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Fool Me Twice
Olivia drew up before the scene of her next crime. Was it her imagination, or did the townhouse loom? All the other mansions on this street looked polite and elegant, neatly confining themselves within rows of trimmed hedges. This house, on the other hand, sprawled. She spied a gargoyle lurking above one cornice, glowering at her. Of course the Duke of Marwick would have a gargoyle carved into his house!
She crossed her arms and glowered back. She was a thief now, wasn’t she? No matter that, for all her twenty-five years, she had prayed before bedtime and gasped at curses. Now she was a criminal. Criminals should not fear anything—not even the Duke of Marwick, tyrant extraordinaire.
Brave thoughts. But her stomach was jumping like she’d eaten spoiled food.
She pivoted away, pacing to the hedges that marked the next lot. God in heaven. Was this the kind of woman she wanted to be? She’d told herself she had no choice, but that was a lie. One always had a choice. She could run again, flee to France, or even farther . . .
The autumn breeze carried a child’s laugh to her ears. In the park at the center of the square, a little boy was playing chase with a puppy. He ran in circles, shrieking with delight as the spaniel nipped his heels. Was he all alone?
Her concern faded when she spotted the couple watching from the shade of the elm trees. They were not a nanny and footman, as one typically saw supervising the young heirs of Mayfair, but a married couple, the husband fair and slim, with an elegant gold watch pinned to his lapel. The wife, plump and pink cheeked, hugged his arm as she smiled at her son.
A knot rose in Olivia’s throat. If she walked away now, it would never be safe to make a home. She would always be alone. Always running.
Strictly speaking, theft and fraud were immoral. But her cause was just, and her prospective victim, a bully. Marwick deserved a taste of his own medicine. She would not feel guilty!
She nudged her spectacles up her nose and marched back to the duke’s townhouse. The brass knocker felt slippery in her hand. The advertisement was a week old; the maid’s position might have been filled already. All her agonizing would be for nothing.
The door opened. A young brunette set her shoulder against the doorjamb and looked up at Olivia. “Oo-oo. Tall as a man, ain’t you? Come about the position, I expect.”
It had taken several days for Olivia to persuade Amanda to write the reference. But in a second, she saw that she might as well have forged it herself. Nobody was going to check its authenticity, not when they had this creature answering the door. “Yes,” she said. “The maid’s—”
“Welcome to the madhouse, then. Me name’s Polly.” The girl waved Olivia into the chill of the lobby, a cavernous space tiled in checkerboard marble. “It’s Jones you’ll want to see. He’s in the butler’s pantry. Don’t ask what he does there; nobody can say.”
Olivia followed the girl past what looked to be the scene of a fight, remnants of a shattered vase strewn along the wall. Or perhaps only neglect was to blame, for the Grecian urn by the stairs held masses of withered roses, and the air smelled sour, as though somebody had laid down vinegar for cleaning and forgotten to mop it up again.
A madhouse, indeed. It was the master who had gone mad first, Olivia guessed. Her former employer, Elizabeth Chudderley (from whom she had stolen), had called the Duke of Marwick a bully and a tyrant, for his ruthless opposition of Elizabeth’s marriage to his brother. But this house suggested he was less exacting of his servants than of his family. How bizarre!
A bully, she reminded herself. Marwick was a boor, a monster. Cheating him would be criminal, but not unforgivable—unlike her theft from Elizabeth.
“So you’ll have heard about our duke,” Polly said as they stepped into the servants’ passage.
For a stupid moment, Olivia thought the girl had read her mind. And then she gathered her wits. “Of course. The Duke of Marwick has done so many wonderful—”
Polly’s snort spared Olivia the distasteful task of praising him. “You don’t know the half of it.” And as they descended the stairs, she commenced a chattering monologue, full of sordid details that supplied the larger picture.
The housekeeper had quit nine days ago, after an episode in which the duke had thrown a shoe at her. Since then, half the maids had fled. Oh, the pay was still good, but you couldn’t expect a lunatic to live long, could you? To be sure, he was only thirty-five. But the duke had not left the house in ten months. If that wasn’t lunacy, what was?
“It’s been grand fun,” Polly concluded as they emerged into the servants’ gallery. “Like being paid to see a stage show!”
“Indeed.” Olivia felt slightly sick. Thanks to the letters she had stolen from Elizabeth, she knew far more of the situation than she should. She even knew why Marwick was deranged.
Several months ago, Elizabeth had come into possession of letters written by the duke’s late wife. These letters revealed the duchess to have been unfaithful and treacherous. The duke, upon learning it, had turned from a grieving widower into a half-mad hermit—and perhaps a drunkard, too, for what else could have driven him to throw shoes at the housekeeper?
Polly banged on the door to the butler’s pantry. “You’ve a new one,” she called.
The door opened a crack. A hand shot out, pudgy fingers snapping up Olivia’s reference. The door slammed shut again.
Polly crossed her arms and tapped her foot. “Now, now,” she said loudly. “This one looks promising. I swear to you, it wasn’t Bradley who summoned her.” She cut Olivia a grin. “One of the footmen. Thought it’d make a fine joke to summon a painted lady for an interview. Poor Jones, he wasn’t amused.”
