The heir presumptive to the Viscount Rathmoor, Dominick Manton once had his heart’s desire within reach—a bright future as a barrister and engagement to Jane Vernon, a wealthy baron’s daughter. Then a shattering betrayal by his vindictive brother George snatched away Dom’s inheritance and his hopes of offering Jane a secure future. Brokenhearted, and attempting to end their engagement without destroying Jane’s reputation, Dom staged a betrayal of his own to convince her that he’s not the husband-to-be that she thought.
Now George is gone and the viscountcy restored to Dom, since his brother’s widow, Nancy—Jane’s cousin and closest confidant—never bore an heir. But when Nancy goes missing, a panicked Jane calls on her former fiancé to track down her cousin. Dom knows the mistakes of the past may be unforgiveable—but now, entangled together in mystery and danger, will they rekindle a passionate longing that was never lost to begin with?
This is the fourth and final book in Ms Jeffries’ current series, The Duke’s Men, and tells the story of Dominick Manton, second son of Viscount Rathmoor, former Bow Street Runner and spy, and now the owner of a successful firm of private investigators.
Readers were introduced to Dom in the first book (What the Duke Desires) when we learned that his older brother George disinherited him after their father’s death because Dom chose to defend the actions of his half-brother, Tristan Bonnaud. Very unusually, the older viscount’s illegitimate children and Dom were very close, but George wouldn’t have anything to do with them, holding them responsible for his mother’s untimely death giving birth to his brother.
If the Viscount Falls opens with a much younger Dom attempting to get his fiancée to jilt him following his sudden change in circumstances. He has nothing to offer her now, and can’t bear the thought of dragging her down with him; living in dingy rooms and not having enough to eat is no way for a lady to live, and Dom is adamant that she’d be better off without him.
He engineers a situation which will shock Jane and force her into breaking off their engagement, because while a lady is allowed to cry off, for a gentleman to do so would cause her ruin.
Twelve years later, George is dead (this happened at the end of the previous book, How the Scoundrel Seduces), and Dom is heir presumptive to the viscountcy, given that George died without issue. Dom is struggling to adapt to his new role when Jane Vernon, his ex-fiancée suddenly reappears back in his life, wanting to avail herself of his expertise as an investigator. George was married to Jane’s cousin, Nancy – who has disappeared, and Jane is concerned for her safety.
The story surrounding Nancy’s disappearance and the reasons behind it is very well put-together, and intriguing. Dom suspects Nancy is complicit in a deception which could ultimately defraud him; Jane is adamant she’s not capable of such a thing, and the two clash repeatedly, Jane accusing Dom of being overly suspicious, he accusing her of not being suspicious enough and of being blinkered when it comes to her cousin. Both of them have a good point – and there’s a great deal of passion underlying their many disagreements.
In the twelve years since their parting, Jane and Dom have seen each other only once – which was enough for him to admit that he never really got over her. He suspects that Jane feels the same way; except that she’s given up waiting for him to come for her and has become betrothed to another man.
It’s perhaps a little difficult to believe that Jane would have waited for twelve years before accepting another man’s proposal, and that Dom could be so instantly desperate to make her his, when he’s managed perfectly well without her for the past twelve years. But I always enjoy a good “second chance” story, so I’m prepared to give the author a free pass on that. And in all fairness, she actually does a good job of explaining Jane’s situation; after her initial fury at the fact that Dom had manipulated her into jilting him, she was dismayed to think that he didn’t trust enough in her love for him to believe that she’d be prepared to endure hardship for him as long as they were together. Over the years, she’s come to see his reluctance to expose her to what he rightly thought would be a very difficult way of life as a lack of confidence in her rather than concern for her. Most of all, however, Jane – whose father was harsh and dictatorial – bitterly resents that Dom made that decision for the both of them without even consulting her.
Setting aside the twelve-years-thing, Ms Jeffries has written a very convincing relationship between two people whose emotional baggage continually trips them up in their dealings with each other. Dom is used to doing things his own way and playing his cards close to his chest – even with his own family, whom he loves and wants to protect at all costs. But he has to learn that trust is an important part of any relationship and that he needs to open up a little and let people in. Jane needs to learn that Dom is not a carbon copy of her father – a man whose emotional cruelty towards her mother and desire to control Jane’s every action, even from beyond the grave, means that she often shoots first and asks questions later because she sees Dom’s attempts to protect her as controlling.
It’s not untrue to say that Dom is a control freak, but given his background, it’s not surprising. He’d been brought up to the life of a gentleman and had aspirations to study the law, but after being cast off by George, had to make his own way in the world from scratch. Along the way, he had to do some things he’s not proud of which have affected him profoundly, and which, being the sort of man he is, he believes are faults in him and failures that could cause his loved ones to feel differently about him – which is why he hides so much of himself from them.
Jane and Dom’s individual hang-ups mean that conflict is never far away, but the last third of the story, in which they both come to see exactly what makes the other person tick, is well done, and shows character growth. I did sometimes think that there was a little too much navel-gazing, though – I understood the first time that Jane’s father was tyrannical and domineering which accounted for her frequent over-reaction to what she perceived as Dom’s controlling tendencies – and didn’t need it explained repeatedly.
Dom, perhaps by virtue of the fact that the reader has known him for four books, is the more well-rounded character of the two, and the one to whom I was more strongly drawn. He’s a noble, honourable and sexy hero, and the sparks between him and Jane literally fly off the page.
If the Viscount Falls is one of the stronger books in this series, and I enjoyed this final outing with The Duke’s Men. If you’ve been following the series, you won’t want to miss out on Dom’s story.