A compromising situation forced him into marriage. But has his wife been working for the enemy all along?
In a steam-fuelled world where vampires once ruled the aristocracy, a dangerous conspiracy threatens to topple the queen, and the Duke of Malloryn knows his nemesis has finally returned to enact his plans of revenge.
Malloryn can trust no one, and when incriminating photographs surface—of an enemy agent stealing a kiss from his wife—he is forced to question just why his wife, Adele, trapped him into marriage.
Is she an innocent pawn caught up in a madman’s games, or is she a double agent working against him?
The only way to discover the truth is to seduce her himself…
Adele Hamilton may have agreed to a loveless marriage in order to protect herself, but that doesn’t stop her heart from yearning for more.
Her husband promised her a cold marriage bed. He swore he’d never touch her. But suddenly he’s engaged in a campaign of seduction—and the only way to keep her wits about her is to fight fire with fire.
The ruthless beauty has locked her heart away, but can she deny the passion that flares between them? And when the truth emerges, will she be the only thing that can save Malloryn’s life?
Or the weapon his enemy will wield against him?
This final instalment in Bec McMaster’s London Steampunk: The Blue Blood Conspiracy series proved to be everything I was hoping for. They’ve been among the most consistently enjoyable and entertaining books I’ve read over the past couple of years, and they’ve only got better as the series has progressed, delivering fast-paced, action-packed and intricately constructed stories featuring strong, engaging characters and intense, steamy romances which deliver immensely satisfying HEAs readers can believe will last because of the strong emotional connections the author develops between all her heroes and heroines.
Dukes Are Forever sees the final showdown between the Duke of Malloryn and his arch-enemy, Lord Balfour, a confrontation that’s been brewing throughout the whole series. Readers have been there every step of the way as Malloryn and his hand-picked Company of Rogues have discovered the existence of a new, deadlier form of vampire, a virus engineered to kill blue-bloods, and a group of discontent former Echelon set on destroying London and on bringing down the Queen. Ms. McMaster has woven the threads of her story together incredibly well, taking our heroes from a position of… not quite weakness, but of knowing that their faceless enemy was always one step ahead – to one of strength as they’ve gradually put together the pieces of the puzzle, united in their determination to protect the city and the Queen, and to end Balfour, no matter what the cost to themselves.
The sense of brotherhood the author has created between the CoR – a disparate group of blue bloods, verwulfen, humans and mecs, all with specialist skills (many of them deadly) – is one of the things that has really stood out for me throughout this series. There’s never any doubt that this team has been forged in fire and that those bonds are unbreakable; they’d do anything for one another and genuinely care for each other, not that they’d ever say such a thing, showing instead how much they care and how well they know each other through their affectionate teasing and witty banter. And unlike so many series, there’s never a doubt that the Rogues dodge in and out of all the books for any reason other than that they’re necessary to the plot; there are no “just for the sake of it” cameos here!
From the beginning – and from his appearances in the earlier London Steampunk series – I’ve been intrigued by Malloryn. Handsome, coolly controlled and uber-confident (and sexy as hell!), he’s one of those heroes who keeps everything locked away and buried deep inside – not because he doesn’t feel, but because he feels deeply and is protecting himself from again experiencing the deep hurt he suffered in his youth. He’s become my favourite hero of the series (I suspected he would be – I’ve got a thing for the volcanic-fire-beneath-layers-of-ice type), and the relationship the author has built between him and the Rogues is just wonderful; they annoy him and tease the hell out of him and ground him and stop him getting too big for his boots (! – you’ll get that one once you’ve read the book!) and the moment he finally admits to himself that they’re at his side because they want to be there for him and not just because they’re duty bound is one of the real highlights of the story.
This wouldn’t be a Bec McMaster book without a steamy romance and wow, does she deliver on that score. When I first learned that Malloryn had been trapped into offering marriage to a young woman he clearly had no interest in, I thought maybe she’d remain a peripheral character, or that perhaps something would happen to prevent the match. Because we only see her through Malloryn’s eyes, we believe Adele Hamilton to be a cold, selfish schemer who was out to catch herself a powerful husband and succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. But then the author starts to drop clever hints that perhaps there’s more to it than meets the eye, and those hints are strengthened in a climactic (and seriously hot!) scene towards the end of You Only Love Twice, when Adele saves Malloryn’s life at considerable risk to her own and they show they’re not quite as indifferent to each other as they’d have others – and themselves – believe. And then during the course of this book, we learn more about what prompted Adele to act as she did; she’s not proud of it and daily feels guilty at having forced a genuinely good man into something he clearly didn’t want, but her reasons, when they are revealed fully, are completely understandable and encompass more than just herself and her own safety.
As Dukes are Forever opens, we discover Adele is being pursued by a gentleman other than her husband, a man who has links to the Rising Sons, the organisation of former Echelon who want to restore the old hierarchy wherein blue bloods ruled the roost and all the other species are kept firmly in their – much lower – stations. When presented with evidence of Adele’s association with this man, Malloryn realises he has to take steps to work out whether she’s actively working against him – not that she’s in a position to know anything about his work with the Rogues – or if she’s being duped and used as a way to get to him. This leads to the waging of a merry war between them – only this one is a war of seduction, one in which Malloryn would seem to have the upper hand… until Adele shows she knows how to fight fire with fire, and proves as adept at taking apart her husband’s icy veneer as he is at getting past her defences. The chemistry between them is hot enough to blister paint and their ultimate compatibility is reinforced by the way we’re shown how similar they are; both very guarded and self-possessed, having built up layers and layers of walls around their emotions for good reasons – and I just loved watching them stripping away those layers and becoming vulnerable to each other.
I’ve said as much about the plot as I’m going to, but if you’ve been following the series, I think you’ll already have an idea of what’s in store, and if not, then go and get a copy of Kiss of Steel and make a start – you’ve got ten excellent novels to experience! I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve spent in the London Steampunk world and while I’m going to miss it and these fabulous characters, I’m nonetheless incredibly grateful to have been on this wonderful journey. Dukes are Forever is a wonderfully rousing and eminently fitting finish to the series, and I loved every minute of it.