Olivia grew conscious of her own increasingly stiff posture. Did the butler have no spine? Why did he not sack Bradley?
That isn’t your business, she reminded herself. The disarray of this household would work to her advantage. Her aim was to rifle the duke’s belongings, for his late wife’s letters suggested that he kept files on his political colleagues, dossiers that evidenced their crimes. If this was true, then Olivia needed to find the files. There was a certain man she very much needed to blackmail.
She had anticipated a great many watchful eyes ready to catch her in the act of prying. But this lot? They wouldn’t notice if she stole the silver! Assuming any silver remained to be stolen, of course.
“You’re lucky,” Polly said, jarring Olivia from her reverie. “Old Jones is so desperate, he’ll probably not care that you wear spectacles. But in the normal course, ain’t much call for a maid who can’t see.”
“Oh.” Blinking, Olivia nudged her glasses back up to their proper place. She had never considered that detail.
“And you’ll have to stop coloring your hair,” Polly added with a tsk. “Fine shade of red, but a bit too loud for service.”
“I don’t color my hair.” She had considered it for the sake of disguise, but the lighter shades did not stick, and the darkest would have looked unnatural.
Polly gave her a skeptical look. “Right-o. Mother Nature just got frisky, I suppose.”
“I tell you, this is my natural color.” And if she had dyed her hair, she certainly would not have chosen the shade.
The door opened. Jones proved to be a distinguished gentleman in black tails, with bulldog jowls and hair as silver as a groat. He clutched Olivia’s reference like a drowning man to driftwood. “This looks quite satisfactory, Miss Johnson.”
Polly gave Olivia a questioning look. “Miss Johnson, is it?”
Mere parlor maids did not deserve such a formal address. Olivia had a sinking feeling that Amanda had not obeyed her instructions: omit from the reference any mention of Olivia’s education, and emphasize instead her experience in cleaning and caring for a grand home. Not that she had any, in truth. . . .
“Come, come,” said Jones, pushing himself through the doorway and all but scrambling for the stairs. “Follow me, if you please.”
* * *
“Our finest drawing room,” Jones announced. He waved her out of the salon, setting a brisk pace down the corridor. “You worked two years in Lady Ripton’s household?”
Olivia rushed to keep up. Roman statues lined the hallway, their stiff, marbled faces gazing with disapproval on this unlikely scene: the butler, who was meant to stand at the top of the servants’ hierarchy, giving a tour to his prospective underling. “Yes, sir. I served two years as an upstairs maid.”
This was a lie, of course. Olivia was a secretary by training. But it was her good fortune that Amanda, her former classmate at the typing school, had recently married Viscount Ripton. This made Amanda’s recommendations very powerful things to own. If the Viscountess Ripton said that Olivia had been a housemaid par excellence, then this poor, beleaguered butler would not doubt it.
“I do wonder . . .” Jones was scratching his chin. He seemed very interested in one spot in particular, a patch of whiskers beneath his ear that he had obviously missed during his morning ablutions. The silver hair there sprouted a full inch longer than the rest of his beard.
Beneath her fascinated gaze, he recalled his manners, flushing as he tucked his hand back into his waistcoat. “Are you, by any chance, lettered?”
She could have answered him in French, Italian, or German. But it seemed rather showy—and improbable, for a housemaid. “Yes, sir. I can read and write.”
“I don’t suppose you can do figures as well?”
That was also not among the housemaid’s usual skills. But the pleading look Jones fixed on her was impossible to resist. How desperate he appeared. “Yes,” she said. “I’m quite good at figures.”
Relief flashed over Jones’s face, followed, puzzlingly, by what looked like pure trepidation. He came to a stop by another door. “The library,” he said—but before he could show it to her, raucous laughter exploded around the corner, causing him to wince. “Today is rather unsettled,” he said hastily. “But I assure you, I do not tolerate such disarray on a typical basis.”
His embarrassment was contagious. As the giggles came again, Olivia felt herself turning red to match him. “Of course not, sir.”
Two maids spilled around the corner, one of them holding open a magazine, the other craning to gawk at it. Jones stiffened. “Muriel!”
The girls startled—and then, to Olivia’s astonishment, they turned on their heels and scampered back the way they had come.
Jones scowled after them. But his spirit was sadly broken, Olivia saw; rather than summoning them for a well-deserved scolding, he sighed and shook his head. “Have you any questions for me, Miss Johnson?”
She consulted herself. “Well—wages, of course.”
“Twenty-five pounds per annum, increasing to thirty after five years’ service. Anything else?”
She wracked her brain for typical concerns. “When His Grace closes the house, will we travel with him? Or will we be kept on here?”
Instantly she regretted the question, for Jones darted her an agonized look. “I do not think . . .” He cleared his throat. “His Grace will not close the house this year.”
Nobody stayed in London during the winter. She tried to mask her shock. “I see.”
“You may have heard . . .” The butler hesitated. “I wish to assure you that His Grace is everything one could wish for in an employer.”
