A 2018 Daphne du Maurier finalist
First comes love, then comes marriage. Unless it’s the other way around. . .
General Mark Grimaldi has sacrificed everything for his military career, working his way through the ranks without the benefit of a nobleman’s title. Now, his years of dedication are about to pay offwith an offer for a prestigious promotion to Home Secretary. There’s only one condition: Mark must be married. Aside from the small matter of not actually wanting to be wed, Mark faces another troubling problem: he already has a wife.
Nicole Huntington Grimaldi has spent ten contented years in France without her husbandand without regret. When Mark asks her to return to London and play the part of his beloved wife, she sees her chance. But neither of them is prepared for news that will throw Mark’s future into chaos…nor the undeniable desire they’ve rekindled. Maybe happily-ever-after can happen the second time around in A Duke Like No Other, the next Regency romance from Valerie Bowman.
Valerie Bowman’s Playful Brides novels are:
“Wholly satisfying.”USA Today
“Smart and sensual…readers will be captivated.”RT Book Reviews
About the Author
Valerie Bowman grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her mini-schnauzers, Huckleberry and Violet. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS.
Valerie is the author of the Playful Brides series, including The Untamed Earl and Never Trust a Pirate.
Read an Excerpt
London, July 1818
"You may have your promotion, Grim, on one condition, and I'm afraid it's a condition you're not going to like."
His booted foot propped over the opposite knee, General Mark Grimaldi sat across the desk from Lord Allen, the minister of the Home Office. The older, bald man was Mark's superior and one of the most influential politicians in the country.
Mark had been waiting for this day for what felt like his entire life. The adult part of his life, at any rate.
His breeches were smartly pressed. His shirt was perfectly starched. His cravat was expertly tied. His boots were shined to a glow, and he had a smile on his face. He was four-and-thirty years old. He'd worked his arse off, risked his life on numerous occasions, and given up nearly everything, all in the name of service to His Majesty. For the love of God. He'd nearly died for this promotion.
Condition? Who cared about a blasted condition? There was nothing the minister could say that would stop Mark. He would become the Home Secretary, the head of the Home Office, or die trying.
Mark tugged impatiently at his cuff. "Out with it. There's no condition I won't accept."
The minister stood. He folded his hands behind his back and walked slowly around to the other side of the desk where he towered over Mark, who remained seated. The minister cleared his throat. "Lord Tottenham doesn't want a secretary who is a bachelor. He wants someone settled."
Tottenham ran the Home Office. He was Lord Allen's superior. Tottenham would be the one who made the final decision as to who the new secretary would be.
Grimaldi narrowed his eyes on the minister. "What do you mean, settled?" But he already knew. The pit in his stomach told him.
"A family man," the minister intoned. "You must take a wife."
A wife? The word hit Mark like a bullet to the chest. He was entirely self-made. By choice. By highly calculated choice. Now he'd set his sights on becoming the Secretary of the Home Office. Failure wasn't possible. A wife wasn't about to keep him from it.
He clenched and unclenched his fist by his side. By God, the irony. The unmitigated irony. He'd given his life to his work. No ties. No regrets. He'd given up everything including a social life and now, now they were asking for him to take a wife? Politics could be both brutal and cruel. Today it was downright laughable.
"There is only one problem with my taking a wife," Mark intoned.
"What's that?" the minister asked, moving back around the desk to resume his seat.
This was it. The moment of truth. The time to admit to something he hadn't admitted to in years. A humorless smile twitched his lips. "I'm already married."CHAPTER 2
Somme, France, Late July 1818
Nicole raced across the lavender field atop her horse, Atalanta. Her head was down, the wind whipped her hair, and she had a smile of pure, exhilarated triumph on her face. There was nothing like racing a man and winning. The Comte de Roussel rode at her side. Or more correctly, he rode a few lengths behind her, trying to keep up. Henri was a kind man and a dear friend, but she had no hesitation whatsoever in beating him soundly at a race. Races were meant to be won, after all.
The fields were in full bloom and the fragrance of lavender filled the air. Nicole breathed in deeply, enjoying the sunshine on her face. It would probably cause more freckles, but so be it. She loved days like this. The sun high, the fields dry, the wind blowing her red hair. She never restrained the unruly locks when she rode. This was what freedom felt like.
Out of the corner of her eye, Nicole spied Rochard, her servant, running across the field, flagging her down with his hat. "Madame, madame, you have a visitor," he called in country French as she neared him.
Nicole slowed Atalanta to a halt and shielded her eyes to look across the field. A visitor? She wasn't expecting a visitor today.
