasons behind his determination not to love again. Within her breast she wept for him, but she knew if he were aware of the secret tears she shed, he would distance himself further. He was too proud to welcome her sympathy. He was lost in guilt, grief, and remorse, and she didn't know how to convince him that he was forgiven.
In many ways, When the Duke was Wicked is your standard rake-helps-gal-pal-find-husband-only-to-fall-for-her-himself romance, but it is Lovingdon's journey from devastating loss and isolation to life and new love that is the real story here.
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Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com.