Poor Jones. He sounded so disheartened by his lie. Olivia restrained the urge to touch his elbow in comfort. “I have no doubt, sir.”
And that was not the kind of lie she had expected to tell today. Indeed, she’d anticipated having to prostrate herself. This was, after all, the household of the most feared figure in British politics: Alastair de Grey, fifth Duke of Marwick, friend to princes, patron of prime ministers, and puppet master of countless MPs. His upper staff, she’d assumed, would be overproud and haughty, like all servants in grand houses.
But if Marwick had once governed the nation, he now failed to govern even his own home. His servants were running wild. It made no sense to Olivia. Elizabeth had spoken of him as an all-powerful bully . . . but a bully never would have tolerated this chaos.
And once she stole from him, this beleaguered butler—the only one here who showed a lick of sense—would bear the blame for having hired her.
She couldn’t do it. To take advantage of this miserable fellow was too sordid. “Mr. Jones,” she began, just as he spoke.
“Miss Johnson, I have a terribly unorthodox proposition.” He took a deep breath, like a diver preparing himself for the plunge. “We are lacking a housekeeper. As you—as I am sure the maids already told you.”
“Indeed, they did not,” she lied. How far gone he was! Mr. Jones should not depend on the staff’s gossiping. His task was to prevent it.
“Well, yes. She gave notice . . . rather abruptly. And I do wonder . . .” Jones mopped his forehead with a handkerchief. “That is, it occurs to me . . . Lady Ripton spoke most highly of you; why, she even said she felt you were lowering yourself to this position, having served, in her time of need, as an amanuensis, a companion and secretary—”
She had told Amanda not to embroider the point. “Lady Ripton is too kind. It’s true, once in a great rare while, I did assist her—”
“Well, here’s the rub.” The words tumbled over each other; it was evident that Jones was aghast at his own proposal, and wished to get through it as quickly as possible. “Until we find a replacement, I require someone to fill Mrs. Wright’s shoes. You are educated; you are familiar with the ways of the better classes. I wonder if you might not step into her post—until, of course, I can find her replacement. Only until then.”
Olivia caught her breath. This was a stroke of luck beyond all imagining. She needed a weapon very badly indeed. The Duke of Marwick was likely in possession of this weapon. And a housekeeper would have license to look everywhere for it.
But—her spirits sank—it would still be fraud. And it would still cost Jones his job, in the end. “I couldn’t,” she said miserably. “I have no experience—”
“I would instruct you.” Jones caught her hand. “I do entreat you, Miss Johnson”—his grip tightened as his voice dropped—“to think on the great advantage it would do your future. To be able to say you had once served as housekeeper to His Grace. Why, no domestic of your age could dream of such a boon!”
Gently she pulled her hand free. He was right, of course. Had she truly been Olivia Johnson, parlor maid—and not Olivia Holladay, former secretary, now operating under her second alias, with a falsified letter of reference—she never would have refused the opportunity.
And so, lest she rouse his suspicions, she said, “It is a fine honor, indeed. But you must give me a day or two to think on it. To consult with myself, and see if I am worthy of it.”
Olivia’s humility pleased him. Smiling, he agreed to her terms.
* * *
“Oh, it’s you.” Mrs. Primm stepped aside, allowing Olivia to step into the shabby little hall.
Mrs. Primm behaved as though she were doing her lodgers a great favor by letting them rent rooms the size of mouse holes. Meanwhile, she hoarded the coal, so they fell asleep shivering each night. But oh, could she cook like a dream! Olivia breathed deeply; the smell of beef stew filled the air, rich and savory. “Is supper laid?”
“Laid and finished. You know I don’t wait for nobody.”
Swallowing her disappointment, Olivia mounted the stairs. Her stomach was growling, but hunger wouldn’t kill her.
Once in her room, she knelt to make sure the lockbox still sat beneath her bed. She lived in fear that somebody might steal it.
On the omnibus, she had been tallying sums in her head, calculating her options. It was time to consider what she’d most wanted to avoid: fleeing to the Continent, someplace far enough away that Bertram would never think to look for her there.
She glanced up at the drawings she’d tacked on the wall. They were benign prints clipped from magazines: an ivy-covered cottage with a lamp burning in the window. A village sleeping beneath the snow. Treacle dreams, but she could not scorn them—or let go of them, no matter how hard she tried.
Abroad, she would always be a stranger. Forced to avoid her fellow expatriates in order to hide, she would be even more alone than she was now.
Bah! She shook off the self-pity. Such a bittersweet, sticky feeling. Wallow in it too long, and one found oneself trapped.
She unlocked the box and took the comfort of weighing her pound notes, a solid brick of savings. Elizabeth Chudderley had paid her a generous salary, and together with her mother’s savings, she had enough to stay comfortably lodged for several months if she did not find work as a fräulein, signorina, or mademoiselle.
She laid down the money, and then, because she had not allowed herself to look at it in months, she lifted out her mother’s diary. The leather cover needed oiling; it had begun to crack. But her mother’s handwriting still looked crisp and fresh.