Then she spotted him. Her heart dropped into her boots. Her pulse stuttered, then raced. She would recognize that form anywhere. Tall, broad- shouldered, dark-haired, impeccably dressed. She didn't need to be close enough to see what he was wearing to know that. There was only one man who looked like that, who stood like that, who was even now watching her with a mixture of curiosity and ill-concealed distaste. Again, she didn't need to be close enough to know that.
Merde. Her husband was here.
The comte slowed his horse to a halt nearby. His gaze followed hers. "A visitor?" he asked in flawless aristocratic French.
"Oui." Then she swore under her breath.
"Who is it?" the comte continued. "An Englishman from the looks of him."
She curled her lip slightly. "Oh, he's English all right."
He was decidedly English and even more decidedly a complete ass. One she'd never thought she'd see again. At least not alive. It was so like Mark to arrive unannounced after all these years and expect not to be thrown off the premises. The element of surprise had likely been his tactic. If he'd informed her he'd be paying her a visit, she would have come up with some convenient excuse not to see him.
She sighed, pulled off one riding glove, and ran her fingers through her tangled hair. She didn't question how he'd found her. The man was a master spy. Hunting her down had no doubt been easy for him. She straightened her spine and took a deep breath. Very well. Today was the day. The day she'd looked forward to and dreaded for the last ten years. Her day of reckoning with Mark Grimaldi.
She turned Atalanta, kicked her heels against the horse's sides, and raced to a stop at the gate near where Mark stood. Nicole dismounted, tossing her red locks over her shoulder, and strode purposefully toward him. She refused to take her eyes from him. He was not a man who responded well to any sign of weakness, which was why she'd gone straight to him instead of heading to the stables first.
Nicole removed her gloves as she approached. He would simply have to get over the fact that she was wearing riding breeches and a man's shirt. That was how she preferred to ride.
"Mark Grimaldi, to what do I owe the pleasure?" Her voice was carefully devoid of any emotion, save perhaps for the smallest bit of sarcastic emphasis, particularly on the word "pleasure."
Mark's dark gaze swept over her in that bold, possessive way of his, making her feel vulnerable, almost naked. He was the only man who'd ever seen her in flagrante delicto, after all. She was suddenly quite aware of how tight and revealing her riding breeches were. And how low cut the man's shirt was on her, the first button falling just above her breasts. It revealed a bit too much of her décolletage. Hmm. Too bad.
"Pleasure?" Mark intoned with the same sarcastic emphasis. "That remains to be seen." His voice was just as deep and rough and arrogant as she remembered it.
"Came to torture me, did you?" She gave him a tight smile and put one fist on her hip. The other hand squeezed the soft leather riding gloves together so tightly her knuckles ached.
"Perhaps." He nodded toward the comte. "But first, aren't you going to introduce me to your friend?"
The comte had just pulled his horse to a halt behind her. Nicole bit the inside of her cheek to keep from saying something truly inappropriate and turned her head to the side while the comte dismounted. "Comte de Roussel, this is Mark Grimaldi." A note of dry contempt crept into her voice. "The last I knew, he was a corporal. Knowing him, he's probably the prime minister by now. Monsieur Grimaldi, this is the Comte de Roussel."
Henri, who didn't appear to have a blond hair out of place after his ride, nodded and bowed to Mark, tipping his hat.
"General Mark Grimaldi." Mark held out his hand for a proper shake.
Nicole's eyes flared slightly. She couldn't help a dig, though. "Not a field marshal?" More sarcastic emphasis.
Mark's obsidian gaze never left the comte. "I intend to skip that rank entirely. The wars are over now, or haven't you heard out here, rusticating in the country?" He waved his hand in a circle.
She didn't miss the snideness in his tone.
The comte glanced back and forth between the two of them, an apprehensive look on his face.
Mark tapped his boot on the ground impatiently. "I'm also her husband, or weren't you going to tell your friend that, Madame Grimaldi?"
The comte's eyes widened. He turned his head sharply toward Nicole. "Mari?"
"Yes, her mari." With the tip of one finger, Mark pushed his hat back on his head the slightest bit.
Damn him and his smug tone. "It's true," Nicole said, tossing her hair again. She reached up and stroked her horse's mane. "Come. I must get Atalanta to the stables for the groom to rub her down." She turned on her booted heel and began walking toward the stables, leading Atalanta by the reins.
Mark's deep laughter followed her. "Atalanta? Of course you would name your horse after a warrior woman who did nothing but cause her husband trouble."
Nicole's nostrils flared, but she didn't turn her head to look at him. Instead, she lifted her chin high in the air and continued her march toward the stables. "What trouble? She merely did what she liked and was scorned for it." Nicole quickened her pace, her stride purposeful. The two men followed her. Their boots crunched along the path behind her.
