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Bel has used her intelligence and wit to charm the city's titled gentlemen, while struggling to put the pieces of her life back together. She needs a protector, so she accepts ...
Bel has used her intelligence and wit to charm the city's titled gentlemen, while struggling to put the pieces of her life back together. She needs a protector, so she accepts Hawk's invitation to become his mistress in name only. He asks nothing of her body, but seeks her help in snaring the same man who shattered her virtue. Together they tempt the unforgiving wrath of society--until their risky charade turns into a dangerous attraction, and Bel must make a devastating decision that could ruin her last chance at love. . . .
Many years ago, as a curly-headed youth on grand tour,
he had fallen madly in love with beauty and so had stopped in Florence to take drafting lessons from a bonafide Italian master. Starry-eyed and romantical, he had followed the light-winged muses south to the Bay of Sorrento, where he had first heard the ancient Italian proverb "Revenge is a dish best served cold." He was an old man now, without illusions,
cold and canny as a scheming pope. Beauty had betrayed him, but decades later, oddly enough, here on this gray English day, the Sicilian proverb held true.
A neat, slight-framed man, James Breckinridge, the earl of Coldfell, gripped the ivory head of his walking stick in gnarled fingers that ached with the needling April rain. He permitted his footman to assist him down from his luxurious black town coach while another held an umbrella over him.
The slumbrous quiet in this place was like a church, but for the pattering of the rain. He turned slowly, looked past the servants' blanked faces, past the jagged wrought-iron fence, into St. George's Burying Ground on the Uxbridge Road, just north of Hyde Park. Three weeks ago, he had buried his young bride here. Under a chilly gray drizzle,
where the hill curved green, her marble monument rose like an angry needle to the smoke-colored sky. Beneath it,
just where Coldfell had expected to find him, stood the tall, powerful, brooding silhouette of a man; wind-blown and lost, the wide shoulders slumped as the gusty rain blew his black greatcoat around him.
Coldfell's mouth flattened into a thin line. He took the umbrella from the footman. "I shan't be long."
"Yes, my lord."
Leaning on his walking stick, he began the slow ascent up the graveled path.
The thirty-five-year-old Robert Knight, ninth duke of Hawkscliffe, appeared unaware of his approach, stony and immobile as the monument. He stood in bleak granite stillness,
the rain plastering his wavy black hair to his forehead,
running in chilly rivulets down the stark planes of his cheeks,
and dripping off his rugged profile as he stared down at the yellow daffodils that had been planted on her grave.
Coldfell winced at the ungentlemanly intrusion he was about to make on the other man's grief. Hawkscliffe was,
after all, the only one of the younger generation he respected.
Some of the old-school pigtail Tories found the young magnate's views alarmingly Whiggish, but none could deny that Hawkscliffe was twice the man his weak-willed father had been.
Why, Coldfell reflected as he hobbled up the path, he had seen Robert become a duke at the age of seventeen,
managing three vast estates and raising four wild younger brothers and a little sister practically single-handedly.
More recently, he had heard him deliver speeches in the Lords with a cool force and eloquence that had brought the whole house to its feet. Hawkscliffe's integrity was unquestioned;
his honor rang true as a bell of finest sterling.
Many of the younger set, like Coldfell's own idiot nephew and heir, Sir Dolph Breckinridge, considered the so-called paragon duke a rigid high stickler, but to wiser heads,
Hawkscliffe was, in a word, impeccable.
It was pitiful to see what Lucy's death had done to him.
Ah, well. Men would see in a woman what they wanted to see.
Coldfell cleared his throat. Startled, Hawkscliffe jerked at the noise and spun around. Tumultuous emotion blazed in his dark eyes. Seeing Coldfell, his dazed expression of pain took on a stab of guilt. With his honorable nature, it had no doubt tormented the duke to have wanted an old friend's wife. Himself, he had never been that chivalrous.
James nodded to him. "Hawkscliffe."
"Beg your pardon, my lord, I was just leaving," he mumbled, lowering his head.
"Stay, Your Grace, by all means," Coldfell answered,
waving off the awkwardness. "Keep an old man company on this dreary day."
"As you wish, sir." Narrowing his eyes against the rain,
Hawkscliffe looked away uncomfortably, surveying the jagged horizon of tombstones.