Mama had never feared Bertram. Had he always been a villain, it would have been easier to understand him now. Olivia skimmed past observations on flowers, descriptions of the changing seasons, of dresses newly arrived from London, and of course, of Olivia herself (My precious angel has become a young woman; I can’t tell how it happened). The last entry was what drew her in, every time. It was the only one she didn’t understand.
The truth is hidden at home.
What truth? The mystery would remain unsolved, for Olivia dared not go to Allen’s End.
The stairs groaned. She shoved away the lockbox just as a key rattled in the lock.
“Am I to have no privacy?” she demanded as the door opened.
Mrs. Primm ignored this. “There’s one thing,” she said sourly. “I forgot to mention it before.”
Olivia rose. She would not be extorted again! “I have already agreed to the new rate, ma’am. You said that was the final price. And I keep this room very neat—”
“A man came looking for you today.”
Dread seized her. “What?” Be calm. She cleared her throat. “How curious. I can’t imagine who it might have been.”
Mrs. Primm had a round, rosy-cheeked face. It lent her an air of benevolence that sat oddly with her cynical tones. “I expect you’d prefer it that way. Came by foot, he did. Well dressed, but not well spoken.”
“Did he leave a name?” How she managed to sound so indifferent, she didn’t know. Her skin was breaking out in gooseflesh; she had to clench her teeth lest they chatter.
“Munn, was it? No—Moore.” Mrs. Primm nodded to herself, missing, thank God, the small sound that Olivia could not swallow away before it escaped her. “He left an address as well, mind you, and asked that I let him know when you returned.”
“And did you?” She realized she was cupping her throat, squeezing it as Moore had once done. She tucked her hand into her pocket, made a secret fist. Thomas Moore was Bertram’s man, perhaps even Bertram’s . . . assassin.
Mrs. Primm shrugged. “Well, he wasn’t police, and I don’t fancy myself a matchmaker. I told him you’d moved on.”
“Oh.” Olivia blinked hard and tried to master herself, for she was seized by the most inappropriate impulse to give Mrs. Primm a hug. “Thank you! Oh, thank you, ma’am.” How she had misjudged the cantankerous old woman!
The woman rejected this gratitude with a sharp pull of her mouth. “I don’t want trouble. You’ll need to leave now.”
“Do you think—that is, could I perhaps leave through the back gate?”
Mrs. Primm gave a grim nod. “I expected you might. Should you find yourself in need of a place, you’ll not come back here. You follow?”
“I won’t. I promise you.” It was the easiest promise she’d ever made.
The door closed. Olivia quickly gathered up her belongings. Every time she fled, she abandoned more than she took. Her possessions now fit into a single valise, the weight of which felt like evidence of her own failure. How on earth had Bertram tracked her here? She’d taken such care with her movements.
Outside, in the safety of the narrow passageway behind the house, night had fallen. This footpath was the sole reason she had chosen Mrs. Primm’s establishment for her lodging. But she’d prayed she would never need to use it.
She stole quickly down the rutted trail. Where would she go? Amanda had departed with her husband for Italy. Lilah, lodged by her employer, could not take Olivia in. Nor could a woman simply prowl the city at night, begging for a room. The steamers bound for the Continent all left with the morning tide. She might go to Waterloo, take the first departing train—but what would she do once she arrived, in the dead of night, God knew where?
The traffic of the nearby high street grew louder with each step, the rattle of tack, the rumble of wheels, promising her the safety of a crowd. You are safe, she told her racing heart. But she wasn’t. Bertram’s man knew that she was in London . . .
His Lordship don’t want no trouble. That first night in London seven years ago, Moore had met her at the station. He had sat across from her in Bertram’s brougham, the swinging side lamp painting his face then casting it back into shadow, visible and then invisible, in rhythm to the thumping of the wheels. And you’re trouble, I expect.
Moore had lured her into the coach with the promise of taking her to a decent hotel. He’d said that Bertram wanted him to see her safely settled. After how hotly Bertram had opposed Olivia’s plan to come to London, this kindness had surprised her. She’d supposed it was meant as an apology; Bertram probably felt guilty for having missed Mama’s funeral.
But his manservant did not take her to a hotel. Instead, the vehicle had turned into a road that grew progressively darker, traveling into the wild darkness of the heath. And when Moore began to speak of trouble, she grew amazed, then afraid. I won’t be any trouble, she’d said. I told Bertram. I don’t need anything from him. I have my own plans now.
But Moore had not seemed to hear her. He don’t want no trouble, he’d repeated. So I take the trouble for him.
And then he had shown her what he meant by that.
She could still feel his hands around her throat. She remembered it so vividly. One’s mind did odd things when starved for air. It saw colors, lights, visions of better times, when one had felt loved.
She had fought him. But he was so much stronger.
She had woken in a ditch by the side of the road, as dawn broke overhead. Even as her eyes had opened, she’d realized she was meant to be dead. Moore never would have thrown her out of the coach if he’d imagined she would live.
When she had appeared at the typing school and asked the headmistress to register her by a different name—not Olivia Holladay, but Olivia Mather—the woman had taken one look at the bruises on her throat and kindly agreed.
