A Rogue by Night (Devils of Dover #3) by Kelly Bowen

a rogue by night

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Baron. Physician. Smuggler. Sir Harland Hayward is living a double life as an aristocrat by day and a criminal by night. As a doctor, Harland has the perfect cover to appear in odd places in the dead of night, a cover he uses to his advantage to bring in all sorts of illicit cargo from across the English Channel. He’s chosen this life to save his family from financial ruin, but he draws the line at taking advantage of the honest and trustworthy Katherine Wright.

Katherine has returned to Dover to find that her family is working for a mysterious new crime boss. Growing up in a family of smugglers, she knows it’s only a matter of time before they are caught—and killed. So after her brother is shot, she convinces her family to move away and start over. After they honor their last contract, of course. With her injured brother and elderly father unable to work, Katherine reluctantly steps back into the life she had left behind. And straight into the path of the merciless Harland Hayward.

Rating: B

I’ve read and enjoyed a number (nearly all?) of Kelly Bowen’s historical romances, and have particularly admired her ability to create strong, determined heroines who manage (mostly) to operate within the conventions of the time period in which her novels are set.  Yes, they have unusual professions or ambitions – a fixer, a bounty hunter, a professional gambler – but they’re not generally obvious about it and don’t go about proclaiming their unconventionality.  The same is true of the heroine of A Rogue in the Night, Katherine Wright, a young woman born into a family of smugglers who became very good at that particular ‘craft’ until she fell in love and followed her lover to war, where it appears she developed her knowledge of the healing arts to become a highly competent surgeon.  But this time around, I couldn’t quite buy into it.  I know there were women who disguised themselves as men in order to train as doctors, so I’m not saying it could never have happened; my problem with it here is that I was just asked to accept that she’d been a battlefield surgeon and was told nothing about how she became one other than that the army surgeons were grateful for the help so hadn’t minded that she was a woman – which seemed rather… convenient.  It was easier to believe that the hero – having two independent sisters and, as both a peer and a doctor, being unconventional himself – could so quickly and unquestioningly accept Katherine’s abilities, but the fact that he insisted on introducing her as Dr. Wright, when he surely must have known no woman could actually hold that moniker (and anyway, surgeons in the UK are addressed as Mr./Miss not Dr.) came across as gimmicky.

Harland Hayward, Baron Strathmore, is an unusual peer of the realm in that he is a doctor and surgeon who served on the battlefields during the Napoleonic Wars.  Society frowns upon the idea of a nobleman actually having a profession, but Harland doesn’t care – being a doctor is more than a job to him, it’s who he is. Faced with the ruin of his family’s shipping business after a number of terrible losses, Harland made a deal with King, the enigmatic, ruthless crimelord who has appeared in several of Ms. Bowen’s other books (and whose story I continue to await with bated breath!), which saved the business and his family, but at quite a cost.  Harland now works for King, co-ordinating smuggling runs off the Kentish coast and secretly acting as a liaison between the smugglers and purchasers.  Katharine’s brother Matthew is a member of one of these gangs, and when he’s shot while on a run, she’s surprised when Harland – Lord Doctor, as she calls him at first – turns up at their cottage to offer his help.  She’s suspicious of titled men and she’s wary of him, even though she’s attracted to him, too.

But when Harland not only helps treat her brother but also hides him from the soldiers who arrive to search the cottage, Katherine starts to unbend a little, and agrees to allow him to transport Matthew back to Avondale House (where the summer school run by his sister Clara, Duchess of Holloway operates) so he can be properly cared for.  He hits on the idea of asking Katherine to teach the medical students at the summer school – an idea Clara supports enthusiastically – and Katherine, after her initial surprise, is pleased to accept.

