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Duke of My Heart

(Season for Scandal, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1819)

Cover Blurb:

Scandal can be handled…

Captain Maximus Harcourt, the unconventional tenth Duke of Alderidge, can deal with tropical storms, raging seas, and the fiercest of pirates. But he’s returned home from his latest voyage to find a naked earl—quite inconveniently deceased—tied to his missing sister’s bed. And he has only one place to turn. Now he’s at the mercy of the captivating Miss Ivory Moore of Chegarre & Associates, known throughout London for smoothing over the most dire of scandals.

Miss Moore treats the crisis as though it were no more serious than a cup of spilt tea on an expensive rug. As though this sort of thing happened on the job every day. Max has never in all his life met a woman with such nerve. Her dark eyes are too wide, her mouth is too full, her cheekbones too sharp. Yet together, she’s somehow…flawless. It’s just like his love for her, imperfect, unexpected—yet absolutely true.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I loved A Duke to Remember, the second book in Kelly Bowen’s Season for Scandal series, and knew I wanted to read the rest of the series. Ivory Moore and her husband, Maximus Harcourt, Duke of Alderidge, were important secondary characters in that book and Duke of My Heart is the story of how they met and fell in love.

Ivory Moore has a secret past that only a few trusted associates are privy to. Using only her wits and resourcefulness, she has forged a new, independent life as owner of Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. Ivory prides herself on being very good at her job, provided she is in full charge of whatever needs to be done. However, a certain Duke of Alderidge seems determined to make her latest job difficult, with his heavy-handed manner.

The duke swung around to face her again, those ice-grey eyes impaling her as if she were somehow responsible for this debacle.

Maximus (Max) Harcourt is a captain first and a duke second. With two older brothers, his parents had always made it plain that he wasn’t needed and must make his own way in life, ensuring he brought no hint of scandal to the family name. Going to sea at the age of thirteen, he built a life for himself, one he is unwilling to give up. Since inheriting the title on the death his brothers a decade ago, he has spent most of his time captaining his fleet of trade ships, leaving his estate in the competent hands of his stewards, secretaries and solicitors. However, having returned home for a short visit, he does not expect to find his sister missing without trace, a dead earl’s body tied to her bed and a strange woman giving him orders!

He’d never in all his life met a woman with such nerve.

Max is used to commanding his men and being obeyed without question but the cool, calm and collected Ivory is not one to be daunted by this overbearing man. They are bound to clash and clash they do in a scene full of spirited dialogue.

The duke’s expression was positively glacial. “I give the orders here, Miss Moore, not you. Don’t presume that I will ever follow your lead.”
Irritation surged. “Take a look around you, Your Grace. Do you see a crew of sailors anxiously awaiting your direction?” She put emphasis on the last two words. “This is not your world. This is mine.”
“Get out of my house,” the duke said, his voice as sharp as cut glass. “Now.”

Of course, Max is forced to back down because he realises this is a problem he is not qualified to solve and must put his faith in Ivory Moore’s methods. Naturally, any reader of historical romance will know that behind these heated exchanges is an equally heated attraction between the hero and heroine.

Good heavens. She hadn’t had this sort of visceral reaction to a man in a very, very long time, and she wasn’t pleased. Desire was a distraction, and distractions were perilous.

No man with a pulse and eyes in his head would overlook her. She evoked images of dark nights and secret desires—

As they work together to solve the mysterious disappearance of Max’s sister, they come to know each other better. Max appreciates that Ivory is intelligent, clever, practical, logical, resourceful and fearless. Ivory is aware that Max can be hard-headed, arrogant, stubborn and controlling, but she has also seen his gentleness, kindness and deep love and concern for his sister. She senses that he is a man she could trust with her secrets.

They are so consumed with thoughts of each other that Ivory becomes distracted from the job she is supposed to be doing and misses an important clue, and Max feels guilty for pursuing his own selfish pleasures, when he should be doing everything he can to make sure his sister is safe.

I love how Ms. Bowen builds the sexual tension between these two with heated kisses, longing and unfulfilled desire creating a delicious feeling of anticipation. I love the scene in Max’s cabin where they share their innermost thoughts and secrets which creates a wonderful sense of trust and intimacy between them.

She had entrusted him with a gift. A piece of her past. A piece of who she was. That single gift was the most valuable thing any woman had ever given him. Ever.

Later in the story when they finally make love, it just feels right. The love scene is beautifully done – tender, romantic and sensual, but also revealing the raw desire they feel for each other.

