The Forbidden Duke (The Untouchables #1) by Darcy Burke (audiobook) – Narrated by Marian Hussey

Spinster Miss Eleanor Lockhart is suddenly homeless and employment is her only option. Ruined after succumbing to a scoundrel’s excessive charm nearly a decade ago, she’s lucky to obtain a position as a paid companion and committed to behaving with the utmost propriety. She definitely shouldn’t be in the arms of a man capable of utterly destroying what little remains of her reputation…

Titus St. John, Duke of Kendal, is known as the Forbidden Duke, a mysterious, intimidating figure who enters Society just once each year at his stepmother’s ball. A decade ago, he was a devil-may-care rake until his idle roguery brought about the ruin of Eleanor Lockhart—and his resulting self-imposed isolation. Now she’s back, and she needs his help. But by “saving” her, he may just ruin her life all over again.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – C+

The Forbidden Duke is the first book in Darcy Burke’s The Untouchables series, so named because the heroes are all men whose highly elevated positions in society make them unattainable by any but ladies of the highest station and put them most definitely beyond the reach of the heroines… supposedly.

I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of the later books in the series, so when this one popped up at Audible, I thought I’d give it a go; I haven’t read it and narrator Marian Hussey is always reliable.

Eleanor – Nora – Lockhart is twenty-seven and regards herself as being firmly on the shelf. During her second London Season several years earlier, she was found in the arms of a young man she erroneously believed was going to marry her and was forced to return home, her reputation in tatters. She has lived quietly with her father ever since, but now faces the prospect of becoming homeless due to his having lost a large sum of money in a poorly judged investment. They will have to sell their modest home, and while her father is going to go to live with his sister, there is no room for Nora and she has no other option but to seek employment. Fortunately for her, she lands well and truly on her feet first time out, securing a position as companion to the kindly Lady Sattersfield, who is willing to overlook Nora’s past and ruined reputation and give her a second chance.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

The Duke of Desire (The Untouchables #4) by Darcy Burke

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Ten years ago Ivy Breckenridge’s life was ruined. She had to reinvent herself, and now, after painstakingly making her own way in the world, she’s nearly forgotten the dreams of home and family she’d once nurtured. Until one man peers into her soul and awakens every one of her hidden desires. But no matter how good he makes her feel, she can’t trust him—alone by choice is better than alone by necessity.

With a notorious reputation for training married women in the art of passion, Sebastian Westgate, Duke of Clare, is reviled by some and celebrated by others. He doesn’t allow anyone close enough to see past his charming exterior. When Ivy uncovers the man beneath, the seducer is suddenly the seduced. Enraptured by her mind and spirit, he wants more but revealing his darkest secrets is a price he won’t pay.

Rating: B+

The Duke of Desire, the fourth book in Darcy Burke’s series, The Untouchables, is quite possibly my favourite of them all so far. I will admit that when I read the blurb, I was doubtful. After all, the idea that the eponymous duke is a kind of Regency Era sex-therapist who helps couples to liven up their love lives by sleeping with the wives and helping them to learn to find and give pleasure – is certainly most unusual, not to mention unlikely. But bear with me; the ability to suspend your disbelief on that point will pay dividends, because said duke turned out to be one of the most charming, well-balanced and thoroughly adorable heroes I’ve read about in a while.

Sebastian Westgate, Duke of Clare – known as West to his friends – has such a notorious reputation as a seducer of married women that he has been nicknamed ‘The Duke of Desire’ by lady’s companion, Ivy Breckenridge and her friends Lucy and Aquilla (heroines of the previous two books). West is one of several eligible gentlemen the ladies also designated as ‘Untouchable’, men so far about them in station that they daren’t even look that high, let alone think about doing anything else. However, given that Lucy and Aquilla have recently married two of those men (The Duke of Daring and The Duke of Deception), it seems that perhaps the Untouchables weren’t so far out of reach after all. Although Ivy has absolutely no intention whatsoever of finding out if the Duke of Clare is touchable or not; in fact, she wanted to nickname him ‘The Duke of Depravity’, because the ease with which he embarks upon his numerous affairs disgusts her.

