I’ve been trying to get really tough when grading romance novels on other sites; it’s got to be a really special book to get a full five-star rating…but I think this book pulls it.
This new series, “The Duke’s Men,” is loosely linked to Jeffries’s other series; for example, there are some references to Jackson Pinter from the “Hellions of Halstead Hall” series. So you know it’s set in the same world as “School for Heiresses” and the “Royal Brotherhood” series. This first book starts off with a dastardly villain that you really loathe right off the bat.
THE PLOT: When Viscount Rathmore dies, his heir, George, burns his father’s hastily written will, thus cutting off his father’s illegitimate children. George’s legitimate younger brother, Dominick, sides with their half-brother Tristan and half-sister Lisette, so George disowns him as well. Tristan steals the valuable horse his father intended to leave to him, making himself a fugitive from the law…and from a vengeful George.
I’m sure this story will play out through the entire series. Despite some resolution at the end of this book, there is still the question of why George hated his siblings enough to disown them to begin with.
MY TWO CENTS: Lisette is the female lead of this book, and she’s a breath of fresh air. Being both half-French and illegitimate frees her from the social conventions that usually confine romance heroines. The male protagonist is Maximilian Cale, the Duke of Lyons. He’s awfully angsty for a duke, which is also fun. The two meet when Max receives a note from Tristan claiming to have found Max’s presumed-dead older brother…who would then be the actual duke. But now Tristan has disappeared. Max wants to know the truth, and Lisette wants adventure as well as to find her brother, so they pose as a married couple to travel together looking for the missing Tristan and Max’s brother Peter.
I won’t give anything away, but I will say that toward the end of the novel, Max says something so horrific that I gasped and smacked my head. Then, later, he was so awesome that I was smiling like a loon. Characters who elicit real responses are the ones you tend to remember.
BOTTOM LINE: I wish I’d bought this one in paperback instead of Kindle, and I may still pick it up in that format. This is the kind of book I want to reread, hold in my hands, and keep in a physical format.
TEACUP RATING: A rare full five teacups. Enjoy with sweet tea and some smooth, rich chocolate.