I admire Ivory for the sacrifice she is willing to make for Max and his family, but I could also sense how vulnerable and alone she feels…

It was this that she hated. This bleak feeling of exposed vulnerability that reduced her to a thirteen-year-old girl who had learned hard lessons about how one survived when one started with nothing.

I love Max for being her knight-errant…

“You shouldn’t have to be fine, Ivory. You should be free. Protected from things that you survived once and that you shouldn’t have to survive again.” He brushed his lips across her forehead. “I want to do that for you.”

and for being willing to make his own sacrifice for the woman he loves…

“I am willing to try to be a duke. And the brother that Beatrice deserves. But I can’t do that if I don’t have somewhere I belong. And I belong with you.”

Some of the secondary characters, like part-time actress, Elise DeVries, and her brother, Alex, owner of London’s most exclusive gaming hell, are familiar from reading A Duke to Remember, as is the dangerously unpredictable King. However, having read book 2 first, King’s actions in that book gave me a different opinion of him and I believe that perhaps redemption is possible and I hope Ms. Bowen is considering writing his story. I was also intrigued by the roguish smuggler, Captain Black, who I feel is also deserving of his own book.

The mystery element provided some intriguing twists and turns and I never felt my interest waning. It wasn’t until near the end that I figured out the villain’s identity and was happy to see him get a fitting punishment thanks to Captain Black.

MY VERDICT: A captivating story, multi-layered characters and a passionate love story make this a book one I can definitely recommend.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

 Season for Scandal series (click on the book covers for more details):

Duke of My Heart (Season for Scandal, #1) by Kelly Bowen A Duke to Remember (Season for Scandal, #2) by Kelly Bowen Between the Devil and the Duke (Season for Scandal, #3) by Kelly Bowen

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kelly-bowen

I’m delighted to welcome Historical Romance Author KELLY BOWEN to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

Thanks so much for having me!

~~~~~~~

R&R:
Could you tell us where you were born and what it was like growing up there?

Kelly:
I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  It was pretty amazing growing up here (I might be biased, but I can live with that!)  I am a huge fan of the outdoors and we have some incredible untouched wilderness that surrounds us.  My childhood summers (and now my children’s!) was full of back-country canoe trips, camping, fishing, and hiking (on foot or with horses). We also have a lot of ice and snow in the winter which we take full advantage of – skiing, ice-fishing, hockey, tobogganing.  I think I probably spent all of my childhood happily outside!
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R&R:
How would you describe yourself – temperamental or easy-going?

Kelly:
I think most people would describe me as easy going.  I very much try to look at the positive side of everything.  My experience in athletics and work has taught me that when things go sideways, it’s much more effective to look for a solution than for someone to blame!

R&R:
When it comes to food do you like sweet or savoury or both?

Kelly:
Both.  Impossible (and downright cruel) to make a girl choose between jellybeans and All-Dressed chips.  Or dark chocolate and nachos.



R&R:

What is your most treasured possession?

Kelly:
I’m more of a doer than a haver, but my most treasured possession at the moment is probably the camping trailer we keep out in the Lake of the Woods area in North-Western Ontario.  Our family tries to spend as much time out there in the summer and the memories that that little camper has helped our family and friends make are priceless.

 

R&R:
If you could afford a second home anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?

Kelly:
All I know is that it would have palm trees and an ocean.  One of my most favourite things to do in the world is dive, which it ironic if you consider that I live about as geographically far away from an ocean that you can get (I don’t include Hudson’s Bay!)  I’ve been lucky enough to travel to places including Fiji, Hawaii, Mexico, Cuba, and Jamaica, and they are all breathtakingly beautiful.  And I spend as much time on and in the water as I can – it’s like a whole other world under the surface.
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R&R:
Finally, what has been your most embarrassing moment?

Kelly:
Hard to choose just one, though embarrassing usually turns into hilarious. I was travelling to a wedding and I tried to check in for a flight a day early.  Unfortunately, the ticket agent had JUST been given her pink slip (they were downsizing), so she went about very loudly and very publically making a scene about how stupid could a person be to not notice that they were booked on the same flight the following day.  By this time everyone was gawking and her manager had come out of the back and was dragging her away from the ticket counter while she continued to yell insults at me and everyone around her.  But like any good author, I whipped out my notebook and made notes.  You just can’t make this stuff up – I’ll use it in a book yet…. 🙂

~~~~~~~

Thank you for taking time out to be here today and sharing these interesting facts about yourself, Kelly.

Thank you so much for having me. It was my pleasure!

 

If you would like to find out more about Kelly and her books, here are the links:

Website
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter

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a-duke-to-remember

 (Season for Scandal, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1819)

Cover Blurb:

Love takes the stage…

Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.

Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He’s managed to avoid any complications or entanglements—that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there’s more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity—and her true feelings for him—the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the second novel in Kelly Bowen’s latest Season of Scandal series and, although I have not read the first book, I don’t think this adversely affected my enjoyment of A Duke to Remember. It definitely made me want to read the other books in the series.

The whole idea of Chegarre & Associates, a firm who provide effective solutions to scandals involving members of the ton, struck me as being original and I love the fact that two of the three partners in the business are women who do not conform to the normal roles expected of them.

Strong, confident, perceptive and smart, Elise once served as a tracker for the British Army and is handy with both a knife and a gun, proficiencies she demonstrates later in the book. Her part-time work as an actress enables her to adopt different disguises, useful in her work for Chegarre & Associates, whether she is posing as a moustached, bespectacled doctor or an exotic, masked French countess. Elise has been playing so many roles in her job and in the theatre that she doesn’t really know who she is anymore and I think this insecurity gives her an element of vulnerability making her seem more human.

Between this job and her work as a part-time actress at the Theatre Royal, she barely recognized herself anymore at any given moment. Every day brought a new role and a new deception to play out.

I can understand Noah’s feelings towards his parents He can never forgive the two people who should have loved and cared for him, but chose to abandon him to a hellish existence because he wasn’t perfect (the official blurb is very misleading because he did not leave the glamour of London society). I admire the way he reinvented himself and found a measure of happiness as a simple farmer and never wants to return to the world he was born into.

“I do not have a responsibility to anything,” he growled. “Not to my father, not to my mother. Not to Ashland’s piles of properties and strings of titles and coffers of money.”

Noah is kind, intelligent and sensitive and I could see how much he cares for and is protective of his sister Abigail, who had always championed and defended him. Their reunion scene really tugged at my heartstrings. In contrast, his years on the streets of London have taught him how to take care of himself and that street fighter comes into his own when danger threatens Elise.

I just loved everything about the romance – the heated attraction between them; the witty dialogue (I love how they steal each other’s lines); Noah’s tendency to blush; the way my heart gave a little flip when Noah gives Elise the rose; the raw, passionate love scene; the heartbreak and the joy. Ms Bowen writes with an emotional intensity which pulled me into the story and refused to let go.

 A melding of hearts and souls – I think this quote perfectly describes the connection between Elise and Noah. I love how Elise makes Noah believe that he can be anything he wants to be and gives him the strength and courage to take up his true position in society.

She believed in him. Even knowing everything that she did, she believed in him. More than he had ever believed in himself.

I love how Noah sees the real Elise.

“I see you, Elise DeVries. No matter what clothes you might wear or what mask you might assume, I see your courageous heart and I see your beautiful mind. I see your compassion and your hope, your resilience and your strength. If you do not know who you are, know that I do.”

I found so many of the secondary characters intriguing, among them:

  • Elise’s brother Alex who is a partner in Chegarre & Associates but also owns one of the most exclusive gaming hells in London frequented by some of the most influential and infamous members of the ton. These elite gamblers not only part with their money but also their secrets. (his book, Between the Devil and the Duke, is already on my must-read list).
  • Ivory Moore, founder of Chegarre & Associates, and her husband, the Duke of Alderidge (I bought their book, Duke of My Heart as soon as I had finished reading this one), who cleverly assist in establishing Noah’s credentials as the true Duke of Ashland. I love the scene at the solicitors where Noah and the duke pretend to be old friends – by the time the scene ended, they had me believing every word!
  • The mysterious King, described as a man as dangerous and as unpredictable as a pit viper. We learn some intriguing details about him during the course of the story including his connection to Noah, all of which made me hope the Ms Bowen has a book in the pipeline for him.

Francis Ellery is a self-serving villain through and through…a liar, a cheat and a gambler with heavy debts, who will stop at nothing to steal the Ashland title and wealth.

I like the warm-hearted Mrs Pritchard, Noah’s housekeeper, and I have a soft spot for animals in romances. Noah has a dog called Square and if you are thinking that’s a strange name for a dog, then you will have to read the book to discover why he’s so called.

MY VERDICT: This is a wonderful blend of an engaging story, well-drawn characters and delicious sexual tension. Highly recommended.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read September 2016

 

Season of Scandal series (click on the book cover for more details):

Duke of My Heart (Season for Scandal, #1) by Kelly Bowen A Duke to Remember (Season for Scandal, #2) by Kelly Bowen Between the Devil and the Duke (Season for Scandal, #3) by Kelly Bowen

 

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