She is therefore not best pleased when, at a house-party she is attending with her employer, the duke takes notice of her and attempts to start up a flirtation. There’s no doubt he’s very handsome and very charming, but Ivy isn’t interested, and certainly not in a man whose attention to a lowly, paid companion can only lead to one thing. And Ivy isn’t interested in that, either. Yet in their few, brief encounters, West reveals himself to be something quite different to the heartless seducer Ivy believes he is. He doesn’t deny the truth of his many affairs, but unlike the other rakes she has encountered, West is not self-centred or jaded – in fact he’s the exact opposite. She has never before met someone who seems so comfortable in his own skin, someone with such a capacity for joy and the desire for others to find their own happiness… and in spite of her misgivings, she begins to wish she could experience some of that joy for herself.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance

The Duke of Deception (Untouchables #3) by Darcy Burke

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This title may be purchased from Amazon.

After five years on the Marriage Mart, Miss Aquilla Knox is ready for spinsterhood until a benefactress steps in to help her secure a husband. Only Aquilla doesn’t actually want to marry—her failure is entirely on purpose. When the earl she’s nicknamed the Duke of Deception sets his sights on her, she refuses to be drawn in by her attraction to him. If there’s one thing she knows it’s that a gentleman is never what he seems.

Edward Bishop, Earl of Sutton, has a reputation for courting young misses and dropping them without a second thought. This has earned him a reputation for deceit, a description he can’t refute because he does in fact, harbor secrets and will do anything—deceive anyone—to ensure they don’t come to light. As he comes to know the charming Miss Knox, his resolve is tested. However, trust comes at a price and Ned won’t pay with his heart.

Rating: B

Darcy Burke’s The Duke of Deception is the third book in her current Untouchables series – the gentlemen so named by their ladies because their difference in social station puts the men well above their touch. The hero of this book is not a duke at all, however – the moniker is chosen merely to be alliterative – but he does have a reputation for, if not deceit exactly, then not always being above board.

Edward Bishop, Earl of Sutton, has, over the years, shown interest in a number of eligible young ladies but has never followed through with an offer of marriage. He is no lothario or jilt and genuinely wants a wife, but his family circumstances are difficult and he therefore has to be very careful about his choice. So he has unofficially courted several women, hoping to find one that would meet his exacting criteria – to no avail. This behaviour has not endeared him to the marriage-minded mamas and hopeful papas of the ton, although the real deception he is practicing is something far more serious.

Having witnessed the abuse, both verbal and physical, meted out to her mother by her father over the many years of their marriage, Miss Aquilla Knox is determined never to put herself into a man’s power. She knows that the only value her father places on her is her potential as a bride for some rich, well-connected man, so she has been allowed several London seasons during which to find a suitable husband. For this current season – her fifth – Aquilla is being sponsored by her dear friend, Lady Sattersfield, and can’t help feeling guilty because she has no intention of getting married and plans instead to find a position as a companion. It’s an unequal choice to be sure, especially given that companions were subject to the whims of their employer and could be badly treated – but Aquilla has seen her own mother treated far worse, so her decision makes sense to some degree.

Instead of doing all the things a young lady should do in order to attract a husband, Aquilla does the exact opposite and has earned herself a reputation as a scatterbrained chatterbox, thus ensuring that she has not received a single offer of marriage, a state which she intends to maintain until the end of the Season. Until, that is, she is caught in a rainstorm one evening and has to ask a gentleman for help so she can re-enter the house at which she is a guest. The gentleman duly assists, making sure that Aquilla is not noticed returning to the house. She is grateful for his kindness and his concern for her reputation, and surprised to realise that the gentleman is none other than the Duke of Deception himself – the Earl of Sutton.