Not long after this, however, Harland receives a dangerous commission from King, and knowing he’s likely to need a skilled medical practitioner to help him, asks Katherine to accompany him.  The pair embark upon an adventure which carries them from London to the French coast and back as they dodge bullets, hide from soldiers and face up to past mistakes. The plot is fast-paced and well-executed, but ultimately, all the action in the story detracts from the romance between Harland and Katherine, which is of the insta-love variety and not nearly as well-developed as I’ve come to expect from this author.

I liked both characters, particularly Harland, a dedicated professional who is determined to do his best for his family no matter the heavy price.  (And I would completely dispute the adjective “merciless” applied to him in the synopsis!) Katherine is similarly motivated, her talent and competence making her a good match for Harland, but there isn’t a great deal of chemistry between them and the sex scenes seemed forced and ‘for the sake of it’ as a result.

Given the current deplorable state of the historical romance sub-genre, it was a pleasure to read a novel featuring well-developed characters and an intriguing plot by an author capable of penning focused, satisfying prose. I enjoyed A Rogue in the Night and liked it considerably more than the previous book (Last Night With the Earl), but the under-developed romance was a disappointment.

Last Night With the Earl (Devils of Dover #2) by Kelly Bowen

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Earl. War hero. Notorious rake. After the Battle of Waterloo, Eli Dawes was presumed dead-and would have happily stayed that way. He’s no longer the reckless young man he once was, and only half as pretty. All he wants is to hide away in his country home, where no one can see his scars. But when he tries to sneak into his old bedroom in the middle of the night, he’s shocked to find someone already there.

Rose Hayward remembers Eli as the arrogant lord who helped her late fiancé betray her. Finding him stealing into her art studio doesn’t correct her impression. Her only thought is to get him to leave immediately. Yet the tension between them is electric, and she can’t help but be drawn to him. He might be back from the dead, but it’s Rose who is suddenly feeling very, very much alive.

Rating: B-

Kelly Bowen’s first historical romance was published back at the end of 2014, and she very quickly made her way onto my list of must-read authors.  I’ve read nearly all of her books, and have been impressed with her storytelling and ability to create strong, determined and unusual heroines while at the same time having them operate largely within the conventions of the time so they don’t just seem like twenty-first century women in period dress.  The first Devils of Dover book, A Duke in the Night, introduced readers to the Haverhall School for Young Ladies, an exclusive academy which operates a summer school at which a small number of exceptionally gifted pupils are afforded the chance to pursue studies in fields not usually open to them.  This is held at Avondale House in Dover, which Clara Hayward, the school’s headmistress (and now Duchess of Holloway) has rented for a number of years from the Earl of Rivers.  Or rather, from his estate; the old earl died six years earlier and his only son is presumed killed at Waterloo, although as no body has been found, the title has been held in abeyance until such time as Eli Dawes can be legally declared dead.

But now, having chosen to remain in hiding on the continent since the battle at Waterloo, the new earl has decided to return home and assume his rightful place and title.  He plans to live quietly at Avondale and hide the injuries and disfigurement he sustained during the battle; he’s not exactly a vain man, but he knows how much of his former popularity and social standing was due to his exceptional good-looks, and cannot bear the idea of being pitied, shunned or vilified because his appearance is so changed.

The last person he expects to see on his return to Avondale is the woman he’d fallen in love with six years earlier – Rose Hayward, daughter of the (then) dizzyingly wealthy Baron Strathmore.  Rose was known to be a bluestocking who didn’t appear much in society, but Eli was smitten anyway, impressed by her cutting wit and brilliant mind – but was too late to win her. His best friend Anthony Gibson was courting her and Rose was so obviously in love that Eli had to step back, and instead, flung himself into an endless whirl of debauchery in an unsuccessful attempt to forget her.  Now, after six long years have passed, he feels wary and ashamed when he meets her again, not just because of his ruined face, but because of the way Gibson treated Rose when he broke things off with her, lampooning her and several other society ladies in a book of cruel caricatures which shattered reputations and destroyed lives.

