(The Dukes’ Club, #4)
Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)
A Lady Who Vows Never to Wed:
Lady Allegra Portmund knows the cost of marriage. After the death of her dearest and only sister, Allegra swears she will never suffer the same fate. She will not become a possession shaped and destroyed by a husband. So, when her parents insist she marry the man of their choosing, there is only one thing for Allegra to do. Run. But when she runs, determined to be free, she meets the Duke of Roth, a singular man who sees her unique and vital spirit. Now that her heart is awakened to the most dangerous longings for love, how will she resist the temptation to break her vow?
A Duke Ruled by Honor:
Nicholas Andrew Edward Forth, Duke of Roth, values family above everything else. Despite his wild reputation, having lost both of his parents when he was a child, his most secret wish is to have a family again. When he meets a young lady in disguise, Nicholas quickly realizes that she is unlike any woman he’s ever met and is also the only woman for him. But when he discovers how quickly she has abandoned her own family, he doubts whether she is the exceptional woman he believed her to be. Now, that he knows the truth about Allegra’s past, will his own sense of honor destroy his only chance at happiness?
This is the third book in Eva Devon’s entertaining The Dukes’ Club series and, once again, I enjoyed her engaging writing, lively characterisation and great dialogue.
Growing up, Lady Allegra Penthurst and her older sister, Juliana, are fully aware of Society’s expectations that they should marry well. They become accomplished in singing, dancing and playing the piano. However, they are somewhat unconventional because…
they also raced horses, read too many books, and had decided views on slavery and the rights of man.
Allegra is initially jealous when Juliana marries but, as she watches her once spirited sister slowly crushed beneath the conventionality of marriage to a man who considers a woman’s role to be bearing children and running a household, Allegra resolves that marriage is not for her. It’s a decision only strengthened when her sister dies in childbirth while her husband is at his club. She vows then that she will never succumb to her sister’s fate. Three years later, when her parents insist she marry or be forced to spend the rest of her days at the secluded family estate in the far north of England, she takes the only course of action open to her and runs away. Disguising herself as a young lad, she finds employment as a stable boy on the Duke of Roth’s estate in the Devonshire countryside. But under the ever watchful eyes of the duke, how long will it be before her secret in uncovered?
I could understand how seeing what happened to her sister would colour Allegra’s views on marriage and instill in her a desire to be herself and live unfettered by Society’s expectations. She is intelligent, bold and stubborn with a love of horses and talking politics but her parents are self-serving, not caring at all for their daughter’s wishes, only what advantages a good marriage could confer on them.
Nicholas Forth, The Duke of Roth, only wishes his loving parents were still alive. He had lost them both in a terrible carriage accident when he was just a boy. They were his anchor in a world of uncertainty and, since their death, he has always felt adrift and alone. He has built an impenetrable wall around himself, never letting anyone touch him emotionally. He longs for the security he felt as a boy and has even contemplated marriage but has no desire for a typical ton marriage; he wants the sort of love his parents had shared. However, his life is about to take an unexpected turn when he meets the rather perplexing new stable boy.
Of course, Nicholas sees right through Allegra’s disguise but chooses to have a little fun first before admitting he knows the truth. This leads to some amusing situations which had me smiling.
“Alfred?” he said.
“Your Grace?” came her muffled reply, nearly bent halfway into the chest.
“What the Devil are you doing?” he drawled.
An impatient and audible sigh came from the trunk. “Looking for your smalls.”
“I don’t wear them.”
I enjoyed the steady development of the romance. At first, Allegra finds Nicholas arrogant, but fascinating and compelling but gradually she discovers he is kind, honourable and protective of those he cares for. Nicholas is totally disarmed by Allegra and finds he likes her and I enjoyed seeing the walls Nicholas has erected gradually crumbling as he falls under her spell. When they finally make love, it just seems right and I love Allegra’s boldness.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to transpire. He had no idea why, but he’d assumed she would be nervous and need him to ease her fears. Instead, she was beckoning him to bed.
He loved it. God, how he loved it.
Of course, Allegra’s actions have consequences. When Nicholas discovers that she ran away without telling her parents, he is furious and says some pretty hurtful things. In his eyes, what she did to her parents is unforgivable but, of course, his view is coloured by the loss of his own loving parents.
“I would give anything, anything for one more moment with my parents. Anything for a touch, a glimpse, a word. And you have thrown your parents away.”
It takes his friend, the Duke of Aston, to make Nicholas realise just how wrong his judgement of Allegra is and I love his confrontation with her self-serving father and his determination to protect her. I have to admit that I became frustrated by Allegra’s constant fears of losing her independence after marrying Nicholas, but he understands her so well and I love everything he does to allay those fears. It was satisfying to see Allegra come to realise what truly matters.
She had thought it so important that she have the trappings of freedom. But here, in this room, watched by hundreds of Londoners, her hands in Nicholas’, she knew that the world and its laws matter not a wit. The only things that mattered were their love for each other and their mutual respect.
As with the other books, there is a colourful cast of secondary characters to aide Allegra and Nicholas on their journey to a happy ever after. I absolutely adore the notorious and vain Duke of Aston and the repartee between him and Nicholas is so funny. The heroines from the previous books, Kathryn, Cordelia and Imogen make a welcome appearance when Nicholas thinks Allegra needs intelligent, independent, female friends to help her navigate the strange waters of the ton.
I like how Ms Devon introduces real historical figures into the story. Nicholas likens Allegra to Aphra Behn, a 17th century British playwright, poet, translator and fiction writer, and Allegra converses with Mrs Wollstonecraft in Hatchards bookshop and again later in the story.
Those readers who, like me, have a fondness for a charming Epilogue won’t be disappointed.
MY VERDICT: Another enjoyable addition to this delightful series!
REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: WARM
Read April 2016
The Dukes’ Clubs series (click on the book covers for more details):
** My thanks to Eva Devon for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.