Coldfell hobbled to the brim of the grave, cursing his aching joints. When the weather was fine, he could hunt all day without tiring. But he had not been energetic enough for Lucy, had he?
Well, she had had her fashionable London burial, just as she would have liked. Having died at his house just outside London, she had a spot in the most exclusive cemetery in the city, complete with a Flaxman funerary monument, the height of good taste, sparing no expense. And well he should have to pay for this most expensive mistake--an old man's folly, he thought bitterly. Beauty indeed was his weakness.
With nothing to recommend her but a magnificent mane of flame-colored hair and the most luscious thighs in Christendom,
the twenty-six-year-old Lucy O'Malley had been an artist's model in Sheffield before she had bewitched him into making her his second countess. He had sworn her to keep quiet about her background, devising a false one for her. At least she had given that pledge sincerely, eager as she had been to join the ton.
Coldfell was merely glad he had not been forced to bury Lucy next to Margaret, his first wife, who was reverently enshrined at Seven Oaks, the ancestral pile in Leicestershire.
Ah, wise Margaret, his heart's mate, whose only fault had been her failure to give him a son.
"I am--very sorry for your loss, my lord," Hawkscliffe said stiffly, avoiding his gaze.
Coldfell slid a furtive glance at the duke, then sighed,
nodding. "It's hard to believe she's really gone. So young.
So full of life."
"What will you do now?"
"I leave for Leicestershire tomorrow. A few weeks in the country will help, I warrant." A visit to Seven Oaks would also take him out of the way of suspicion when this man carried out the deed for him.
"I'm sure you will find it soothing," Hawkscliffe said--
They were both silent for a long moment, Hawkscliffe brooding, Coldfell reflecting on the uneasiness of living anymore in his elegant villa in South Kensington with its four pretty acres of sculpted gardens--the site of Lucy's death.
" 'Lay her in the earth. And from her fair and unpolluted flesh may violets spring,' " Hawkscliffe quoted barely audibly.
Coldfell looked at him in pity. "Laertes' speech on Ophelia's grave."
The duke said nothing, merely stared at the carven letters on the monument: Lucy's name, her date of birth and death.
"I never touched her," he choked out abruptly, turning to Coldfell in impetuous anguish. "You have my word as a gentleman. She never betrayed you."
Evenly, Coldfell held his gaze, then nodded as though satisfied, but of course he had already known.
"Ah, Robert," he said heavily after a long moment, "it is so strange, the way they found her. She went out to our pond every day to sketch the swans. How could she have slipped? Perhaps my brain is muddled with grief, but it makes no sense to me."
"She could never slip," he said vehemently. "She was graceful . . . so graceful."
Coldfell was taken aback by his ferocity. This was going to be easier than he'd hoped.
"Did your servants report anything strange that day, my lord, if I may presume to ask?" pursued the duke.
"Did anyone see anything? Hear anything? She was in earshot of the house. Could they not hear her cries for help?"
"Perhaps she had no time to cry out before she fell beneath the water."
Hawkscliffe turned away again, his firm mouth grimly pursed. "My lord, I have the blackest suspicions."
Coldfell paused, watching him. "I wish that I could put your mind at ease, but I'm afraid that I, too, am haunted by severe doubts."
Hawkscliffe turned and stared penetratingly at him. His dark eyes glowed like hellfire. "Go on."
"It doesn't add up. There was no blood on the rock where they said she . . . struck her head. What am I to do? I am an old man. These sore limbs are weak. I haven't the strength," he said slowly, emphatically, "to do what a husband should."
"I do," vowed Hawkscliffe.
Posted September 10, 2009
Okay - so I've read a TON of romance over the last year. I average about 3 to 4 books a week. My favorites are Julia Quinn's Bridgerton Series, S. Laurens' Cynster Series (just the first 6 or so), D. Gabaldon's Outlander Series and so on. I have to say after reading The Pirate Prince, Princess and Prince Charming (my first 3 Gaelen Foley novels), I wasn't expecting a lot from The Duke. But whoa.
I mean... whoa. I'm not even half way through this book and already I've smiled, grinned, teared-up, frowned in anguish and FELT more for these characters and with these characters than I have for a long time. I felt COMPELLED to write my first ever full review of a book.
