ORDER A COPY: What the Duke Desires (The Duke’s Men)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publishing Date: June 18, 2013
Paperback: 416 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Maximilian Cale, the Duke of Lyons, long ago buried his grief for his missing elder brother, Peter, who was presumed dead after being kidnapped. When a mysterious note arrives from Tristan Bonnaud asserting that the Duke’s brother is alive, it leads Max straight to the winsome Lisette Bonnaud, illegitimate daughter of a viscount and Tristan’s sister. Soon he and Lisette are traveling to Paris posing as husband and wife, in search of Tristan, who has disappeared. And the longer he spends with Lisette, the easier it is for Max to see that the line between dukedom and desire is easier to cross than he imagined.
Lisette Bonnard was a young girl when her father was killed in a hunting accident. His death not only drastically changed her life, but it focused her future. Her father, the Viscount Rathmoor, was a procrastinator and he was always making promises he didn’t keep. He promised to marry Lisette’s mother, a former French actress who was his faithful mistress for many years. He promised to provide for her mother, herself and her brother, Tristan, as well as his two legitimate brothers, George and Dom. But he didn’t and now it was too late. George has inherited everything and his first order of business is to remove his father’s mistress and her bastard children from his property, and he has even left his own brother with nothing. Lisette decides that very night that she will never allow herself to be at the mercy of any man. She will find a way to make her own money and never be forced to rely on a man.
With the loss of his inheritance, her brother Dom has to abandon his law career and opens an investigation firm. While Lisette and Tristan were in France, they worked for Eugène Vidocq the former head of the French Secret Police at the Sûreté Nationale. Although Vidocq would have hired Lisette to work as a spy, her overprotective brothers wouldn’t allow it. Now that she has returned to England, Lisette is determined to prove to her brother Dom that he should hire her as an investigator for his firm, Manton’s Investigation. He is more than happy to have her work with him in an administrative capacity and share the many things, she has learned under Vidocq’s tutelage, but not as an investigator.
Lisette was planning on discussing it further with Dom once he returns from his current investigation in Scotland. Yet no sooner than he leaves on a ship, than Lisette is awoken by a pounding at their front door. Maximilian Cale, the Duke of Lyons, has come looking for her brother, Tristan. The Duke believes Tristan is trying to swindle him with false notification of finding Max’s older brother, a brother who was kidnapped as a child and who was believed to be dead. With the Duke declaring that he will have Tristan arrested for fraud, Lisette knows this is her chance to investigate the case, to find her brother and learn the truth behind the Duke’s mysterious missing brother.
I really wanted to try a Sabrina Jeffries’s story and this was a great choice. I really like Lisette’s determination and her richly written character. She is determined to make her own way so she doesn’t need to rely on someone else who could fail her. She is intelligent, and although she does make some rookie mistakes, she does have her mother’s acting skill. Although she does have a few “umm…umm” moments when caught off guard, she does have a large dose of common sense which would help her be an investigator.
Max was also a very enjoyable character. Max has a lot of issues connected to the loss of his older brother, including trust issues related to the lies told to him by his own family. He is determined to protect Lisette’s reputation from gossip and her from his desire for her. I also liked that at Lisette’s suggestion they go undercover as regular people and travel by public coach, etc., and what a shock it is to Max since he is used to being pampered and fawned over, but he adjusts quickly which speaks of his overall character.
This was a good story that kept you intrigued by the investigation, as well as the growing respect between Max and Lisette. If you like regency romance and like me, haven’t yet tried a Sabrina Jeffries story, grab this one and you will certainly become a fan.
Received an ARC from netgalley.com courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
“And why should I believe you?” He strode nearer, his face dark with threat. “You’ve proved yourself very good at dissembling. For all I know, you and your brother cooked up this plan together.”
“B-but why? Why would I do that?”
“That’s what I want to know.” He loomed over her. “I ought to have you tossed in gaol until you tell me the truth.”
“Because I cry well?” she squeaked.
“Because you are attempting to defraud me,” he said in an ominous tone.
He was going to throw her in irons, all because she could do some acting in a pinch. Oh, Lord, Manton’s Investigations would be ruined! Dom would never forgive her!
“I swear I’m not doing any such thing,” she began, her heart in her throat. “You know why I insisted on your taking me with you. You do! I don’t know where you’ve got this daft idea that I’m some…some swindler, but nothing could be further from—“
Inexplicably, he stared laughing. She gaped at him, now all at sea.
That merely made him laugh harder. He paused just long enough to gasp, “You’re not the only one…good at pretense.”
And suddenly she understood. This was revenge for her playacting this afternoon.
Planting her hands on her hips, she glared at him. “You are a horrible, horrible man! How dare you terrify me like that? Why, I ought to—“
He dropped onto the settee, laughing so hard he could scarely speak. “If you…could only have seen…your face…when I mentioned…goal…”
She walked up to hit him on the arm. “That was not remotely amusing!”
He just laughed even more. “I…beg to…disagree…” he choked out, holding his stomach as he lost himself in mirth.
Glowering at him, she strode over the to ewer, brought it back, and poured its contents on his head.
He jumped up off the settee sputtering. “What the blazes was that for?”
“For making me think you were going to pack me off to goal, you…you…oaf!”
“Oaf? he said as he removed a handkerchief from his pocket and began to wipe his face. “That’s the best insult you can offer?”
She narrowed her eyes to slits. “Cretin, Devil. Arse.”
He smirked at her. “Careful now. Aren’t you supposed to be a respectable married lady?”
“You nearly gave me heart failure!”
“You deserved it after all that crying and nonsense.” He mimicked her. “M-my brother was right. I sh-should never have m-married you!”
Tossing the empty ewer onto the settee, she crossed her arms over her chest. “The words might have been feigned, but the sentiment is still valid.”
“It wasn’t my idea to do this,” he reminded her.
“It wasn’t my idea to pose as a married couple. Thank God that’s pretend.”