Believing Eli to have been complicit in the book’s publication, Rose hardened her heart against him as well as Gibson, cursing herself for an idiot for being so trusting.  His unexpected reappearance paves the way for a rapprochement between them, especially after Rose admits the reason for her hostility – and also offers the possibility of something more, of something Eli’s wanted ever since first laying eyes upon Rose years earlier.  But he’s changed so much – and not necessarily for the better, he thinks; while Rose challenges, encourages – sometimes outright bullies! – him to stop feeling sorry for himself and to realise that he has much to offer, that his name and status give him the opportunity to make a difference to the lives of others.

Last Night With the Earl is a story about acceptance, forgiveness, redemption and most of all, the importance of looking beyond the surface to find the truth, to the heart and soul of another person.  Rose is a very forthright young woman and an extremely talented artist whose fierce championship of beauty in all its many forms makes her an original, insightful heroine.  For Rose, beauty is something other than what is usually dictated by convention, something that is continually evolving, changing over time and circumstance to become something new and different:

“… we are all perfectly and inevitably flawed, and one’s beauty is because of it, not in spite of it.”

Ms. Bowen skilfully enables the reader to see many things through Rose’s eyes, and makes some very powerful observations through her PoV.  I applauded Rose’s refusal to allow Eli to wallow in misery or guilt; she is blunt, sometimes brutally so, but she has to be in order to force Eli to see himself as the man she sees: “A man who is strong. Noble. And imperfectly perfect.”

Rose’s ability to see beyond the external and cut through to what’s most important is refreshing, but it’s also partly what eventually dinged the book, because when Rose then shows herself to be a proponent of ‘do as I say, not do as I do’, I felt terribly – incredibly – let down and disappointed.  I can’t say too much without spoilers, but her experiences after the publication of the book of caricatures was worse than she admits to Eli and after all the taunting and nastiness that followed she began to suffer debilitating panic attacks.  I’m not saying that panic attacks aren’t serious, horrible things – I’ve suffered them myself so I know they are – but after all Rose’s cajoling of Eli, of the demand she made of him that he needed to stop worrying about all the things he isn’t and show the world the truth of the man he is now, for her to turn around and refuse to do the same felt like a cop-out.  Rose and Eli are so obviously in love and right for each other there’s no other bar to their HEA, and this comes across as a last-minute contrivance that is thrown in for the sake of creating some conflict in the romance.

The story is well written, Eli and Rose are likeable and fully-rounded and their relationship is tender and sensual, but that contrived, eleventh-hour conflict really soured my view of Rose and has affected my final grade quite a lot.  A less than excellent book by Kelly Bowen is still head-and-shoulders above many of the other current historical romance offerings out there, and I’m still giving it a cautious recommendation; it’s just a shame the final few chapters were such a let-down.

A Duke in the Night (Devils of Dover #1) by Kelly Bowen

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Duke. Scoundrel. Titan of business. August Faulkner is a man of many talents, not the least of which is enticing women into his bedchamber. He’s known—and reviled—for buying and selling companies, accumulating scads of money, and breaking hearts. It’s a reputation he wears like a badge of honor, and one he intends to keep.

Clara Hayward, the headmistress of the Haverhall School for Young Ladies, on the other hand, is above reproach. Yet when she’s reunited with August, all she can think of is the way she felt in his arms as they danced a scandalous waltz ten long years ago. Even though her head knows that he is only back in her life to take over her family’s business, her heart can’t help but open to the very duke who could destroy it for good.

