For years, Abigail Linton devoted herself to caring for her aging parents and the children of her siblings. Now, eager to make her own life, she takes a position as a governess on the neighboring estate. It shouldn’t matter that her absentee employer is Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell, the infamous rake who once broke her youthful heart. Surely he’s forgotten her, for he hasn’t set foot on his estate for fifteen years. At least, that is, until he arrives unexpectedly.
Max is incensed to meet his sister’s new governess. But why does Abby seem just as displeased to see him when it was she who’d rejected him all those years ago? Why is he so drawn to the independent spinster she has become? And why is there a sparkle in her beautiful blue eyes that suggests they might have a second chance at love?
Abigail is at a crossroads in her life. Having been the caretaker for her elderly parents until their deaths the previous year, Abby wants to make a life on her own. She decides to apply for the position of governess at a nearby estate. Max was stunned when he saw that Abby was his sister’s governess. He had never gotten over her rejection of him 15 years earlier. But, he is drawn to her in a way that he isn’t drawn to most women. Will there be a chance at second-hand love? Or will Max slip through Abby’s fingers yet again?
I had mentioned in my WWW Wednesday post that I didn’t care for The Duke I Once Knew. When I had posted that, I was about 50% through the book. I wasn’t lying. I didn’t care for the book at that point. I did like the main characters and their storyline. I didn’t like the extra drama. Like I mentioned in that post, I just about lost my eyes because they were rolling so hard. Weirdly enough, I did like the last half of the book. All the drama was pushed to the back-burner and I got to enjoy the book for what it was. Abby and Max rediscovering each other.
I thought that Abby gave up a lot in her life. To take care of her parents, Abby gave up any chance of marriage. At 30, she was considered a spinster. And guess what, she was fine with that. What she wasn’t fine with was her brothers and sisters arguing about what to do with her. I didn’t blame her for deciding to go and apply for that governess position. Even though she thought that Max hated her, she still went and became his sister’s governess. I loved how sarcastic Abby was. Her zingers at Max had me laughing.
I liked Max even though I thought he was a tool. Who brings a woman he wants to seduces to a house he hasn’t been to in 15 years? Max does. But, for all his faults, he was a good guy. He went out of his way to help Abby when he shouldn’t have. He treated his house servants like family. He was willing to do the right thing by Abby when they had sex by the lake. He made hero status in my eyes with what he did with his wannabe mistress. I cheered when that happened.
I loved that this was a second chance romance. I liked seeing Abby and Max rediscover their romance. It was sweet. Second chance romances are some of my favorites to read. I like seeing people rediscover what made them fall in love. Of course, they had obstacles to overcome. Mainly the witch that Max brought home with him.
There was sex in this book. But what I liked was that it wasn’t graphic. The author left enough unsaid where I had to use my imagination. What I liked also was that Abby was comfortable enough in her own skin to own what happened. I liked that she didn’t want Max to offer for her because they bumped uglies. She wanted him to offer for her because he loved her. Not because he felt he was honor-bound because he popped her cherry.
I couldn’t stand Lady Desmond. She was a despicable human being. She was so jealous of Abby that she was willing to hurt her to take her out of the picture. She was also willing to put Max’s younger sister in situations that young women shouldn’t be in. And with people that they should be around. I was wondering if Max was ever going to come to his senses about her. I was disappointed it took almost the entire book for him to actually do something.
I didn’t like the end of the book. It seemed rushed. I didn’t like how Abby jumped to conclusions about Lady Desmond and Max. It went against everything that I had read about their relationship. It also ended suddenly. There was the HEA and then nothing. I was expecting an epilogue or something that showed what happened after the “I love you” was said. Also, seeing that this was book1 in the Unlikely Duchesses series, I couldn’t pinpoint who the next story was about? Was it Abby’s niece? Or Max’s sister? Again, usually, there is a hint about who the next book is about.
I gave The Duke I Once Knew a 3.5-star rating. I enjoyed reading this book but it fell flat for me in some areas. I loved how Abby was an independent woman in an era where a woman was expected to be seen but not heard. It was the extra drama involving Lady Desmond that lowered my rating. While it did add some depth, I felt that her storyline went on for too long. Other than that, I enjoyed the book.
I would give The Duke I Once Knew an Adult rating. There is sex. There is violence. There is no language. There are triggers. They would be suicide. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.
I would reread The Duke I Once Knew. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.
I would like to thank St. Martin’s Paperbacks, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review The Duke I Once Knew.
All opinions stated in this review of The Duke I Once Knew are mine.
**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**
The sounds of cooing and kissing mortified her. Good heavens, would they never stop? Anyone might walk into the library! They ought to have the decency to take their amorous activities upstairs to a bedchamber.
But, of course, Rothwell did not possess a shred of decency. It made her cringe to recall that she herself had once fallen prey to his allure.
She risked another look over the edge of the table. Her eyes goggled.
The duke was delving beneath the hem of his paramour’s gown, sliding his hand up her ankle and out of sight. The ladybird squirmed and squealed in a frisky attempt at evasion. He leaned down and silenced her playful protests with a masterful kiss.
Abby sank back down again. Her pulse pounded and a blush heated her inside and out. She oughtn’t be so scandalized. Rothwell had a reputation as a notorious rake. Over the years, she had heard many a tale whispered among the neighbors of his disgraceful doings. Yet it was one thing to listen to idle gossip and quite another to actually witness him in the throes of depravity.
And here she was, trapped. What was she to do? If she made her presence known, the duke would find out that Miss Abigail Linton was the new governess. She could not be absolutely certain that he had forgotten her. And if he did remember, he surely would dismiss her on the spot, for he wanted nothing to do with her.
