I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: Season for Scandal #1
Published by Forever on January 26, 2016
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
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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.
Sometimes you read a book and you know before you’re even halfway done that you’re going to be the author’s fan. I’m ecstatic that just a few weeks into the new year, I’ve found another historical romance author to adore—Kelly Bowen won me over with her book, Duke of My Heart, the first in her Season for Scandal series.
Happily, this is not her first published Regency; at the end of the book, I learned about three more novels to check out, if I was so inclined (and I am), part of her Lords of Worth series: I’ve Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm, A Good Rogue Is Hard to Find, and You’re the Earl That I Want. So hello, new books, goodbye, savings, I guess! But you may be wondering why I enjoyed this book so much, and I’ll try to explain without using exclamation points in every sentence, like I’m tempted to do.
First off, the heroine, Ivory Moore, totally kicks butt! If she were in a modern-day TV drama, I’m pretty she’d be one of the secret weapons on Raymond Reddington’s team in The Blacklist. He’d probably have her number on speed dial. She’s completely the opposite of a missish, naive debutante, something she proves in the very first chapter. Of course, she would have to be cunning, strong-willed, strong-stomached, quick to assess a situation, and absolutely trustworthy, given her profession as a fixer of scandalous situations and keeper of the Bon Ton’s most sordid secrets.
If you’re familiar with the show Person of Interest, she’s a lot like high-priced problem solver Zoe Morgan. She has that same quality of being able to think on her feet, knowing how people are likely to behave, and being intimately familiar with Society’s caprices as well as how to manipulate these. She’s also got an obvious set of ethics that she follows, but she’s also pretty jaded about how the world works.
As a character, she’s got unplumbed depths—I’m sure the author could craft a series around the cases and clients she’s taken on, were she so inclined—and she’s absolutely delicious. I especially loved the fact that her most dominant traits are both asset and flaw for her. She’s fiercely independent, for example, but it makes her too slow to accept or ask for help from those she cares about. She is extremely (but not ruthlessly) efficient and able to see a situation from multiple angles, but her cool head and ability to keep her wits about her can intimidate and even alienate those she encounters.
On the other hand, Max Harcourt, the Duke of Alderidge, seems almost her diametric opposite in temperament. Where Ivory is all about surgical precision, Max is a force of nature. In fact, Ivory and her associates even liken him to a bull in a china shop, given his tendency to steamroll over anyone and anything in his way as well as the rather loose hold on his temper, which we mark from his very first scene. Yet his blunt, fiery attitude serves as an excellent foil to Ivory’s icy efficiency, and the combination is a lot like lightning. And what adds to this couple’s swoon factor is that, while their attitudes and approaches are different, the core of both these characters is a singular, intense brand of integrity and compassion for those who struggle and persist under different circumstances.
Also awesome is the mystery that brings them together, in which a dead earl is found bound to Max’s debutante sister’s bed, and the lady herself turns up missing. I enjoyed the way Bowen kept me guessing as to causes and circumstances, but handed me just enough clues so I knew who the culprit was right before he was revealed as the villain. And speaking of villains, Duke of My Heart is so chock-full of characters who tread the black and gray areas of both law and polite society, but who are absolutely intriguing and deserve to be featured throughout the series and beyond!
Feel Factor Rating:
Excerpt from Duke of My Heart by Kelly Bowen
He tipped his chair forward on two legs, bringing himself closer to her. She held her ground. He was close enough to kiss her. He braced his elbows on his knees, the bottle dangling from his fingers, his ice-grey eyes searching her face. There was a sheen of liquor on his lower lip, the moisture visible in the flickering lantern light. She could taste it on her own tongue, imagined tasting it on his.
Her heart seemed to be crashing in her chest louder than it should, and her stomach felt as it would have on heaving seas. Her control was slipping, and taking with it her judgment and her wits. “Do you think differently of me? Now that you know who I am? The things I’ve done?” The questions
slipped out of their own volition.
“The things you’ve done?” His forehead creased.
“I sold myself, Max.” There. She’d said it. “Before I had enough power to control my own destiny.”
He stared at her. “I know who you are. You are Ivory Moore. You are the woman who redressed a corpse to save my sister. The woman who kissed me to saveme from myself. You are the only one who understands why I can never be put in a prison that was built for me by fate and circumstance.”
She swallowed, emotion clogging her throat.
“You are the woman I trust.” He pushed himself away from her abruptly, and the chair came back down on four legs with a thud. He stood and set the bottle back on the table with great care. Reaching down, he caught her hands in his and pulled her to her feet. He studied her hands before bringing them to his lips. “The woman I want more than anything.”
Desire streaked through her and settled somewhere deep in her belly. Time seemed to have slowed. His lips grazed the insides of her wrists.
“Max.” It came out like a plea, when she had meant it as a protest.
“I lied,” he said. He pressed his mouth to the flesh of her palm, and her knees nearly buckled.
“What?” It was hard to follow the thread of conversation, what with the feel of his lips on her skin.
“I said I wasn’t sure of anything anymore,” he said quietly.
“But that’s not true. I am sure of you.”
Ivory searched his eyes, seeing only a raw vulnerability in those clear grey depths.
“You’ve more courage than anyone I’ve ever met,” he whispered, pulling her closer to him, their hands still joined.
“Not nearly enough. But I wish I was.”
“If I were drunk, it might excuse what I’m about to do.”
Ivory didn’t have time to even respond before he kissed her.
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