Edward – or Ned, as he is known by those close to him – has realised that the latest potential bride on his list is not going to meet his requirements, and knows he is going to endure censure once again when he does not come up to scratch.  But Aquilla’s gentle good-humour, her confidence and the flashes of wit she displays – even when soaked through – intrigue and attract him and he starts to wonder whether she might not be what he is looking for.

Aquilla also feels the spark between them, but is determined to adhere to her plan of finding a position rather than a husband.  But when her father announces that he has arranged for her to marry Lord Lindsell, a man she dislikes and knows will not treat her kindly, Aquilla is horrified, knowing too well that her father’s decision is based on greed and that she has no chance of changing his mind.

Ned is similarly concerned because he is strongly attracted to Aquilla and had hoped for more time to get to know her.  But time is no longer on his side.  He knows of Lindsell’s reputation and knows Aquilla dislikes the man, so Ned does the only thing he can think of – the thing he has never done before but desperately wants to do now – and asks her to marry him.

Aquilla and Ned embark upon their marriage with optimism, but each of them is keeping secrets from the other, Ned about the reasons for his frequently aborted courtships and Aquilla about her reasons for not wanting to marry at all.  Ned is a truly decent man who is trying to do the best for his family and his best by his new wife, and unfortunately, makes some poor decisions in the belief that his choices will prove to have been the best for everyone in the long run.  The thing is, while it’s easy for the reader to see that these decisions are going to cause more problems than they solve, Ned’s desire to do right by everyone is very easy to relate to and his actions actually feel quite realistic. The difficulties Ned’s actions begin to create in his new marriage are compounded by the fact that Aquilla has not yet told him about her upbringing and how it has affected her ability to trust others – especially men.  Fortunately, however, Ms. Burke doesn’t drag this out with a long series of misunderstandings – although there is an event about three-quarters of the way through the book which seems overly contrived and which stretched my credulity somewhat.

Otherwise, Duke of Deception is an enjoyable, well-paced story that, while fairly short, is not lacking in depth or insight.  Ned and Aquilla are an engaging, well-matched couple – strong, caring and compassionate; and their romance is developed in such a way that it’s easy to believe that they will continue to be happy together long after the book is ended.  The relationship between Ned and his brother is often heart-breaking – I teared up at one point – and I could completely sympathise with Ned’s frustration at the way he has been forced to put his life on hold through no fault of his own, and then at his guilt for feeling that way.  The detail concerning the treatment of the mentally ill at this time makes an interesting background to the story, and further shows Ned to advantage in his abhorrence of the conditions and treatments endured by those who were institutionalised and his determination to take care of his own.

I haven’t read the previous books – although I will probably pick them up at some point – but while this is the third in a series, and there are cameo appearances by some of the characters who have appeared previously, the novels are loosely connected and can be read as standalones.

Romancing the Earl (Regency Treasure Hunters #2) by Darcy Burke

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Major Elijah Hollister never wanted to be an earl, particularly not when it meant losing his brother. When a bold adventuress shows up at his door seeking a treasure map, Elijah suspects his brother’s death may not have been accidental and that the lady knows more than she’s willing to share. Whether she’s a friend or foe, Elijah plans to keep her close—and hope the temptation of her kisses doesn’t ruin them both.

Miss Catriona Bowen can almost taste the fruits of her years-long quest to find one of Britain’s greatest treasures. The discovery will deliver the recognition and respect she deserves as an antiquary, despite the fact that she’s a woman. However, to find the map that will lead her to success, she must ally herself with a stoic, yet provocative gentleman with a different goal. And when a villain threatens their lives, she realizes too late that love is the greatest treasure of all.

Rating: B-

Romancing the Earl is the second book in Ms Burke’s Regency Treasure Hunters series, which began with The De Valery Code. That story is set some twenty-two years earlier and tells the story of Rhys and Margery Bowen, whose daughter, Cate, is the heroine of this book. While there are a couple of references to some of the elements of the storyline in book one which are carried over, Romancing the Earl works well as a standalone, with a nicely built romance and an intriguing adventure plot.