Rating: A-

In the years since the publication of her début novel, Kelly Bowen has become an auto-read author and has a few books on my keeper shelf. Her writing is assured and intelligent, she comes up with intriguing, well thought-out plots, and her characters are engaging and often just that bit different to the norm for the genre. In A Duke in the Night, the first book in her new Devils of Dover series, her gift for characterisation is showcased in her heroine, Clara Hayward, the headmistress of the Haverhill School for Young Ladies. In Clara, Ms. Bowen has succeeded where many authors of historical romance have failed; she has created an independent, forward-thinking, proto-feminist heroine who nonetheless operates within the boundaries of the society to which she belongs and feels like a woman of her time. Clara is comfortable in her own skin and knows who she is; she doesn’t feel the need to prove herself all the time or show every man she comes across that she’s just as good (if not better) than he is – she knows she is and doesn’t feel the need to flounce around reminding everyone around her (and the reader) that she is Spirited and Unconventional.

For that alone, Ms. Bowen merits All The Awards.

Of course, Clara deserves a hero who not only understands her but loves her for who she is, and I’m happy to say that in August Faulkner, Duke of Holloway, she finds just that, a man who is willing to listen, evaluate and learn.

August wasn’t born to be a duke. He and his sister spent their childhoods in extreme poverty, and when, by virtue of a keen mind and sheer hard work, he managed to find a way out, his one guiding light has been that his family – his younger sister, Anne – should never know such squalor and privation again. Even his unexpectedly acquired ducal status hasn’t stopped him from continuing with his business interests, although as his empire expanded, he took care to act through intermediaries, so the full extent of his holdings remains a mystery to all but himself and his trusted man of business.

After trying – and failing – several times to purchase the Haverhill School for Young Ladies and its surrounding lands, August’s most recent offer has been accepted and his plans to develop the property are now underway. But seeing Clara Hayward’s name on the deeds has sparked long-buried memories of the one time they danced together, a decade ago, when a much younger – and, he admits, stupider – August had invited the renowned wallflower to dance having been egged on by a group of similarly stupid and thoughtless young bucks. During the dance, August discovered something he had not expected; an intelligence, poise and confidence which completely captivated him and left him somewhat bemused.

Although ten years have passed since then, he still remembers how Clara felt in his arms, how his world had tilted on its axis in the middle of a ballroom floor… and he finds himself wondering why she has finally agreed to sell Haverhall. A few judicious enquiries by his man of business reveal that the Hayward’s shipping company is on the verge of collapse and that the proceeds of the sale of Haverhill will not be enough to save it. Seeing his chance, August decides to purchase the company as quickly and quietly as possible, before anyone else gets wind of the situation and pre-empts him. Learning that Harland Haywood and his sisters are usually to be found at the British Museum on Wednesday afternoons, August plans to ‘accidentally’ bump into the man and try to gauge his receptiveness to a possible buyout – but before he can find him, he sees Clara – and is instantly smitten all over again.

Clara Hayward hopes that once their ships come in (so to speak) she will be able find somewhere else to continue her life’s work of teaching. She is pondering the loss of the school that has been her life’s work on one of her regular visits to the British Museum when a voice she’d never thought to hear again intrudes on her thoughts and she turns to find August Faulkner, the man who’d all but stolen her heart a decade ago, standing by her. She has to struggle to maintain her composure as he rather clumsily apologises for his behaviour ten years earlier and then engages her in a somewhat awkward conversation about the piece of sculpture in front of them. She is puzzled, however, when he asks if he can call upon her the next day; each year, Clara hosts an out-of-town summer school for a hand-picked group of young ladies – and given that Anne Faulkner is one of the party, surely her brother must know that their departure is scheduled for the following day? Before Clara can say something to this effect, however, they are interrupted and part shortly after, but when August discovers, two days later, that Anne has gone to attend the Haverhill Summer School, he immediately assumes that Clara had deliberately kept the knowledge from him and is furious.

Never one to let the grass grow under his feet, August follows, determined to keep an eye on Anne and then take her back home, but also intending to speak to Clara’s brother about the shipping business and to persuade him to sell it… plus he can’t deny that the prospect of seeing Clara again is an extremely enticing one.