Now Thomas Moore had found her again. He was looking for her even now. And she had nowhere to go.
She pulled up where the path opened onto the high street, putting her hand over her chest, willing her gasping breath to slow. She had air. She had enough air.
And it wasn’t true that she had nowhere to go. She watched a hackney pass, and then another, wrestling with herself. One house stood open to her tonight. It was also a place Bertram would never think to look: the house of a man he’d betrayed.
Could she do it? Had she given up on her soul? She had stolen the letters from Elizabeth rashly, on a moment’s wild whim. But this undertaking would be different. She had planned it as thoroughly as a hardened criminal.
But forced to choose between her soul and her safety, her soul and her dignity, her soul and freedom—her soul be damned! Thomas Moore could take part of the blame, for he had forced her into it. Bertram would take the rest, for setting Moore on her trail.
She hailed the next cab. “Mayfair,” she said to the driver. “Green Street.”
Inside the musty cab, as the wheels thumped steadily against the pavement and St. Giles receded, her panic began to ebb, her mind clearing.
She would play the housekeeper. She would find Marwick’s information on Bertram. And she would use it.
This was the last time that any man of Bertram’s would ever make her flee.
Posted March 25, 2014
A wonderful romance, full of secrets, betrayals, and emotions. Fool Me Twice was a fantastic read. I really liked this book. It definitely managed to take me by surprise.
Olivia was a good heroine. She was very strong and survived in a difficult situation. And, when she cared about someone, she was fiercely loyal. I had a few issues with her, though. She was a bit shrewish at times, and came off as self-righteous more than once. It bothered me a little, but it was more of an annoyance that a deal-breaker. I still really liked her character.
Alastair was a wonderful hero. After being repeatedly betrayed by his wife, he shut himself away and became a hermit. He fell from his position of power in Parliament and stepped out of the public light. But, don't let that fool you. He was still strong-willed, clever, perceptive, and a force to be reckoned with. I had a couple of issues with him. Mainly that he could really be an ass sometimes. But, for the most part, I thought he was great and I adored him.
The romance was complicated, to say the least. In between how Olivia and Alastair felt for each other were lies, secrets, betrayals, and it definitely didn't make things easy. But, I thought it was sweet how, despite all that, they still fell for each other. And the sparks were flying between them constantly, whether they were arguing (again) or...something else...
The plot was well paced. I wasn't completely hooked, because there were a few parts where the plot slowed down, but I was kept interested the entire way through. There were tons of secrets that blew me away. They definitely took me by surprise and kept things interesting. I really enjoyed the story and the ending was great.
Fool Me Twice was a lovely historical romance. It wasn't perfect, but I really liked it. From the romance, to the secrets, this book was wonderful. Romance lovers, this is a book worth checking out.
*I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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Posted April 1, 2014
This is an author who knows how to build intelligent dialogue and mature relationships. I love all her books but this was my favorite
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Posted March 26, 2014
I really enjoyed the book. I actually bought it myself (not a give-away) because I enjoyed Duran's previous book in the series. This one does not disappoint; Alastair is a worthy hero brought low by his scheming wife. The story starts shortly after her death with the hero in a deep depression due to her actions. Enter Olivia. A breath of fresh air and a dose of humility for our hero. Good plotting and character development with enough hotness to make it interesting. You will not be disappointed with this one.
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Posted March 20, 2014
This is book 2 in the Rules for the Reckless series.
Olivia must find evidence against the man that is trying to kill her. The only way to get a hold of it is to infiltrate the Duke of Marwick's home. What better way than as a housemaid? When she arrives to interview for the position, she finds the household in need of a housekeeper and since that position will allow her access to the whole house she accepts the position.
Alastair de Grey, the Duke of Marwick, has been holed up inside his bedroom since the secrets of his dead wife came out. Those secrets have turned Alastair into a very angry and unhappy man. When the new housekeeper keeps butting in where she doesn't belong, he doesn't know what to think.
Olivia keeps goading Alastair so that she can finally get access to his papers, but he never leaves his room. All the time that Olivia spends with Alastair is having an unwanted side effect for both of them.
Can the Duke fight his attraction for his new housekeeper? Will Olivia find the evidence she needs to save her life?
I absolutely loved this story. I liked Olivia when I was introduced to her in That Scandalous Summer. Her sarcasm just struck a chord with me. I really like how the author had us learn how much this couple had in common while Olivia was trying to annoy the Duke enough to get him out of his rooms. Olivia (and the reader) had heard some things about the Duke from her former employer (in the previous book), but it wasn't until she forced herself into his life that the real image of the Duke came to life.
I've not read any other of this author's books except those in these series, but they were enough for me to go seek out her other novels. I can't wait to see what else she has in store for this series.
Thanks go out to Pocket Books via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
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Posted January 12, 2015
Gimme all the romances please! No, seriously, somebody do this. So, yeah, I went on a requesting spree on NetGalley since my first historical romance was a hit for me. I just couldn't help myself. While this one wasn't exactly the same, it still has its sweetness to it.