Major Elijah Hollister has recently returned to England from Australia, where he was stationed for a number of years. His return was occasioned by the recent and unexpected death of his brother Matthew, the Earl of Norris, which has left Elijah both bereft and in possession of an earldom he doesn’t want.

Completely out of the blue, he receives a visit from a lovely young woman who introduces herself as Catriona Bowen. She loses no time in informing him that she wishes to purchase a medieval tapestry she believes is part of the collection of antiquities Elijah has inherited from the distant cousin who was the holder of the title before Matthew. When she goes on to explain that the tapestry may well contain a clue as to the location of a priceless Arthurian artefact known as the Sword of Dyrnwyn, Elijah is suspicious of her true intent – and when, during the course of their conversation, Catriona explains that she is not the only person interested in the tapestry and the information it may contain, Elijah comes to the realisation that perhaps his brother’s death was no accident.

While he has no real interest in the tapestry other than as it relates to his brother’s death, Elijah is determined to investigate and find out the truth. He and Catriona form an uneasy alliance; if Matthew was murdered by whoever was after the tapestry, then helping to recover it may provide clues as to the identity of his brother’s killers.

What follows is a road-trip story during which the Earl and Catriona – accompanied by their respective servants, Wade and Grey – travel from his Wiltshire home to Harlech in Wales, finding clues and confronting the dangerous gang who are also in pursuit of the treasure.

While the story is perhaps a little slow to start, spending time as it does introducing the reader to the various players in the story and explaining the legends behind the Arthurian treasures of which the Sword of Dyrnwyn is one – once the journey really gets underway, the pacing picks up, and I found myself much more drawn in.

The two principals are attractive, engaging characters whose past experiences (him) and unconventional lifestyle (her) have decided both of them against long-term entanglements, but who are nonetheless unable to ignore the growing attraction between them. The romantic and sexual tension between them is built up very well, and even though Cate’s attitude towards sex is rather too modern for the time, I nonetheless enjoyed how her forwardness was contrasted with Elijah’s insistence on propriety and the way she could throw him completely off balance with a veiled suggestion or look.

In fact, Cate is a very forward-thinking young woman who wants nothing more than to be taken seriously as an academic in a time when women weren’t supposed to have brains or to be able to think for themselves. I did find it a little hard to believe that her parents would have allowed her to gallivant about the country with only her companion in tow; regardless of their confidence in Cate’s common sense and her resourcefulness, the middle of nowhere in the English countryside could be a very dangerous place to be.

Elijah is slightly less well defined, although Ms Burke adds some lovely little touches to his backstory which help to flesh him out. He’s charming, dependable and possesses the kind of quiet competence that is very attractive, as well as being the sort of hero who may be a bit uptight on the surface but is a bit of a devil between the sheets ;-). I was, however, rather surprised by his actions towards the end of the story, when the conclusions he reaches about his brother’s death cause him to act in a way that’s completely out of character.

There are a few inconsistencies in the story (like the fact that Bradford is nowhere near Bath; the author obviously means Bradford-upon-Avon, but this British reader had to think about it, because to us, Bradford is “up north”) and the reasons behind Elijah’s poor relationship with his mother are never fully explored or given closure. Cate’s stated determination never to disgrace her family name is somewhat at odds with the way she travels around independently all the time. And personally, I have a problem with the concept that King Arthur actually existed. The treasures which are being sought during this series are all reputed to be artefacts that were owned by Arthur and his knights, thus proving the legendary king’s existence. I know this is fiction, but that requires me to stretch my credulity just a bit too far.

Apart from those things, though Romancing the Earl is a well-written, enjoyable romp, featuring a couple of likeable protagonists, a sensual romance and a nicely-crafted adventure plot. Ms Burke has set things up well for the next couple of books in the series, and I’m sure I’ll be checking them out.