August’s arrival shakes Clara’s equanimity. She feels an intense attraction to him and knows it would be all too easy to succumb to it, but she can’t afford to jepoardise her position as an educator of young women – so an affair is out of the question. In any case, her first loyalty must be to her pupils – all of whom are exceptional young women to whom she affords the chance to engage in the study of professions not normally open to them. Her brother – a practicing physician – tutors those interested in medicine; another longs to be a landscape gardener, and Anne Faulkner wants to be an hotelier, but is constantly frustrated by the well-meaning but unwanted interference of her brother who insists she need never bother her head about anything ever again. Clara and August play a sensual game of cat-and-mouse as they dance around their attraction to each other and try (and fail spectacularly) to fight it. As they become closer, Clara patiently challenges him over some of his most deeply entrenched beliefs and encourages him to really think about the way he, as a man, has so many avenues and options open to him that women – and in particular, Anne – do not. He struggles and he makes mistakes, but he is intelligent enough and honest enough to admit the truth of much of what Clara says, and finally to see that by wanting to ensure his sister has the best of everything, he has been stifling her. A prison with golden bars is a prison nonetheless.

Clara and August are a perfectly matched couple; both fiercely intelligent, quick witted and determined – and the sexual chemistry between them is scorching. As I’ve already said, Clara is an exceptionally realised heroine, and August’s journey from ignorance born of male privilege and his almost single-minded drive to protect those he loves is extremely well done.

A Duke in the Night is a fabulous read and a terrific start to this new series. My one, small, quibble is that it’s just a teeny bit difficult to believe that Clara and August are able to connect so passionately and on such a deep emotional level based on just one dance ten years earlier, especially as they haven’t seen each other at all during that time. That said, however, Ms. Bowen imbues their connection with such fervour and obvious sincerity that there is never any question that these two are meant to be.

If you’ve never read one of Kelly Bowen’s books before, then this is a good starting point; and if you have, then be prepared to kick back and enjoy one of what is sure to turn out to be one of the best historical romances of 2018.

Between the Devil and the Duke (Season for Scandal #3) by Kelly Bowen

between-the-devil-and-the-duke

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Their love was always in the cards.
He should have thrown her out. But when club owner Alexander Lavoie catches a mysterious blonde counting cards at his vingt-et-un table, he’s more intrigued than angry. He has to see more of this beauty—in his club, in his office, in his bed. But first he’ll have to devise a proposition she can’t turn down.

Gossip said he was an assassin.
Common sense told her to stay away. But Angelique Archer was desperate, and Lavoie’s club offered a surefire way to make quick money—until she got caught. Instead of throwing her out though, the devil offers her a deal: come work for him. Refusing him means facing starvation, but with a man so sinfully handsome and fiercely protective, keeping things professional might prove impossible.

Rating: A-

Kelly Bowen is one of the best of the bunch of new authors of historical romance to have emerged in the last couple of years, and she continues to show herself more than deserving of the praise her novels have received. I’ve reviewed a few and rated them highly, impressed by her ability to craft strong plotlines and characters, and to imbue her dialogue with unforced humour and realism. Best of all, she writes a strong, well-developed romance that sizzles with sexual tension while also showing the protagonists becoming emotionally intimate. Her current Season for Scandal series makes use of an unusual premise, and, in the last two books (Duke of My Heart and A Duke to Remember) she’s allowed her heroines to positively shine as independent, intelligent women who make their own rules while continuing to live within the bounds set by society. Not for Ms. Bowen the curl-tossing, foot-stamping, annoying “feisty” heroine; no, her ladies are clever, pragmatic, determined, and – when called for – devious; qualities which make them irresistibly attractive to their heroes, men who are secure enough in their masculinity to be able to appreciate their unique talents.