Brava Ms. Foley! Wow. The maturity of writing style and poignancy of the heart-rending, blushing, tripping, dare-we-hope? romance of Robert and Belinda... not to mention the first really spicy scene in Robert's library... *whew* *fans self* I can't wait to finish it!
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Posted February 23, 2009
Posted January 7, 2009
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It was okay. The part I didn't like was how Belinda and Hawkscliffe could be soooo in love and yet he was going to marry someone else just because of his title and position in society. I guess I'm just used to those Highland Lairds who do what the hell they want when the hell they want and screw everyone else's opinion!
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Posted February 26, 2006
I just finsihed reading this book today and I can not say enough good things about it. It was a great story. The duke is a great hero in the story and Bel is a great herione. They are great for eachother. This story was very well written. The scenes are great. The bathtub scene was really good. Go out and read this book you will not be disappointed.
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Posted October 26, 2013
Posted January 5, 2013
This was probably my favorite book of all time. It made my heart race, it made me cry. One of the most beautiful love stories.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 5, 2012
Posted June 2, 2012
Posted March 1, 2012
Posted February 25, 2012
Oh how happy I am to have found this amazing story! A wonderful romance that defies all odds. Starting with this book, I have read through all the Knights Miscellany Series, as well as the Spice Trilogy. These books by Gaelen Foley have been some of the most beautiful and amazing love stories I have ever read. I can't wait to read them all over again, starting with The Duke!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 15, 2012
This book was wonderful - I couldn't put it down. My heart was in my throat for many parts. Buying the next book in this series right now I can't wait to read it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 10, 2012
Posted January 8, 2012
Posted March 21, 2011
This was a relatively quick read. Characters were well developed, although some questions were never answered. (Perhaps in other books in the series?) Overall, I would recommend for those who like romance novels.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 13, 2011
Gaelen Foley really surprised me! I'm a huge fan of Judith McNaught and Julie Garwood but haven't been able to find another author that I really enjoy until now! I finished this book in two days, I had a hard time putting it down! Can't wait to start the next.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 21, 2009
I Also Recommend:
I actually read the other books and this was the only one left for me to read. I love gaelen and the whole series, this wasn't the exception although i felt the end was a little rushed and left me thinking what happened to the some of the other characters in the story.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 27, 2008
Belinda Hamilton's father has been thrown into debtor's prison and the man responsible for her family's ruin now pursues an unhealthy obsession with Bel. She is living on the streets, making her way in the world by selling oranges and fending on the nearly violent affections of Dolph Beckinridge, the man responsible for her desperate situation. One day, after visiting her father in prison, Bel is brutally attacked and raped. Dazed and traumatized by her ordeal Bel somehow ends up in a halfway house for prostitutes. Following her attack Bel is determined to better her situation and leave the dangerous streets of London by any means necessary. She goes to Harriette Wilson, a legendary courtesan, and it is there that she learns the ways of the Cyprians. Suddenly Bel is the most sought after demirep in the entire city. She is determined to find a kind and decent protector to keep her safe from the dangers of the world. But she cannot be kept safe from her own heart. Robert Knight has just endured the death of the woman he loved from afar. The wife of a close friend, Lucy was everything Robert thought he could have wanted in a woman. Robert suspects the woman's relative, Dolph Beckinridge, of her murder and so he sets out to ruin the man. He starts off by procuring Belinda Hamilton, Dolph's obsession, as his new mistress. Little does he know that this seemingly professional courtesan is not what she appears to be. Initially someone might think that Bel's decision to whore herself for a high price is completely disgusting, but I could reallly see her reasoning behind her choice. After suffering such humiliations for so long I understood that it was a choice to gain control of her life, not necessarily to submit. Robert does not respect Bel at first, he has no desire to dally with a courtesan but to seek revenge on Dolph. But Bel soon proves that she is no hardened and common prostitute, but rather a woman of substance and intelligence. Robert begins to understand that he loves her, regardless of her choice of profession. Please don't mistake Robert's initial low opinion of Bel for misogyny, he was raised his entire life to look down on absolutely everyone, especially courtesans. Eventually he learns to see Bel for the woman she is and not the whore London society has deemed her. The romance that ensues is beautiful. Belinda's vulnerability and determination warm Robert's cold and stoic demeanor slowly, but with such perfection. This is the first book in the Knight Miscellany and I highly recommend the entire series. Although it is not necessary to read the books in order I suggest that you do, starting with The Duke. You'll fall in love with Robert and Bel's story almost immediately.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 5, 2005