It took awhile for us to get there with Olivia and Alastair, but it was compelling. I kept reading the new interactions between them, seeing the little changes taking place, drawing them inevitably closer. Olivia's tenacity was key in the development of it. She drew him in and he couldn't resist. It was impossible not to love her... and then eventually him.
Fool Me Twice has everything a good romance needs. The banter, the precious banter, of Olivia and Alastair woven throughout the story. I would definitely say Meredith Duran is worth picking up off the shelf and giving a shot.
My Rating: Pretty good
Posted July 25, 2014
One redheaded housekeeper in disguise, a Duke who is broken & a staff of silliness make this romance a HOOT a minute! Come crack it open,I DOUBLE DARE YOU!
Olivia Holladay is a woman on the run from her past & the man trying to eliminate her at any cost. She at the house of the Duke of Marwick to apply as a maid, so she can search thru his "Naughty" files. If she has damaging info on Baron Bertram, she might be able to flee with her life to live in a quiet cottage. Olivia knows the Duke has this files because she stole letters from her last employer, Elizabeth, who is his new sister-in-law. All she has to do is search he house, as she cleans. That should be easy, right?
Alastair de Grey, the Duke of Marwick, is living self imposed HADES & hasn't cut his hair, shaved or even left his bedroom. He is nursing a broken soul & crushed heart, after he read all the letters from his cheating, evil, cruel & opium crazed whore of a wife. He would kill her, but she is already dead from opium. Alastair will not let anyone in his bedroom, as he drinks himself into a coma, to forget all the betrayal & pain.
Olivia walks in to apply for maid & is hired as the housekeeper because the Duke threw a shoe at the last one. She takes the job because a housekeeper can search more without raising the alarm. Alastair meets his mew housekeeper by chucking a bottle at her head & she is determined to get him out of his room, not because she cares, but because she needs to search it. The Duke has an interesting collection of remaining servants, a butler, Jones, lives in fear in the butler's pantry, a valet that chases all the maids, maids Polly & Muriel who just avoid work & the handsy valet & Cook who is missing a lot of truffles. Alastair is invading by this redhead uppity housekeeper left & right as Olivia & he start this endless game of tug of war. Olivia is making sure the house is clean, not because she cares, but these lazy people must work. SHE DOESN'T CARE!
Slowly over time, Alastair begins to reenters the world with her help with no alcohol, haircut & then he begins to make an effort with dressing, living in his sitting room & he even went down the stairs. He begins to trust her & crave her as he never craved his wife, but he will not become like his father & abuse his staff. Olivia thinks the files are in a locked footlocker in his room, but if she opens it he will know that she is also betraying him. Alastair gets frisky in his library with Olivia's back against the bookshelves & unleashed his passions & she loves every minute of it & maybe so does her heart. The next day he tells her to look elsewhere for a position, she panicked, breaks into his locker & he catches her. Alastair can't believe he has been betrayed again, she is talking about a common enemy, the Baron Bertram, his heart starts to fold in on itself & she flees. When she leaves, she takes his hope & his heart with her. Will Baron Bertram get to her first & destroy her? Can he find her in the endless London? Will they realize they are stronger together before it's to late? Can these 2 crazy kids learn that LOVE can only heal & not cause pain?
Ms. Duran created a crazy world for her characters to live in & gave me a ridiculously romance that I loved. This hilarious tale is at the core a story of a strong willed woman who can only love & care. Olivia has dealt a crappy hand in live, but she is ruled by her gooey heart & that makes her one spectacular heroine! Alastair's wife wounded & betrayed his heart, but he just needed a kick in the a$$ to get his brain to function again. He played the Poor Duke for too long & Olivia had the boot for the job. I love a story with a cast of quirky individuals who make a story flow with silliness & Ms. Duran deliver a butler who hides in he butler's pantry! Olivia & Alastair showed no hold bars when it came to their unchecked desires & my Kindle pop & the battery died during a hottie scene, but batteries can charge & so did Olivia & Alastair again & again. I am thinking Bunny, y'all can use your imagination on that one. Ms. Duran can weave a tale of playful dialogue with 2 uniquely flawed characters & she reveals many secrets that might shock you as they did me. I give this romance of silliness a score of 4 fingers up & 7 toes & I THANK Ms. Duran for sharing her COSMOS with me!
NetGalley ARC given for my honest review.
Posted July 19, 2014
I recommended this book. It has a clever plot, the characters are believable, and the story flows nicely. I enjoyed it very much, and I do admire the authors talent and ingenuity. I will be buying more books written by Meredith Duran.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 4, 2014
This book was...different. I enjoyed the premise - a young woman enters an estranged nobleman's house posing as a housekeeper in order to steal certain papers of importance. It's been done before, but Olivia's stubborn refusal to back down in the face of Alastair's angry outbursts coupled with her quick wrangling of the house's unruly servants made for a somewhat entertaining dynamic.