In Between the Devil and the Duke, the third book in the series, we meet Lady Angelique Archer, a young woman carrying the weight of her family’s responsibilities on her slim shoulders. Her father, the Marquess of Hutton, died recently in a carriage accident, but left very little money to his four children; and her older brother, the new marquess, is very quickly spending what little there is on drink, women, gambling and dodgy investments. Angelique is at her wit’s end. Her younger twin brothers risk being kicked out of Harrow if she can’t find the money to pay their fees; the household bills are mounting and she has already sold everything of value that isn’t nailed down. Her brother shows no sign of relinquishing his dissolute – and expensive – lifestyle, so it’s up to her to find a solution. While she’s very beautiful, Angelique never “took” during her one season, acquiring herself a reputation as The Marble Maiden owing to her inability to dance or make small talk or display any of the accomplishments required of a débutante. So given that reputation and that her current state of impoverishment is unlikely to remain a secret for long, marrying money is not an option. Not that she wants to sell herself off to the highest bidder anyway. An almost-betrothal to one of her brother’s closest friends, was a near escape and it’s one she has no wish to repeat.

We met Alexander Lavoie in Duke of My Heart, and learned that he is a partner in Chagarre and Associates, the business run by Ivory Moore (now Duchess of Alderidge), which is one of the best kept secrets in London.  The firm specialises in fixing the seemingly disastrous and making scandal disappear, and is discreet, efficient and very expensive.  Alex is also the proprietor of a highly successful gaming establishment, and thus very well placed to learn the sorts of secrets in which the firm trades. Rumoured to have been both a spy and an assassin, he is charming, clever, manipulative, and dangerously sexy – but completely unprepared for the sudden fascination he experiences for the anonymous woman playing quietly at the vingt-et-un table who wins a lot more than she loses.

She hasn’t gone unnoticed by him on her previous visits, but on this particular night, she is on the receiving end of some unwelcome attention from one of the men at her table,  so Alex steps in to politely but firmly encourage him to desist.  Alex is already curious about her – she obviously knows what she’s doing at the card table, but isn’t blatant about it; she loses small amounts, wins large ones and knows how to use her physical assets to distract a man and put him off his game.

When Alex realises that behind Angelique’s lovely exterior lies a brilliant mathematical mind, he offers her a job.  He can tell that she’s not at his club for fun or to indulge in the thrill of the forbidden; she needs the money, but he doesn’t know why, and is determined to ferret out the truth.  He knows a woman in trouble when he sees one; and when he encounters her brother and two of his inebriated friends, he begins to have an inkling of its source.

The story that follows is well-plotted and nicely paced, as Alex and Angelique – with the help of Ivory and Max – start to piece together the truth concerning the late marquess’ finances, uncovering a trail of smuggling,  blackmail and murder.  It’s an intriguing and thoroughly entertaining story, and I was completely caught up in it and anxious to know what was going to happen next.

The romance is very well done, too. The sparks fly between Angelique and Alex right from the start; the tension between them at their first meeting is thick enough to be cut with a knife and the connection between them is intense.  I love a smitten hero in a romance, and there’s no doubt that Alex is well and truly bowled over by Angelique – but what I loved even more is that while he’s undoubtedly physically attracted to her, he’s just as wowed by her mental acuity.  Following on from his offer of employment, Angelique presents him with a proposal as to how she can maximise the profits from her vingt-et-un table – and for Alex, it’s a real coup de foudre; he is “rather afraid he had just fallen in love.” 

Angelique is just as strongly attracted to Alex, although her experience with the men in her life who were supposed to look after her and didn’t – her father, her brother – makes her understandably cautious about trusting anyone but herself.  She tries to keep Alex out, but his kindness and his persistence gradually break down her barriers until she realises she can trust him absolutely. They are a very well-matched couple, not just mentally, but in the way they are able to provide something the other has been missing. Alex encourages Angelique to be herself in a way that nobody else ever has and I really enjoyed watching her self-confidence blossom as the result of his love and acceptance; and Alex, who has preferred to remain aloof and never shared much of himself with anyone, finds the sort of contentment with Angelique that he’d never expected to feel.

