I received this book for free from NetGalley, the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: A Season for Scandal #3
Published by Forever on January 31, 2017
Genres: Historical Romance
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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 . . .
Regency romance writer Kelly Bowen was one of my fave author discoveries last year, and I was an instant fan of her A Season for Scandal series, featuring the scandal-fixing agency known as Chegarre & Associates. So I was excited when I got my hands on a copy of the third book in the series, Between the Devil and the Duke.
I was not disappointed in the two main characters. Gambling den owner Alex Lavoie had been a supporting character in the two books prior to this one, and he’s just enough of a rogue to have charmed me and enough of a hero to leave me swooning even before I’d read the first page of this book. Of course, these pages brought those dual aspects into sharper focus, and I enjoyed his peculiar brand of honor and avarice.
The character I really enjoyed here was Angelique, though. I mean, there’s a reason why I keep coming back to TV shows like Bones and Scorpion and the now-defunct Unforgettable—I have an affection for genius characters who find ways to make their brilliant brains work for them. I especially love it when they find not-quite-geniuses who love them for the people they are without being intimidated by their brilliance. Angelique finds this in Alex, but my enjoyment of her character goes deeper than that. Yes, when we meet her, she’s something of a damsel in distress, but she’s one determined to pull herself out of the predicament she finds herself in, and although she accepts Alex’s help, she measures the aid he can provide against her own abilities and circumstances, then makes sure she pulls her weight and contributes toward the resolution of her problems rather than waiting on the sidelines for the white knight to save the day.
This partnership makes me believe in this couple, because I can see how the rest of their lives will play out.
I think if there’s one thing that left me wanting in this book, it was that I wished the intrigue aspect of the plot required a bit more brain power. A reader basically gets two suspects, and one of them is so blatantly villain material the sheer obviousness eliminates him fairly quickly. Which leaves the other option. So when the mystery unravels, you are completely unsurprised and vaguely dissatisfied by the ease of guessing who the bad guy is.
Regardless, this was a wholly engrossing read—which I started and finished in a single sitting—and while I would still recommend starting with the first book in the A Season for Scandal series, Duke of My Heart, I have no doubts that any Regency romance aficionado could pick up Between the Devil and the Duke and enjoy it as a standalone novel.
Feel Factor Rating:
A Season for Scandal series reading order:
Excerpt from Between the Devil and the Duke by Kelly Bowen
“I don’t suppose you’d be interested in a job?”
“A job?” Angelique was aware she was repeating him like a half-wit, but she couldn’t seem to wrap her head around the last minute of conversation.
“Yes.” Lavoie leaned forward slightly.
“Ladies don’t have jobs.” Angelique tried to put some conviction into that statement, knowing it was what she was supposed to say. Such knowledge had been drilled into her since she was old enough to walk. Ladies grew up and married well and became wives who lived out their lives in genteel comfort. They did not partake in industry. Or gambling.
At least they didn’t until they did not marry at all, much less well, and their parents died, their family fortune went missing, and their newly titled brother couldn’t stay sober long enough to look for it. Then ladies did what they had to do to hold their families together.
She glanced up at him, but her sharp reply, like everything else, had only seemed to amuse him.
“A strange thing to say for a lady who already treats my vingt-et-un table as her personal place of business.” Lavoie’s lip had curled, his scar making it look more like a smirk than a smile.
She looked away, despising the truth in his assessment. “I do no such thing. Ladies don’t have jobs,” she repeated, though it was a pitiable attempt at her defense.
“Ladies don’t have jobs that people know about,” he countered.
“What? What does that mean?” Angelique’s eyes snapped back to his.
Lavoie moved out from behind his desk and leaned back against the front of it. He crossed his booted feet casually, never taking his eyes off her. “It means, my lady, that once you stop pretending to be aghast, and you understand that I offer the potential to earn more money in a single night than you will earn in three at the card tables, you might wish to reconsider. I wish you to deal a high-stakes vingt-et-un table that can accommodate at least six players who will be playing against the house and not each other. Who will be playing against you.”
Angelique was at a loss for words.
“I don’t need to have your answer now,” he said, tipping his head. “You know where to find me. I will pay you for your time, of course, and you will also receive a percentage of whatever you—my club—wins. I promise that your identity will remain concealed. And unlike the men you have had to endure thus far at the tables, I promise that I won’t touch your breasts. And anyone else in my club who might attempt to do so in the future will answer to me.”
She felt her face heat all over again, even as another hail of unwanted thrills crackled through her like a summer storm.
“Tell me you’ll think about it,” Lavoie prompted.
“Very well.” The shock was wearing off, and Angelique was trying her best to collect her scattered thoughts. She’d be an idiot to deny him outright. She didn’t trust him entirely, but her current situation didn’t leave her many choices. And she couldn’t deny that his offer, like the man himself, was more than a little…intriguing. Exciting. Fascinating.
Lavoie pushed himself off the desk, coming to stand directly in front of her. His eyes skimmed over her hair, her mask, her gown, as if he was evaluating—admiring—what he saw. “With a mind such as yours, I think you would be brilliant,” he murmured. “I think that you and I would make splendid partners.”
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