Her spirits fell into a fit of the dismals. That would mark the end of her little adventure out into the world. Oh, she could apply for a position elsewhere, but who would hire her if she’d been summarily discharged from her previous post? She would be forced to return to her brother’s house and resume her predictable life as the maiden aunt, growing withered and gray, shuttled between relatives, with no real say in her future.
THE DUKE I ONCE KNEW 35
The very thought was suffocating. Nevertheless, she could not continue to crouch here while the two lovers were smooching and whispering. What if their intimate activities escalated? What if they did the deed right here, right now?
The horrid prospect spurred Abby to action. She must try to sneak out of the library unobserved. It was her only hope. Dropping to her hands and knees, she crept along the carpet, weaving a path between the tables. Her long skirts hampered her progress, forcing her to inch along at a snail’s pace. Rothwell’s black boots were visible through a forest of chair legs. At least he was too distracted to notice her, judging by the amorous sounds emanating from across the room. To be safe, she made a wide berth around the couple. Feverish plans raced through her head. If only she could reach the door and slip out, then all might be well. Perhaps she could convince Lady Gwendolyn not to mention the new governess to her brother. And what of Lady Hester? Was there a chance that she could be persuaded to bide her tongue, too? Should Abby confess the truth and enlist her help? Was it possible to stay out of sight until he departed the Court?
Sweet heaven, how long did he intend to stay?
In the midst of her meditations, she couldn’t help overhearing the syrupy drivel of their tête-à-tête.
“Your Grace, you are too bold! Such a naughty boy you are!”
“I left boyhood behind long ago. Shall I demonstrate?”
“Mm, no. You mustn’t . . . ah, yes. Yes!”
Abby grimaced under a tide of acute embarrassment. As she crawled closer to the door, she glared in the direction of the lovers. She could just see Rothwell’s legs pressed against a froth of cream skirts. Blast him and his debauchery! He was the worst of rogues, the king of scoundrels. A more wicked man had never been born—!
Too caught up in remonstrations to watch where she was going, Abby bumped her hip hard against a mahogany pedestal. A little squeak escaped before she could clap her hand to her mouth. At the same instant, a faint clanking noise drew her attention upward.
The globe atop the pedestal wobbled precariously. As she watched in horror, the sphere toppled from its perch and clunked onto the floor, where it rolled straight past the chairs and tables to land at Rothwell’s heels.
“What the devil—!”
Frozen in concealment, Abby watched wide-eyed through the maze of table legs as his boots shifted around. A large male hand flashed down to stop the spinning of the globe. Any faint hope that he might assume it had fallen of its own accord vanished in a millisecond.
Rothwell strode forward, his footfalls sharp and decisive. He came straight to her. To her great consternation, she found herself gazing at the polished black leather of his boots only a few inches away.
“Who are you?” he demanded. “What are you doing in here?”
Abby raised her chin only slightly, keeping her face averted. It was best that he didn’t gaze fully at her—or hear the normal pitch of her voice lest it trigger his memory.
“I’m just a servant,” she whispered, “tending to my duties.”
“Speak up! Why did you not make your presence known at once?”
His dictatorial tone shredded her better judgment.
“I was trying to leave discreetly,” she flared. “It didn’t strike me as wise to interrupt your tryst.”
She paused, then added in a more servile tone, “I do beg your pardon, Your Grace.” She felt his gaze boring down like a physical force that threatened to smother her. She wanted badly to look up, to glare into his face and tell him in no uncertain terms exactly what she thought of him. But that would be highly imprudent.
With lightning swiftness, he clamped his hands around her upper arms and hauled Abby to her feet. She found herself staring up into a pair of wintry gray eyes set in a face of unabashed masculinity. Although a dissipated life had hardened his expression and etched faint lines on either side of his mouth, he was more disturbingly handsome than ever. He also seemed taller and tougher, his chest broader and his shoulders wider.
She hated that he still had the power to make the breath catch in her throat. Worse, she hated that he had the authority to dismiss her with a snap of his arrogant fingers. As she racked her beleaguered brain for a way to convince him not to do so, something flickered in those icy eyes.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Award-winning author Olivia Drake begins her new Unlikely Duchesses series with THE DUKE I ONCE KNEW (St. Martin’s Paperbacks; December 31, 2018). With compelling characters and skillful plot twists, Drake’s latest novel will take your breath away.
First love is always the sweetest…
For years, Abigail Linton devoted herself to caring for her parents and her siblings’ children. Now, eager to create a life of her own, Abby seizes upon a position as a governess on a neighboring estate. Unfortunately, her absentee employer is Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell, the notorious rake who once broke her youthful heart. But since he hasn’t set foot on his estate for fifteen years, Abby assumes she’ll never have to lay eyes on him ever again.
Then, from out of nowhere, Max appears. He is stunned to come face to face with the girl next door he fell for years ago—before he went away, and she stopped writing to him …even though Abby swears that he is the one who left her without a word. Could it be that this spirited, witty spinster has won Max’s heart all over again and that they may have a second chance at love?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Olivia Drake is the author of the Cinderella Sisterhood series (Seducing the Heiress, Never Trust a Rogue, Scandal of the Year, If the Slipper Fits, Stroke of Midnight, Abducted by the Prince, Bella and the Beast, His Wicked Wish, and The Scandalous Flirt).
She has been a member of Romance Writers of America since 1981 and her novels have won the Golden Heart Award, Best Historical Romantic Suspense and Best Regency Historical from Romantic Times. She has also won the prestigious RITA award. She currently resides in Houston, TX.