The de Valery Code (Regency Treasure Hunters #1)by Darcy Burke

ThedeValeryCode

Miss Margery Derrington and her dear aunts are in dire straits. Their discovery of a rare medieval manuscript will hopefully stave off their creditors—if it’s worth what they hope. Margery reluctantly allies with a reclusive scholar to use the book to pursue a treasure that could exceed her expectations. Amidst danger, secrets, and an insatiable attraction, is Margery gambling just her financial future…or her heart?

Academic Rhys Bowen can’t believe he has his hands on the elusive de Valery text. Solving its hidden code and unearthing its legendary treasure would establish him as one of Britain’s leading antiquarians, finally casting him out of his brilliant late father’s shadow. But when a centuries-old organization convinces Rhys of the perils of disturbing the past, he must choose between his conscience…and the captivating woman he’s sworn to help.

Rating: C+

This is the first in a new series of books from Ms Burke, under the title of Regency Treasure Hunters, and it’s a fast-paced mixture of adventure and romance, very much in the mould of Romancing the Stone or Indiana Jones. But with more sex!

The story opens with Miss Margery Deringham and her two great aunts searching their attic for things of value that they can sell in order to stave off financial ruin. When they stumble across an old, illuminated manuscript storybook entitled The Ballads of Sir Gareth, Margery is spellbound. Her aunts tell her that they remember the book from their childhoods, and that it contains stories of bold knights, beautiful damsels and derring do.

The ladies decide to have the book valued – they can’t afford to be blinded to their precarious monetary situation by sentimentality – and write to Alexander Bowen, widely known to be an expert on medieval manuscripts to request his assistance.

Margery travels to meet with Mr Bowen and is surprised to discover the elderly scholar she had expected to meet is in fact a much younger man – Mr Rhys Bowen, the scholar’s equally knowledgeable son. Not only is he younger, he’s gorgeous – but Margery finds his rather commanding manner off-putting and senses that he is not telling her the whole truth about her book.

When Margery turns down Rhys’ more than generous offer for the manuscript, he realises that the only way he is going to be able to study it at any length is to share some of his knowledge with her. He tells her that her book is one of two written by the medieval poet Eugene de Valery, that the other book is in the possession of his cousin, the dissolute Earl of Stratton, and that the books are worth far more as a pair than individually.

What he doesn’t tell her is that the books together are rumoured to contain a code which, when broken, will lead to a great treasure. Rhys has no idea what the code is, how to break it or what the treasure is – he is more interested in the scholastic value of said treasure than in any monetary gain, and in the challenge presented by the need to find and then break the code.

Thoroughly intrigued by the history of the manuscript and by the prospect of seeing another like it, Margery is not about to give her book into Rhys’ charge and insists on accompanying him to his cousin’s estate in Leominster, a day’s journey away.

On their overnight stop, Margery awakens to find an intruder in the room she shares with her companion – an intruder who threatens violence if she doesn’t give him the book – and it becomes clear to her that there is something more at stake here than an historical interest in a couple of old manuscripts. Rhys has to tell her the truth about the code, and they come to the realisation that their treasure hunt could prove dangerous.

The de Valery Code is a cracking yarn that moves at a swift pace with a sensual romance developing alongside. I enjoyed the story, and while the idea of a secret order pledged to seek out Arthurian treasures and prevent their use for evil is perhaps a little far-fetched, it’s no more so than those featured in countless other books which tell similar stories.

