Sat
Dec 27 2014 11:00am

First Look: Miranda Neville’s the Duke of Dark Desires (December 30, 2014)

The Duke of Dark desires by Miranda NevilleMiranda Neville
The Duke of Dark Desires (The Wild Quartet #4)
Avon / December 30, 2014 / $7.99 print, $4.99 digital

Rebellious Julian Fortescue never expected to inherit a dukedom, nor to find himself guardian to three young half-sisters. Now in the market for a governess, he lays eyes on Jane Grey and knows immediately she is qualified—to become his mistress. Yet the alluring woman appears impervious to him. Somehow Julian must find a way to make her succumb to temptation . . . without losing his heart and revealing the haunting mistakes of his past.

Lady Jeanne de Falleron didn't seek a position as a governess simply to fall into bed with the Duke of Denford. Under the alias of Jane Grey, she must learn which of the duke's relatives is responsible for the death of her family—and take her revenge. She certainly can't afford the distraction of her darkly irresistible employer, or the smoldering desire he ignites within her.

But as Jane discovers more clues about the villain she seeks, she's faced with a possibility more disturbing than her growing feelings for Julian: What will she do if the man she loves is also the man she's sworn to kill?

With a book that serves as the culmination of a beloved series and satisfies on so many levels—characters, plot, emotional punch—it might seem incongruous to celebrate it for its sheer wit, but such is the case with Miranda Neville’s The Duke of Dark Desires. Julian Fortescue, the ill equipped Duke of Denford, and Jane Grey, formerly Lady Jeanne de Falleron, once the cherished daughter of an aristocratic French family, have much in common. Specifically, their darkly humorous, often ironic way of looking at life, for life has been cruel to both of them and banter is their best defense.

We meet Julian as he is swept up in his mother’s plans to foist his three half-sisters upon him while she travels to America with her latest husband. Julian wonders how Mrs. Osbourne, formerly Mrs. Fortescue, can look so refreshed after traveling to London from Ireland.

“As it happens I arrived yesterday. I came only from the Pulteney Hotel this morning.”

“The arduous drive from Piccadilly must have worn you out.”

Who could forget the Pulteney Hotel, beloved of ladies who come perilously close to flouting the strictures of the Ton, like Lady Aurelia, Venetia’s mother in Georgette Heyer’s masterpiece? Julian’s mother, another selfish, manipulative doyenne, carries the day, as Julian ruefully admits to himself,

Julian had forgotten his mother’s ability to induce guilt like no one he had ever met. His resentment swelled even as his resolution weakened.

Julian and Jane are nothing if not honest with themselves, although dissembling has become second nature to them when dealing with the world. Neither of them has anyone with whom they can speak honestly and freely. But in the sanctity of their thoughts and imagination, it’s no holds barred. When Jane meets Julian for the first time, after she hands him a recommendation that she is a superior governess (“a product of her own pen”), she sees beyond his elegant appearance,

His well-tailored coat showed off shoulders broader than she’d first noticed, narrow hips, shapely calves and a grace of movement that made her mouth water. There was no reason to believe that the controlled energy he displayed was any promise of bedroom skills and stamina, but Jane was sure the Duke of Denford would make a superior lover.

And Julian is thinking along similar lines.

Julian had decided within a minute of Miss Grey’s entrance; the position was hers. Of his mistress. Such a delightful creature was wasted on his sisters when she could be in his bed. It was quite possible she could serve in both capacities but he supposed he’d better find out if she was qualified . . .

Each determined to eventually bed the other, each caught up in concupiscence, neither loses their sardonic, almost aloof way of watching the courting rituals of men and women unfold. Julian decides a nightly conference in his library to discuss his sisters’ progress will pave the way for progress on another front. Jane, surprising the Duke, accepts a glass of brandy and sips it appreciatively. It doesn’t dull her senses when she encounters his burning blue gaze, however.

She returned his stare gravely, tilting her head as though he were an interesting botanical specimen, then her lips curved into a smile.

“That’s very good, Your Grace.” Her intriguing slightly foreign accent carried a note of amusement. “Do you find those blue eyes knock the ladies over like kittle pins?”

“Sometimes. You remain distressingly upright.”

Julian and Jane communicate on so many levels, with their words of course, but below the surface of their witty ripostes as well. They speak, guardedly, of their childhoods. Jane challenges Julian’s protestation that if something is enjoyable, ergo it must be right, something along the lines of if it feels good do it.

“I only do what I want, and without a care in the world.” The latter part of the statement was a lie of immeasurable proportions.

“I don’t believe you. No one over the age of fifteen is without regrets.”

There are shoals of regrets ahead for Julian and Jane—he is at least partially complicit in the tragic fate of her parents and sisters; she is altered in almost soul-destroying ways by the choices she had to make to survive after the death of her family—but there are triumphs and personal victories to be savored as they seek to understand, and move beyond, the wreckage of their youth.

Julian and Jane are never merely master and mistress or duke and governess—it’s implicit from their first conversation that any future between them will be mutually desired. As we see.

Oh, but she would drown in those magnificent eyes. Before she could talk herself out of it, she seized his head and pulled his mouth down onto her parted lips and knew that she had never been kissed before.

The texture of his lips, his spicy taste spoiled her for any kiss, past or future. It was perfect and mind numbing and body awakening and utterly dangerous. He possessed her and she owned him back in blazing mutual exploration.

Fair warning, after reading The Duke of Dark Desires, you may be spoiled for a time for any other love story, for Julian and Jane blaze a path of pain and passion that is unusually brilliant, poignant, and unforgettable.


 

Learn more about or order a copy of The Duke of Dark Desires by Miranda Neville, available December 30:

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Janet Webb aka @janetnorcal has unpredictable opinions on books. Season ticket holder of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart. When I rediscovered the world of romance, my spirit guide was All About Romance's Desert Island Keepers — I started with the “A” authors and never looked back.

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2 comments
Kahintenn
1. Kahintenn
Finished it this morning...it is fantastic!
Janet Webb
2. JanetW
Did it make you want to go back and re-read the earlier books? It did me!
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