New York Times bestselling author Lorraine Heath continues her Once Upon a Dukedom series with this lush love story of a duke who discovers what he desires in a wife may not be what he needs…
Hugh Brinsley-Norton, the Duke of Kingsland, is in need of a duchess. However, restoring the dukedom—left in ruins by his father—to its former glory demands all his time, with little room for sentiment. He places an advert encouraging the single ladies of the ton to write why they should be the one chosen, and leaves it to his efficient secretary to select his future wife.
If there exists a more unpleasant task in the world than deciding who is to marry the man you love, Penelope Pettypeace certainly can’t imagine what it might be. Still, she is determined to find the perfect bride for her clueless, yet ruthlessly charming employer.
But when an anonymous note threatens to reveal truths best hidden, Kingsland has no choice but to confront the danger with Penelope at his side. Beguiled by the strong-willed, courageous beauty, he realizes he’s willing to risk everything, including his heart, to keep her safe within his arms. Could it be the duchess he’s hunting for has been in front of him all along?
I enjoyed this more than the previous book. For the first half it was pretty much perfect. I loved Kingsland and Pettypeace’s working relationship and their repressed and unacknowledged feelings for one another. I loved how he valued her as his secretary more highly than he would most men. I loved his relationships with his mother and brother. I was ready to give it a glowing 5 star review.
Then… I got to the sex scenes around the 50% mark. And… they made me cringe. They weren’t written nearly as well as the rest of the book and they went on for far too long. Now, keep in mind that I’m very picky about sex scenes (honestly I prefer a fade-to-black 99% of the time) and they are usually where my criticisms for a book can be found. But. Some are definitely worse than others. At this point I adjusted my mental rating to 2 stars. Maybe 3.
And then it got good again. Hence the 4. But there are definitely aspects that are well worth 5 stars.
Penelope Pettypeace is as clever and determined and brave as any character I’ve come across and I love her. She deserves all the good things and I love how her secret from her past is resolved. The Duke of Kingsland genuinely cares for people and I love how when he discovers Pettypeace’s tiny room in the servants quarters with its hard chair he 1) gives her a much better chamber (coincidentally near his own) and 2) buys all the servants plush wingback chairs to replace the hard wooden ones. He’s a good man. He’s done some not-so-good things (for good reasons), and he’s convinced he doesn’t have a heart, but he cares.
There was a good bit of angst for poor Pettypeace, tasked with choosing his bride when she secretly loves him, but it’s not overly much and I love how she sets about it.
Overall it’s a fun, enjoyable read and I recommend it, for the first half and last quarter if nothing else.
*Thanks to NetGalley and Avon & Harper Voyager for providing an e-arc for review.