The book is well-plotted and written, but the characterisation is a bit uneven. Rhys is a charming beta hero, a knowledgeable antiquarian and scholar whose air of authority and confidence in his abilities is seen by Margery as arrogance and pig-headedness, and that’s a big stumbling block for me, because he’s neither of those things. Margery is lovely, intelligent, and discovers a real passion for history and its secrets as she and Rhys pursue their goal, but she refuses to trust him, citing those lies of omission from when they barely knew each other as the reason why. She lies to him, tries to trick him into thinking she’s gone back home when she’s really trying to head off on her own, and justifies her actions by reminding herself that he’d lied to heronce. He never gives her any other reason to mistrust him, saves her bacon on several occasions and makes it clear that he has every intention of sharing his discoveries with her, and yet she still won’t trust him. In the romance department, there’s terrific chemistry between the couple, but Margery persists in pushing Rhys away here, too, and although Ms Burke tries to explain Margery’s attitude towards the end of the story, it isn’t enough to justify the hurt she causes. She actually initiates the first two sexual encounters – and yet afterwards, she leaps out of bed like it’s on fire (which it may have been, because the sex scenes are nicely hot!), tells Rhys she doesn’t want anything more from him, puts on her clothes and bolts from the room without so much as a “thank-you”, leaving Rhys wondering what the hell went wrong!

While the characterisation of the heroine does leave something to be desired, the story as a whole flows well and Margery does redeem herself somewhat towards the end.

I did notice a few errors in the copy I read – some were those pesky Americanisms that appear in almost every historical I read (“gotten” is not a word we use in the UK – we just say “got”), and I was somewhat confused when one of the secondary characters – Mr Digby – was referred to as a “peer” and addressed as a “lordship”. If he’s a Mister, he’s neither a peer nor a lordship.

But otherwise, it’s an engaging – if slightly derivative – read and a good start to the series.

Never Love a Scoundrel by Darcy Burke

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Vengeance is seductive…

Labeled a lunatic and a reprobate, Lord Jason Lockwood finds solace in debauchery outside the realm of Polite Society. Years after provoking Jason’s downfall, his bastard brother rises from the rookeries to emerge as the premier gentleman of the ton. Jason vows to uncover the supposedly reformed criminal’s secret motive and use it against him to exact revenge—even if it means using a beautiful young debutante whose only mistake is her relation to the woman who has ensured his family’s infamy.

But revenge is sweet

Lady Lydia Prewitt is everything a debutante should be: beautiful, dowried, and in possession of a sterling reputation. But life beneath the thumb of her malicious aunt is eroding Lydia’s faith in her peers and in herself. When the scandalous yet seductive Lord Lockwood solicits her help to gain entry into the best ballrooms, she jumps at the opportunity to be more than her aunt’s minion. But the revelation of his true purpose and the anger that lies beneath his scarred exterior draws her into his dark past. Intervention doesn’t come without a price—can she risk her own future to save his?

Rating: B

Never Love a Scoundrel is the fifth book in Ms Burke’s Secrets and Scandals series. I confess that I haven’t read any of the earlier books in the series, but even though some of the characters from them either appear or are referenced, I didn’t feel at a disadvantage, as the information we are given is sufficient for this particular story to work as a standalone.

Jason Lockwood lives on the fringes of society, a man suspected of insanity and known for debauchery. Years earlier, his mother had some sort of mental breakdown in public and the gossip is that her son is just as mentally unstable, a rumour given substance by his frequent bursts of temper. Some time after removing his mother from London and making sure she is well cared for, Jason began hosting what have become infamous “vice parties”, initially as a way of staving off loneliness and later because he believed he wasn’t worthy of better society.

Of course, these parties are regularly attended by members of the ton, many of whom would cut Jason dead if they met him in the street; such is the level of hypocrisy running rife in society.

On hearing that his half-brother Ethan Jagger – now going by the name of Ethan Locke – has suddenly appeared in society squiring around a young widow, Jason is both intrigued and more than annoyed. He and Ethan are not well disposed toward each other to say the least, having fought so violently at their last meeting that Jason was left with a horrible scar running down one side of his face. Ethan had previously made his living as a thief-taker, and Jason is sure he can be up to no good. He’s also angry that his half-brother has the entrée into the society that has shunned Jason himself.

