27 August 2016

If I Only Had a Duke by Leonora Bell (The Disgraceful Dukes #2)

Summary from Goodreads:
After four failed seasons and a disastrous jilting, Lady Dorothea Beaumont has had more than enough of her family’s scheming. She won’t domesticate a duke, entangle an earl, or vie for a viscount. She will quietly exit to her aunt’s Irish estate for a life of blissful freedom. Until an arrogant, sinfully handsome duke singles her out for a waltz, making Thea the most popular belle of the season.

The duke ruined her plans and he’ll just have to fix them.

Dalton, Duke of Osborne, is far too heartless for debutantes or marriage—he uses dalliances and public spectacle to distract from his real purpose: finding the man who destroyed his family. When his search leads to Ireland, the last thing he needs is the determined, achingly innocent Thea, who arrives in the dead of night demanding he escort her to her aunt. His foolish agreement may prove his undoing. The road to the Emerald Isle is fraught with unforeseen dangers, but the greatest peril of all might just be discovering that he has a heart...and he’s losing it to Thea.

At the end of the previous book in Leonora Bell's The Disgraceful Dukes series (which I have not read although it is on my Nook), Lady Dorothea Beaumont releases the hero (to whom she is affianced) so he can marry the woman he loves (Thea is literally at the altar when she finally works up the courage to defy her mother and do this).  Thus, Thea was exiled to her aunt's cottage in Ireland where she is quite happy to spend her time helping keep bees, make marmalade, and explore the Duke of Osborn's nearby property which contains a surprising and important hidden art collection.  As If I Only Had a Duke opens as Thea returns to London determined to convince Osborn to allow her to study the collection.

Dalton, as he prefers, has no intention of doing anything with his father's ill-gotten gains.  Least of all with Lady Dorothea Beaumont whose mother is on such-a-quest-from-hell-to-snare-a-duke-for-her-daughter that she [see previous book] to snare Dalton's best friend.  Which didn't work out, thankfully for both the friend and Dalton.  Besides, even if he were attracted to the girl (and he isn't, he really, really isn't) his nighttime exploits as the vigilante the Hellhound would put her in danger.  So Dalton takes his revenge - he makes Thea popular despite her pleas that she just wants to exit Society and study his art collection (not a euphemism, get your mind out of the gutter).

Thea is, understandably, pissed that Dalton has made her the center of attention.  Worse, her mother and grandmother are determined to marry her off to a horrible, lecherous man simply for the sake of a four-letter aristocratic title.  So Thea outwits Dalton and convinces him to take her to Ireland in secret.  And as with any good road-trip historical romance, things go deliciously side-ways.

Thea and Dalton have excellent chemistry together as characters.  Thea is finding her own way as a woman after years of being under constant scrutiny and criticism from her mother.  Dalton learns to trust that Thea won't condemn him for his actions.  The secondary characters of Con (Dalton's Irish manservant-cum-comrade) and Molly (an Irish teenager Thea befriended) provide a bit of comic relief.  The madcap roadtrip from London to Bristol is a delight.

However, what didn't really work for me was the Hellhound B-plot and how it worked into Dalton's past.  It did provide the impetus to get Dalton to go to Ireland, and take Thea with him, but it didn't do much for me.  In fact, the plot just rolled over with a whimper and a conclusion off the page.  For something that provided so much conflict early in the book I would have liked a bit more out of the resolution of that plot point.  But it wasn't off-putting, so I'll definitely back up to read Book 1 and look for the next book in the series.

If I Only Had a Duke is out on Tuesday, August 30!

Dear FTC: I received a DRC of this book via Edelweiss.

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