Olivia is a very matter-of-fact, tell-it-like-it-is kind of woman. Smart, intelligent, and resilient, she has faced her share of painful obstacles and it has only served to make her a stronger person. Alastair is lost in the bitter memories of a failed and duplicitous marriage. He is perceptive, but battling a deep depression after the humiliation he suffered from his former, dead wife. Alastair has withdrawn from society, but Olivia desperately needs some of the papers hidden deep within the recesses of Alastair's bedchamber. In order to get those papers, she must first convince Alastair to leave his rooms.
All of the elements to a good story are present - a hero and heroine with conflicting goals, a dash of mystery and suspense, sassy banter between the couple - but I just felt like something was missing. While I grew to like Olivia's character, I did not like Alastair. I found him to be too brooding and that he was too possessive to Olivia as a person. He spoke of "mastering" her at one point, which really turned me further away from his character. Now, I enjoy good BDSM erotica novels, but this was being passed off as a straight romance book which meant that those characteristics of Alastair's character came off as chauvinistic and unhealthy. I also didn't believe Olivia and Alastair were actually falling in love. For me, it seemed to come from nowhere and just be an accepted part of the story. Where was the romantic and sensual buildup? Not in this book, that's for sure. And as for the main mystery part of the novel, I felt the solution was too obvious; I correctly guessed the solution by the halfway point of the book, so by the time the characters figured it out I was frustrated that it took them so long to understand what was happening. Finally, the redemption of the villain felt flat and forced, as if only to serve as a means to wrap up the book.
Overall, a different sort of love story, but one I won't be picking up again. I did, however, love Ms. Duran's use of imagery and language, so I will try another of her books from a different series.
Originally posted at Plot Twist Reviews
Posted June 14, 2014
Good HR with Spunky Characters
My Initial Reaction...
I really enjoyed Fool Me Twice - it had a few twists that I wasn't expecting. And it fulfilled my craving for a good historical romance!
Alison Larkin was the narrator for Fool Me Twice and she was a good fit. I don't know if she normally reads with a British accent or if it's her native accent, but it never felt like work. The accent - which she used in varying ways for men and women - was pretty necessary since Fool Me Twice takes place in England, and she successfully transported me there. As is normal for many female narrators, some of her male voices sounded a little off, but for the most part even they sounded great. I quickly got lost in the story and forgot I was being read to.
I was worried when I started Fool Me Twice that I might feel disconnected from the characters, since it's the second book in the series and I never read the first. However, I never felt any disconnect and the only character (I suspect) that really overlaps between the two books is Olivia, the main character.
Overall I liked Olivia. It takes a lot of spunk to decide your going to pose as a housekeeper and steal the Lord of the house's private documents to blackmail a member of the government. And as you get to know Olivia's past, it's not surprising that she has this kind of backbone. She has not had an easy life and is stronger for it. The only thing that really bothered me was that Olivia has so many contradictions. As the housekeeper she constantly makes a big deal about propriety and how the staff are behaving - even though she doesn't actually care about the household. She just feels it's so wrong. But then she makes these statements (which she follows through on) that she isn't a woman who believes only in relations after marriage. The contradiction really bothered me, but other than that, I liked her.
Fool Me Twice includes the point of view of Alastair (The Duke of Marwick, who she works for) and I think this was essential to my liking him from the get-go. Seen only from Olivia's point of view, I might not have liked him because he was so mean to her! But he really is a man dealing with incredible anger after the death of his wife, who he learned had been betraying him their entire marriage. This knowledge made his angry moments rather hot, actually. He was just a very Alpha male - which I love. And the connection between him and Olivia was particularly great. Some of their banter was great for fans of sexual tension and when it escalated it delights those who want a bit more ;)
The story for Fool Me Twice was a solid one, with several twists that I did not expect. I figured them out literally AS they were being revealed. I love a story like that and I only wonder if reading book one might have made me have better guesses. I'm definitely planning to go back and read it to find out. But I never felt like I was missing any important information, so it does work on its own.
The premise is that Olivia's been chased, since her mother's death, by the henchmen of Lord Burtrum (I'm unsure of the spelling - audiobook problems lol). But she's learned that Alastair has some documents that could blackmail him - so she goes to work for Alastair to steal the documents. This becomes a greater challenge than she anticipated because Alastair refuses to leave his rooms (where the documents seem most likely to be). So Olivia has to work on "fixing him" to get him out of his rooms - thus creating fun moments where they get to know each other and antagonize each other.
One other element I really loved about Fool Me Twice was the passing between realms of the house. Olivia is staff, Alastair is the Duke. It had this Downton Abbey feel that I absolutely loved - and Meredith Duran did an excellent job capturing the historical world she wrote her characters into.
A fun mystery with a sexy romance, Fool Me Twice was a thoroughly enjoyable historical and I plan to read more from this series.
This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Posted June 1, 2014
Posted May 15, 2014
I've really enjoyed all the books in the series, they all had something a little different to offer which kept me interested until the very end!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 25, 2014
Posted April 21, 2014
Posted April 10, 2014
I’m in an admitted historic romance kick – and while I have some favorite authors already in the genre, Meredith Duran is a new author for me. Fool Me Twice is the second in a series, but I found that it stood alone quite well, with enough background given for recurring characters to make any questions moot, but stirring a desire to read their stories.