Venturing out to see if he can ascertain Ethan’s purpose, Jason meets Miss Lydia Prewett, the great-niece of the scourge of the ton, the inveterate gossip Margaret Rutherford. Lydia has lived with her aunt for the past six seasons, but has yet to make a match, principally because she is seen by most of society as an extension of her poisonous aunt. Margaret uses Lydia to acquire and circulate gossip, and although Lydia is tired of it and would stop if she could, it’s either live with Margaret and abide by her rules, or be sent back to live with her father in the wilds of Northumberland – a father who takes no interest whatsoever in his daughter.

Jason and Lydia meet accidentally, and each is intrigued enough by the other to hope for a second meeting. Unlikely though this is (as Jason does not move about in polite circles), the pair do encounter each other once again, this time at the home of the dearest friend of Jason’s mother. For Jason has decided that, if he’s to discover what his half-brother is doing out in society, then he needs to be mixing in the same circles, something he has not done for years. Lydia offers to help to re-introduce him to society and suggests he host a “normal” party, with food, music and dancing as a way to prove to the ton that he is not so black as he has been painted.

But Aunt Margaret has other ideas. She has borne a grudge against the Lockwoods for years and although she has nothing against Jason personally, she hates him and his entire family and is determined to bring him down. I have to say that she’s rather a lip-smacking villainess who borders on the cartoonish – I wanted to boo and hiss whenever she appeared in the story!

But as she’s helping Jason to plan his re-entry into society, Lydia also engages to help Ethan to repair his relationship with his half-brother. I think their shift from hatred and distrust to a grudging respect and eventually to the beginnings of a filial affection was one of the best parts of the book, and it has whetted my appetite for the next in the series which will feature Ethan as the hero.

However, Ethan is being watched closely by Scotland Yard, and by Daniel, Viscount Carlyle (who was the hero of the previous book.) Carlyle senses that Ethan is trying to change his ways but has no proof; and when he and Jason stumble upon something which indicates Ethan may be behind a series of recent robberies, it looks as though Ethan’s days as a free man are numbered.

While Jason is struggling with his anger at being duped by his brother and his sense of betrayal, he is also struggling with his feelings for Lydia, which he has realised go beyond simple lust – which they’ve already explored *wink*.

I liked that Jason wasn’t one of those heroes who feared commitment. He has concerns about the effect his reputation might have on Lydia’s standing in society, but once he decides he wants to marry her, Jason sticks to his guns and proposes. The problem is Lydia. She wants to marry him, but starts worrying about how she will continue to live in society as the wife of a known reprobate. (I’d have said she should have started worrying about her reputation after she slept with him, to be honest!) She also starts thinking that maybe his proposal wasn’t serious, even though she doesn’t have any real reason for that suspicion as Jason has always been honest with her. It seems that Lydia has spent so much of her life being proper and wanting to fit in, that when the time comes for her to take control of her life, she fails, hesitating at a key moment which leads Jason to believe she doesn’t care for him. He, on the other hand, has bared his soul and believes he has made a complete fool of himself.

I haven’t read any of Ms Burke’s other books, but I would certainly consider doing so in the future. This one was well written and the characterisation was consistent – even Lydia’s vacillations over Jason’s proposal and her lack of assertiveness (annoying though they were) made sense given what we know about her situation. Although I have to say that Jason wasn’t so much a ‘scoundrel’ as he was a man who had been shunned by society through no fault of his own and had therefore decided not to give a damn about what anyone thought of him any more. Never Love a Scoundrel was an entertaining story, in which the two plot threads were woven together in a way that didn’t leave me feeling as though I’d read two different stories that had been mashed together. What could have been a fairly ordinary romance was turned into a more engaging and rounded story overall by the addition of the subplot about Ethan Jagger/Locke and by the way in which Ms Burke developed the relationship between the half-brothers.

A word of warning though – although Jason and Lydia do get their HEA in this story, the book ends on a cliffhanger which leads directly into the next book (for which there is a short teaser at the end).