Sloane Knox, the Duke of Hawksthorn is guardian for his sweet, younger sister. Due to his misguided past as one of the infamous Rakes of St James, Hawk is hoping to avoid the Season by securing a match for her before it begins. He has the perfect gentleman in mind, but for one infuriating—and unexpectedly intoxicating—obstacle: the intended groom’s own sister, Miss Loretta Quick.
Having narrowly avoided her own arranged marriage to an unacceptable nobleman, Loretta is determined that her dear brother—a gentle, good-natured soul—should marry for love. Matching wits with Hawk may be her greatest challenge yet. . .until she realizes it may also be her greatest pleasure. For the young duke’s irresistible charm has not only begun to crumble her stubborn resolve, it has claimed her heart in true love as well…
To the Duke, With Love is the second book in Amelia Grey’s Rakes of St. James series and is both my first – and probably last – book by this author. This is wallpaper historical romance by numbers, and I suppose the alarm bells should really have started ringing when I realised that the hero – who is an English duke – is named Sloane. Which is such a common name for an English gentleman of the nineteenth century. (Not.)
So, here’s what we’ve got. Sloane Knox, the Duke of Hawksthorn, wants to arrange a suitable match for his younger sister Adele before she makes her début, because a decade ago, he and two of his friends played a prank on that year’s crop of debutantes and now he fears someone will use Adele in order to exact retribution. Hawk believes he has found the perfect mate for Adele in one Mr. Paxton Quick, a young, handsome and good-natured gentleman who lives … somewhere unspecified but far from London with his older sister, Loretta. Hawk has reached this conclusion because he has never seen Quick:
“… too deep in his cups, and he never gambles more than a handful of DOLLARS at the table.”
Well, I’m not surprised at that last bit, because how could he? Last time I checked, in England we use ENGLISH currency, strange as that may seem.
Hawk travels to Mammoth House in… some remote location, in order to discuss the match with Quick, only to discover that he is from home, and finds himself confronting the rather scrumptious, somewhat challenging Miss Quick instead. And so begins the mental lusting. At the ONE PERCENT mark on my Kindle:
She looked pure, sweet, and completely untouched by masculine hands. A sudden, deep rush of desire flamed through him, and the rhythm of his heartbeat changed.
By the end of the first chapter Hawk:
… wanted her with an intensity that he hadn’t felt in a very long time.
And in the next, we’re told our heroine is all a quiver because she:
… still wasn’t sure what to make of the new, startling, and unexplained feelings that had swept over her at the sight of him. She wasn’t out of breath, yet she was breathless. She wasn’t dizzy, yet she felt light-headed. She wasn’t hungry, yet looking at him caused a ravenous appetite to rise up within her.”
For god’s sake, someone get the woman a sandwich!
In a nutshell, the plot revolves around the fact that Loretta doesn’t want her brother to be forced or coerced into a marriage against his will, as almost happened to her when their uncle and guardian arranged for her to marry someone she didn’t love. Said uncle, the Earl of Switchingham, was – not surprisingly – somewhat miffed when Loretta didn’t turn up at the wedding, and banished her to the somewhat ramshackle Mammoth House in the back of beyond – but not before he’d forced her to make a holy vow – in church – never to marry. The banishment wasn’t extended to her brother, although he loyally opted to make his home with Loretta, but Quick travels to London frequently – which is how Hawk knows him – and Loretta lives quietly, accepting her exclusion from society even as she regrets missing out on the sort of life she could – and should – have had.
That is basically it. Hawk and Loretta butt heads (and other body parts, eventually) in a lot of exchanges that are lacking in either humour or wit, and there is hardly any chemistry between them whatsoever. She’s beautiful and stands up to him, he’s handsome and likes that she challenges him and they each fancy what they see, but there’s nothing beyond the insta-lust, and I couldn’t understand what either of them saw in the other beyond outward appearances. And then there’s the dialogue in the love scenes, which made me cringe:
On sweeping Loretta into his arms (in chapter four, no less) Hawk asks her of her former suitor:
“Did he hold you possessively like this and make you feel as if you were someone too precious to let go?”
“Did his lips hover longingly just above yours as mine are now, just waiting for you to invite him to take a taste of you?”
Did I just laugh my head off at such terrible pick-up lines?
The author attempts to inject some drama into the story by means of a sub-plot featuring a boy from the streets named Farley, whom we first meet when he knocks at the door of Loretta’s house begging for scraps – but quite honestly, I’m not sure what the point of it was, unless it was to show that lepoards rarely change their spots. And I almost hurt my head with all the eyerolling at Loretta’s insistence on keeping to her vow of chastity – and later the manner in which Hawk comes up with a way round it so they can get married and live happily ever after. Paxton is bland, Adele is a ninny… and the whole book was an utter slog from start to finish.
Readers, here’s something to YOU, with love. If you want an entertaining read, take my word for it when I tell you that this isn’t it. There are plenty of GOOD books out there for you to read, and I humbly suggest you pick up one of those instead.