I enjoyed Duran’s writing, she manages to present the period giving the reader a sense of the time and the setting, and giving characters a touch of modernity to appeal to contemporary readers. Olivia is clever, determined and in more than her fair share of difficulty. Her intention is to pose as a housekeeper to gain access to letters that will remove the threats against her person, held in the keeping of Alastair, Duke of Marwick.
Alastair, for his part, is the consummate political animal: controlled and with a long memory for slights and little patience for questions. He has serious issues with trust, his late wife betrayed his trust and broke his heart with her unfaithfulness, and he is seeking to wield his not inconsiderable power to gain vengeance against those who have wronged him.
These two are an interesting pairing: while Alastair is intrigued by the clever redhead, he is often put out by her seeming nosiness and inability to ‘stay in her place”. These two are so damaged with bone-deep secrets that they strive to bury in the past; yet the issues from those secrets are reenacted repeatedly in act and deed with one another, particularly in terms of their attraction.
Part of the intrigue in Historic romance is the power imbalance that is structured into the position of women of the age not having a value in society’s eyes: yet most often this imbalance is more than remedied with the heroine being strong willed, sharp and so utterly beguiling and entrancing to the male who wants her that his character gives way and sees her more of an equal than a possession. Sadly, in this story, the power imbalance led to several scenes of a more sexual nature that were borderline dubious consent, with less of the “missish’ reluctance/conflicted emotional and physical reaction to the acts: those actually make more sense to me in a historical setting, because of the societal constraints and the devastating blow to the woman’s life should her reputation for chastity and proper decorum be tarnished.
The distinct disadvantage in finding Alastair’s continual need to assert his mastery over everyone and thing made him highly difficult to empathize with, it isn’t until further into the story that the true pain of the betrayals provide a sense of the good man that he could become. Olivia isn’t immune to her own failings either: her initial plans to steal away with the letters that will prove to be her salvation and her lack of familiarity with being in service, and her decided inability to cope with acting the part almost unmask her as a fraud before Alastair’s interest takes hold. There is a decided dark streak that runs through this story, not all is hearts and flowers and sweet words, but the two do reach an accord, and find a way to trust in one another for their mutual gain.
Durand writes beautifully, and with the few issues I had where there were moments of discomfort or the characters didn’t seem to ring true to their development, I was engaged and couldn’t wait to see where things would end up. It isn’t until Olivia and her determination and will, and ability to withstand more than she originally thought possible take center stage that the story falls into place piece by piece and ends with a most satisfactory conclusion.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Posted April 4, 2014
Loved this book! Loved the hero and the heroine and I loved the plot! The story was so engaging it was hard to put down. It was such a smart unraveling that I completely believed the events in this story could happen. Olivia Mather is up to no good. She is on a mission and is not going to let anything or anyone get in her way. Olivia needs to find information on her sworn enemy and the only person that might have that information is none other than our hero- Alastair de Grey.
Alastair de Grey once London’s golden boy is locked up in his room on the brink of lunacy. Alastair is driven mad by his past. He hides out in his room and his staff is terrified of him. Everyone thinks that he has lost his mine and fears him. Alastair is enraged/heart-broken/disappointed in himself and in his past. He discovers the numerous affairs of his now deceased wife. He is very handsome, very rich and also very lost.
Olivia is hired as a maid in Alastair’s home. She finds herself in a home run amuck by servants and a master that doesn’t care if he or anyone else lives or dies. She realizes that the information she is looking for is in Alastair’s room. However, he never leaves his room and she is terrified of how far along he is in his lunacy. Through many tense, and at times funny encounters, she is finally able to reason with him. Because Alastair’s has already been deceived he is infuriated when he finds out Olivia’s true intentions for infiltrating his home and turning his life upside down. Olivia for her part is struggling with her deception and her justification, together with Alastair she has to figure out how far she will go to get the revenge she has been after for years. Alastair has to decide who he will become. He can no longer go back to the man he was but he is not sure of who he will become. Luckily for him Olivia is not only a force to reckon with but courageous enough to give Alastair a piece of her mind.
To say that this is a fantastic story is an understatement. Both the hero and heroine were very flawed. They both had to internally struggle with their choices and together they have to decide what they will do with their future. They had such great chemistry from their first interaction that I was hooked. Olivia is very smart and witty and is not afraid to speak up for herself. A trait that gets her into some peculiar situations. Alastair is such a damaged and broken hero that it is through the author’s great creativity that he unfolds right before our eyes. Although he is discarded by much of society for his “mental capacity” he is not going to be made a fool of again, least of all by Olivia. Watching them struggle against each other made for a great plot but watching them work together was equally as gratifying. I loved how the author unfolded this fantastic tale. I found it to be very clever just like the main characters. Excellent story! Full of dynamic and entertaining characters! I definitely recommend it and look forward to reading the first part of the series, That Scandalous Summer (Rules for the Reckless, #1). I’m hooked!
Posted April 6, 2014
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Posted April 8, 2014
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Posted April 22, 2014
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Posted January 19, 2014
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