What woman would refuse a Duke’s kiss?
Running from a dark secret past, Isabella Masters craves peace and stability, a life far from the prying eyes of society.
She does not dream of landing a lord.
But in the arms of a stranger with magnificent eyes, she loses herself in one breath-stealing kiss— only to discover she has been misled by a reluctant Duke.
Angered but enthralled, she dares not submit . . . though her passionate heart begs her to. He cannot wed her . . . but he must not lose her.
Only one possibility remains— one too scandalous to consider . . . yet too tempting to resist.
Four years ago Isabella Masters brother was going to force her to marry a man that she did not want. The man, Foxworthy, gave her the creeps and was blackmailing the brother to boot. She ended up killing the man, retrieving the blackmail info and running for her life. Instead of the gentle life she knew she worked as a companion - but when our story begins she is working as a baby nurse for a fussy baby named Joey. Isabella is in the stable yard of a travel inn trying to get Joey to sleep when she meets a man and they begin conversing. They have a great conversation and another the next day. The man and his party – which is the Duke of Strattington’s party – seem to travel and stop at the same places (they’re all headed to London for the King’s coronation) so the pair begin meeting for a short time each night and get to know each other better as time goes on.
Eventually Isabella decides that she must seduce the man so that he can help her escape. She’s being chased but she knows not why or by whom. She assumes it’s because of Foxworthy but she really doesn’t know for sure – she just knows she needs to get away. Isabella starts her seduction but it is interrupted. She then finds out that the man she thinks of as an estate agent for the Duke is really the Duke himself.
Mark Smythe is the Duke of Strattington but he has a love/hate relationship with the Duke. He feels like he’s two people and he can’t quite mesh the two. Since becoming the Duke, which he never thought would happen in a million years, everyone has treated him differently and he’s never sure if what he’s doing or how he’s acting is the “correct” way. When he meets Isabella she treats him like a man – not a Duke. He loves talking to her because she’s honest and doesn’t try to cozy up to him or fear him because of his title. He wants to tell her the truth about his identity but he doesn’t want to give up the camaraderie that he’s built with her.
Eventually when things come to light Isabella is at a crossroads. She has no money and no where to go but the Duke is offering her a chance to become his mistress. She does care for him but she wants a home and family and a normal life, not to be someone’s plaything. She agrees but she has to head to London where she might be recognized. As time passes she realizes that she cannot stay with Mark as she feels that he is two different people and Mark doesn’t want to let her go – though he knows that he can never truly have her the way he wants her.
When the book started out I loved the verbal sparring and conversations that Mark and Isabella had. It was light and fun and though I could feel Isabella’s distress at her situation I was more aware of the playfulness of the couple when they were together. Once Isabella became Mark’s mistress the book became much more somber. Their relationship, at times, was fun and playful but the overall feel of the book was much more serious.
Isabella wanted the things that a normal woman would want at that time period – home, family, children to love and of course a loving husband. She fell in love with Mark but she wasn’t the type of woman that could be a man’s mistress and be happy. She wanted more and knew that she could never have that (with anyone) because of her past. She wasn’t honest with Mark about who exactly she was and what she had done – or the fact that men were after her. She didn’t want to cause him trouble or start a scandal but I wish she would have had enough faith in him to trust him to be able to help.
For Mark’s part he was just so conflicted. He was falling in love with Isabella (even though he wouldn’t admit that he was) and didn’t want her to leave him – but he knew that she wanted more. He wanted her to be happy but he really wanted her to be happy with him. It was a little heartbreaking. He also had no clue how to keep a mistress. He’d never done so before and was taking the advice of his valet (who was a complete ass and I wish he would have been fired during the course of the book!) which wasn’t good advice at all. I was so happy when a fellow duke pulled Mark aside and explained about being a duke. I wanted to hug that man! lol
The suspense part of the book played a role in Isabella’s decisions so I can’t say that I wish it wasn’t part of the book but it didn’t do a whole lot for me. It explained things and gave another reason for Mark to protect his woman but I didn’t love it.
There was also a part in the book that involved Annie – aka Lady Richard Tenant. She was part of the Duchesses of London series and there was some unfinished business with her and her husband. Hopefully Ms. Kent will continue that story in future books.
Overall it was a very good love story that was a bit bittersweet. I loved the hero and heroine and was quite happy when they got their HEA.
Rating: 4 out of 5