Series: Fairbourne Quartet #4
Published by Jove on June 3, 2014
Genres: Historical Romance
When Lady Lydia Alfreton is blackmailed over the shocking contents of a manuscript she once wrote, she must go to the most desperate of measures to raise the money to buy back the ill-considered prose: agreeing to an old wager posed by the arrogant, dangerous Duke of Penthurst. At least Penthurst is a man she wouldn’t mind fleecing—and she’s confident she’ll win.
Penthurst long ago concluded Lydia was a woman in search of ruinous adventure, but even he is surprised when she arrives at his house ready to bet her innocence against his ten thousand pounds—a wager he only proposed to warn her off gambling.
When she loses to a simple draw of the cards, Lydia is shocked. Now, her problems are twofold: a blackmailer determined to see her pay and a duke determined to tame her rebellious ways.
One misstep and Lydia could find herself ruined—or bound to the seductive man who would make her his duchess.
I really enjoyed reading this book. When I picked it up, I had no idea it was part of a series (oops!), but after reading The Accidental Duchess I am going out to the bookstore at the next available opportunity to purchase the other three (followed by a re-read of this delightful story).
Lydia Alfreton is a slightly older heroine, headstrong, and independent, but also aware of the limitations society places on her – and how to get around those limitations! Lydia has no problem circumventing her lackadaisical Aunts in order to make her way to Mrs. Burtons, a famous gaming establishment for the rich and powerful. Known for her incredible luck at the gaming tables, it is precisely that trait coupled with her innocent naivete that lands her in deep water with villain Algernon Trilby and the book’s hero the Duke of Penthurst. The Duke is confident without being arrogant and must take charge when Lydia lands herself in scandalous trouble halfway to Scotland. While he sees fit to tease Lydia, making her worry and wonder if he will collect on a reckless bet of her virtue, he does so without coming across as overly-aggressive or inconsiderate. Indeed, his steps to save Lydia from certain ruin seem almost noble (and ironically funny when you know a little bit about what happened when he was made Duke at fifteen).
The dialogue is crisp and the banter between Lydia and Rosalyn had me laughing out loud at their antics. I would certainly love to be a spectator to any of their arguments! On that note, the secondary characters in this novel are neatly flushed out instead of remaining mere plot devices. Penthurst’s circle of friends are the heroes of their own books in this series so it is understandable why they jump off the page, but characters like Rosalyn and Lydia’s maid Sarah are equally compelling.
The love story unfolded slowly, but not at a glacial pace and was believable and sweet. I think one of my favorite parts of this book was towards the end when Lydia and Penthurst are sitting down and Lydia reveals she knows his secret (the one referenced above when Penthurst was fifteen). Not only was this scene funny, but it showed just how much they transformed from the acerbic relationship of the book’s beginning to the relaxed, but feisty couple in love we see at the end.