I wrote this review with a heavy heart, because I was soooo looking forward to this book. The last book before this was fantastic, and the excerpt of this book was very good, which prompted me to pre-order immediately and proceeded to wait impatiently until release date. Little did I know that this book would stink so spectacularly!
When the book opens, Amarantha is a naive young woman with rose colored idea about a perfect husband. She falls in love with a clergyman, whom she believes meet all her perfect husband criteria, and she follows him to Jamaica to help with his clergyman training. While there, Amarantha meets with Gabriel (not yet a Duke at the time, but a sailor in the Royal Navy). The two meet right when a hurricane hits the area and they take cover in a cellar. This part (which is the part of the book's excerpt) was truly written well: full of witty banter, the part where they're forced to trust each other in such dire circumstance flows naturally, and it captures nicely both Amarantha's and Gabriel's characters and their attraction to each other. Their attraction grows and by the time Gabriel is about to leave for his assignment, they both agree that Amarantha needs to break her engagement with the clergyman so they can be together. Unfortunately, Amarantha receives news that Gabriel perishes while at the sea, but later finds out that he's alive but has taken another woman as his mistress instead. Brokenhearted, she then marries her clergyman, and 5 years later, he dies and she becomes a widow. She decides to return to England in search of her friend and sister in law, who leaves Jamaica without word to anyone, only to find her friend in England 9 months pregnant and ready to deliver the baby. Her friend later dies in delivery but not before mentioning the Devil Duke's name as her last word. And so Amarantha starts her journey across Scotland to find the Devil Duke and what happened to her friend before she died.
Phew! I was exhausted just typing that short synopsis because there were simply too many things going on in this book and not in a good way! There was the ongoing mystery of the Devil Duke and what happened to the disappearing women, then the mystery of what happened to Gabriel while at sea 5 years ago and why he abandoned Amarantha after promising otherwise, then there was topic about slavery in Jamaica, not to mention characters popping in and out of the book that I was having a hard time keeping track of everyone (and I read previous books in the series, mind you!). As a result, the romance suffered greatly.
There's clearly a misunderstanding over what happened 5 years ago, but all Amarantha and Gabriel do after their reunion is to circle round and round each other, but neither is willing to communicate to clear up the misunderstanding. I really, really, hate big misunderstaing that drags on and on like this. Had I known this was the main plot, I wouldn't have bought the darn book! Then, after the misunderstanding is revealed, that's it. There's no repercussion over the person who causes the Big Mis, and Amarantha continues to doubt Gabriel and asks him to prove his love for her again and again. Seriously?!
Then about 2-3 chapters before the book ends, the lamest blackmail plot is introduced out of the left field, perhaps so Amarantha can come up with an even more lame-ass plan and to be all noble and such. Bleh! By this time, I was just so done with Amarantha. I was hoping Gabriel would just cut her loose and find another woman more worthy of him, but no, the poor fool takes her back after everything.
To say I was disappointed with this book is an understatement. It appeared Ms. Ashe started the book with such ambitious goal in mind, but in the end she ended up covering too much and accomplishing nothing.