This is the 2nd novel by Gaelen Foley¿s that I bought via B & N. I also read ¿Prince Charming¿ (pretty good) and now this one, ¿The Duke¿. This was one of the most complete and enjoyable novels I have read in a very long time! Reason¿it had it all. Interesting and likeable main hero and heroine, pleasing and detailed story line and memorable ending. Although I did not like that Bel was violated by an evil prison warden very early on and thought that might turn me off to the story instead¿it allowed Bel to have a well rounded character. A woman who had a simple but, good life before she was harmed and then¿one who can stand on her own after she is no longer innocent. I liked that Bel took the cards life dealt her and made the best of everything ¿ whether she had to sell oranges to stay alive or become a well known courtesan for money, food and a home. She was nobody¿s victim. Thus¿her warm character, gentle, sensuous ways and hearty soul made her loved by all. In turn, the Duke, Robert¿was handsome, intelligent and so very honest and loving. Although he was taken in by some people ¿ so much that he almost appeared a simpleton ¿ it really showed how he believed deeply in people until they showed otherwise. Bel & Robert meet and interact as she needs a protector and he needs her help to solve a crime. He was so very gentle and warm and giving with Bel that he became a one of a kind hero. I liked how multi dimensional these chacaters were - they did things for their friends, family and those in need. They weren't stuck on themselves or what money could buy. They experienced life to the fullest. The love scenes in this book were close to perfect ¿ it took time for the attraction to properly build to a high level, then Robert got pleased, then Bel got pleased and then eventually they found pleasure as one. This book will make you wish for your very own Duke. The love scenes are what many women fantasize about. It¿s steamy and sexy while still being very tasteful. Robert was so strict with himself on his career, friends, lifestyle and more that I wasn¿t sure how he was going to get out of marrying the right socialite for his career and keep Bel on the side as his mistress and love. Bel clearly wasn¿t about to be second to anyone. Robert found that out the hard way. Know that the ending was a beauty ¿ it involved the theatre, a white horse and a red rose for love. Robert and Bel¿s love is why we all dream. I sure appreciate when I can smile from ear to ear in pleasure when I am through with a novel and did I ever smile with this one! Buy The Duke, read it, keep it in your library and know that this author and story will stay with you long after you turn the final page. This book was five stars and then some!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 5, 2005
No other author has brought Regency England (Jane Austen's era), with ALL of its intricacies, so alive for me. Gaelen Foley's masterful prose (never purple) conjure vivid images of high-stepping horses, glittering balls, sumptuous town manses, and even the country's tempermental weather... and she does it without long, hard-to-follow descriptions. To readers of intelligent and lively historical romance: Ms. Foley's writing corners like a Formula 1 Grand Prix race car. The story is as intriguing and exciting as the duke himself. However, as sumptuous as he his, and his surroundings, the story does not always leave the reader full of breathless sighs (although there is plenty of that). We also get glimpses of London's dark side (which is as black as coal) through the compassionate eyes of the brave heroine. The lady in question (and she is quite questionable) is passionate and endearing a survivor. I am not a reviewer that likes to re-tell a story, as it's never my story to tell. What I look for in Historical Romance Fiction is: #1 Well written ROMANCE #2 Adventure/Movement #3 Richly drawn characters - those you love and those you hate That's all here, and then some. There are some dark scenes, which are handled very well. Tragic events shape all of our lives, but in comparison make the precious moments all the more joyous. Ms. Foley takes this basic truth of huminity and tells a beautiful love story. The ending is heart-throbbingly satisfying. The love scenes? Well, let me say that I have never read a more sexy scene wherein the hero performs..., and the one where the heroine gives... Oh! and then there's the bathtub scene! I do not mind - no, not in the least - being the voyeur to this pair. In fact, I rather enjoyed it. Catherine Scott (who is putting on her reading glasses to start the next in the series)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 23, 2003
The first one that I've read by her was 'Lord of Ice' Then going backwards they just got better. I recommend all of the Knight family novels. You will truly fall in love with Robert, Damian, and Lucien.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.