This is a delightful follow-on to One Night in London, part of The Truth About the Duke trilogy. The three deLacey brothers, sons of the late Duke of ..Show More »Durham, are trying to find a blackmailer and secure evidence to show whether their father was a bigamist. If he was, they will be considered bastards and lose virtually all of their inheritance.
What I Liked • Captain Lord Gerard deLacey. He's handsome (of course), brash, adventurous, and loyal. He's the youngest son, serving in the wars against Napoleon. Under any circumstances his fortune will be relatively small, so he's decided to be on the lookout for a rich bride while he travels to Bath to track down information on the blackmailer. When a perfectly strange wealthy woman proposes a marriage of convenience, he barely hesitates before deciding to take on the challenge.
• Kate deLacey. You can't help but feel sorry for her at first. She's hardly had an enjoyable life, despite her wealth. Her vain, narcissistic mother has convinced her she's too plain to attract a man and had married her off to a middle-aged viscount, who ignored and abused her. Now that he's dead, her mother is pressuring her to marry the viscount's odious heir, convinced that nobody better will ever come along. Kate is such a doormat that she doubts her ability to withstand her mother's pressure. The most enjoyable part of the book is watching her emerge from her shell, in response to Gerard's kindness and attention. She doesn't become a "beauty," but rather simply a beautiful person.
• Sexytimes. Gerard wants to break down Kate's defenses, and she discovers her previously unknown wanton side. Excellent love scenes.
• The love story. Kate harbors a childhood passion for Gerard, but he has no memory of meeting her. Linden does an excellent job of showing Gerard's surprise and wonder as he gradually finds himself falling in love with his wife. This is just a very sweet story.
What I Didn't Like • Not a lot of progress is made toward resolving the mystery, but after the first book, I came to realize that it wouldn't be wrapped up until the third.
• As a 21st century woman, I often have trouble understanding an 19th century woman's desperation to get married. Linden mentions several times that a widow was almost as independent as a man, so it was difficult to see why Kate thought marriage, or death, was her only way to avoid the odious heir. It was hard to believe that she was so cowed by her mother. She was so spineless in this regard, but yet showed great spirit elsewhere.
These two volumes of The Truth About the Duke were my first Caroline Linden reads, and I find her writing crisp and witty. She does not indulge in one of my pet peeves, namely using an abundance of one-word sentences and one-sentence paragraphs. It's a pleasure to read someone who knows and uses the English language so well.
Gildart Jackson does a quite good job as narrator. His male voices are wonderful, but his ladies are a bit too falsetto for me.
Five plus stars! Caroline Linden has pulled off a hat trick – all three volumes of The Truth About the Duke series are first rate.
The series..Show More » revolves around the de Lacey brothers – Charlie, the indolent, rakish heir; Edward, the dutiful, serious-minded son; and Gerard, the devil-may-care veteran of the Napoleonic wars. Their father, the Duke of Durham, has left a death-bed confession detailing his youthful marriage to an actress, which means that the duke’s marriage to the brothers’ mother may have been bigamous and that the brothers are in fact penniless bastards. A blackmailer was plaguing the duke with anonymous letters in the year before his death, and the mystery running through the series involves their efforts to find out the truth about the duke. Edward first takes charge, as he always has, and hires lawyers to investigate the facts and fight it out before Parliament (One Night in London). Gerard (Blame It on Bath) gallops off to find and kill the blackmailer. Along the way, they meet and marry their wives, settling down in domestic bliss and leaving Charlie to finally solve the mystery and claim his title.
I must pause here to compliment the author on her masterful first chapter of this book. She tells the entire backstory, as well as the moving story of Charlie’s growing up, in this chapter, and it is brilliantly done. Too often, a series author starts out with an info dump designed to catch up the reader who may not have read the earlier volumes. At the other extreme, there is a paucity of information, which leaves the frustrated reader wondering “who?” or “what?” Ms. Linden avoids both extremes here, and by the end of the first chapter the reader is fully engaged in the story. (As a result, this book works very well as a stand alone, but the entire series is so delightful that I recommend reading it in order.)
Left with no other option, Charlie sobers up and reluctantly sets out to find and confront the blackmailer. He’s not too optimistic, though, as he’s never really accomplished anything worthwhile. Mainly he’s devoted himself to living up to his father’s opinion of him as a worthless fribble.
Charlie’s pursuit takes him to the York Hotel in Bath, where he accidentally learns that Tessa Neville, a fellow guest, is somehow connected to Hiram Scott, the suspected blackmailer. A suspicious Charlie uses his considerable charm to inveigle Tessa’s elderly companion and thereby meet Tessa. Tessa has no use for Charlie; she views him as just another arrogant, useless, pampered aristocrat. Tessa, a widow in her late twenties, is an unusual woman, who applies her common sense and business acumen to managing her viscount brother’s affairs. She has come to Bath to investigate a proposed canal, run by Hiram Scott, in which her brother is considering investing, and she has no time or inclination to become captivated by Charlie. He, on the other hand, becomes captivated by her, even as he remains wary that she may somehow be involved in the blackmail scheme.
Charlie follows Tessa to the village of Frome, where he feigns an interest in the canal in order to meet Hiram Scott. Gradually, Charlie and Tessa become friends, then allies, and finally lovers. But all does not go smoothly, and both Charlie and Tessa must weather some rough patches before finding their HEA. Charlie learns that he needs a woman like Tessa, who will stand by him and bring out the best in him, and Tessa needs a confident man like Charlie who will respect her intelligence and let her make the most of her talents. Theirs is a wonderful, romantic partnership.
Does Charlie find the answers he needs to retain his title? I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that Ms. Linden devises a clever, believable series of twists that satisfactorily resolve the mystery.
I have only two criticisms. The first third or so of this book drags on a bit too long. I became quite impatient for something to happen by the time Charlie and Tessa got to Frome. Second, after a few days in Frome, Tessa does something so unexpected and shocking that my jaw literally dropped. There is simply no explanation for her behavior, no interior monologue that would have explained her motivation for such a rash and uncharacteristic act. These are mere bumps along the way, however, and I still give this book a five-star rating.