Between the Devil and the Duke is a really enjoyable story, and I loved every minute of it.  The story is engrossing, the characterisation is excellent and the love scenes are sensual and romantic. Kelly Bowen has further cemented her place as one of the best of the historical romance authors currently writing, and I’m eagerly looking forward to her next book.

My Best Books of 2016 – at All About Romance

best-of-2016-covers

Over the past week or so All About Romance has been publishing the team’s lists of their Top Ten books read in 2016. The vast majority of these are books published in 2016, although a few are books published previously that have been read this year.

All my choices are 2016 titles, and as usual, it was a tough list to compile. I’ve had a good reading year (I’ll be taking a look at my stats at some point and posting about those) and at AAR, have awarded a good number of B Grades and up, indicating that I read many more books I enjoyed than books I didn’t, which I count a definite plus.

Pinning it down to ten books was TOUGH, as was picking an outright “book of the year”, because this year (unlike last), that moniker could have been applied to practically every book on my list. But being I’m a bit of an angst-bunny, I went for the book that ripped out my heart and stomped on it a few times, AND which I’d been most eagerly anticipating.  Click on the link and all will be revealed!

My Best of 2016

A Duke to Remember (Season for Scandal #2) by Kelly Bowen (audiobook) – Narrated by Ashford MacNab

a-duke-to-remember-audio

This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon.

Love takes the stage…

Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.

Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He’s managed to avoid any complications or entanglements—that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there’s more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity—and her true feelings for him—the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – A-

Kelly Bowen has quickly made herself a place on my list of auto-buy authors by virtue of her ability to tell an entertaining and well-paced story with intelligence and humour and to create attractive, well-rounded protagonists and sizzling sexual tension. A Duke to Remember is her fifth book, and while I’ve enjoyed the others I’ve read and listened to, this is a real standout and easily my favourite so far.

Elise de Vries is right-hand woman to Ivory Moore, the proprietor of Chagarre & Associates, a company that specialises in making scandal disappear and fixing the seemingly unfixable. Elise has been approached by Abigail, daughter of the Duchess of Ashland, who is distraught at the discovery that her mother has been committed to Bedlam by her nephew, Francis Ellery. With the duke dead and the heir to the title missing – believed dead – Ellery is bent upon securing the massive Ashland fortune for himself by whatever means necessary. Abigail wants Elise to find a way to obtain the duchess’ release – and on learning that Abigail’s brother is actually still alive, it seems that Elise’s first step must be to find a man who has been missing for the past fifteen years and persuade him to return to London in order to assume the title and responsibilities that are his birthright.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Duke of My Heart (A Season for Scandal #1) by Kelly Bowen (audiobook) – Narrated by Ashford MacNab

duke of my heart audio

This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon

Scandal can be handled…

Captain Maximus Harcourt, the unconventional tenth Duke of Alderidge, can deal with tropical storms, raging seas, and the fiercest of pirates. But he’s returned home from his latest voyage to find a naked earl – quite inconveniently deceased – tied to his missing sister’s bed. And he has only one place to turn. Now he’s at the mercy of the captivating Miss Ivory Moore of Chegarre & Associates, known throughout London for smoothing over the most dire of scandals.

Miss Moore treats the crisis as though it were no more serious than a cup of spilt tea on an expensive rug. As though this sort of thing happened on the job every day. Max has never in all his life met a woman with such nerve. Her dark eyes are too wide, her mouth is too full, her cheekbones too sharp. Yet together, she’s somehow…flawless. It’s just like his love for her, imperfect, unexpected – yet absolutely true.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

I had pegged Kelly Bowen as an author to watch last year after I read and enjoyed her second book, A Good Rogue is Hard to Find, so I was pleased to see there was an audio version of Duke of My Heart, the first book in her new A Season for Scandal series. Ms Bowen is an excellent storyteller with a deftly humorous touch, and she has the knack for creating memorable and engaging characters, things she puts to good effect in her latest novel.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

add-to-goodreads-button