"Seems like Aphrodite would have been a more apt name. The steed of a woman who cuckolded her husband," came Mark's next taunt, sure and strong from behind her.
Nicole stopped and whirled around, her hair whipping over one shoulder. "Is your horse named Zeus, after a man who ruined the lives of most of the people around him?"
Mark's lips quirked. "No, I still have Jupiter. He's served me well all these years. And Zeus was a god, not a man." His lips spread open into an unrepentant grin. "Are you comparing me to a god?"
"We're speaking about your horse, not you," she replied before snapping shut her mouth. She might as well stop her barbs. He was clearly enjoying them, and she refused to let him march back into her life and make her angry so quickly. She'd spent too many years getting over him, and she intended to remain over him, no matter how he taunted her.
"Madame, would you like me to go?" the comte offered, clearing his throat.
"No, monsieur, please stay," she said, more to bother Mark than anything else. He clearly wanted Henri to leave. A momentary pang of guilt shot through her. It was wrong of her to put poor blameless Henri in the middle of her barb trading with Mark. Henri didn't deserve such treatment. She again resolved to stop responding to Mark's taunts.
The small party reached the stables and Nicole handed Atalanta's reins to one of the grooms. She turned to face the two men, her arms crossed over her chest, one knee jutted out, her boot tapping the ground in agitation.
"We'll go in the house and have refreshments, but first ..." She forced her gaze to fix on Mark's hatefully handsome face. "Are you going to tell me why you came? I'm quite certain it's not for the tea."
"Of course I am, but I was hoping I could speak with you" — Mark eyed the comte up and down with obvious distaste — "privately."
* * *
Not half an hour later, the comte was on his way home and Nicole had twisted her hair into a bun and stuck it to the back of her head with some pins she'd fetched from her pocket. She refused to go upstairs and dress in a gown and pretend to be the perfect little quiet English wife Mark wanted. If he had something to say to her, he could say it to her breech-covered backside.
She did, however, have enough of a hostess in her that she led him to the front drawing room of the château and rang for tea.
"You look ... well," Mark began, as she took a seat on the rose-colored settee in the center of the room.
She crossed her arms over her chest and arched a brow at him. "Spare me. We both know you need something from me or you wouldn't be here. You might as well save us both time. What do you want?"CHAPTER 3
Mark quirked his mouth into a half smile. Nicole had always been direct. It was one of the things that had first drawn him to her. She wasn't about to let him get away with arriving unannounced without admitting that he wanted something. Good, because he liked to be direct too. "You're right. I do want something from you."
"Say it." She crossed one leg over the other and for the life of him he couldn't stop staring at how those breeches hugged her long legs. Outside, he'd been slightly obsessed with how they hugged another part of her anatomy. And that shirt ... the one that was exposing her chest in a way that made the back of his neck sweat. Leave it to Nicole to have her hair down and to be wearing breeches while riding around a French château on a horse named Atalanta. She'd been besting the comte in the race they'd been engaged in. That was also like her. She adored competition and hated to lose at anything. If he had any hope of her saying yes to his proposal, he needed to make certain he didn't become her adversary ... again.
He glanced around the drawing room. Outfitted in rose and cream silks with the occasional hint of green, the room was tastefully decorated. The château itself was large and well appointed without being ostentatious. She had access to his money but had never spent a shilling of it. No, this was all a result of her own money or her family's.
He spread his arms wide along the back of the settee. "No reminiscing? No catching up? No discussing the good times?"
Her dark red eyebrow inched even higher. "Were there good times? I seem to recall those being few and far between."
"There were a few." In bed. He tugged at his collar.
She poked at the chignon on the back of her head. Only she could make a quickly put-together hair arrangement look effortlessly gorgeous. Several tendrils of the long red locks fell to frame her face, which wore a decidedly disgruntled look. "Out with it. I'm quite busy. I'm attending a dinner party this evening and I must dress."
Mark bit the inside of his cheek but ultimately he couldn't keep the comment that had sprung to his lips to himself. "A cleaner pair of breeches?" Damn, she looked good in those breeches. She looked good altogether. Better than good. The years had been kind to her. The fresh-faced plumpness of her cheeks had given way to a slenderness that made her cheekbones prominent. Her lips were still full and pink and inviting. Her hair luxurious, soft and smooth. Her eyes looked more world-weary, to be sure, but their sea- foam-green depths were still astute and intelligent. Her body was still trim and fit. Her thighs looked even fitter, probably from riding astride. Ahem. What he wouldn't give to see those thighs once more, to have them wrapped tightly around his —
"Despite my present appearance, I do own a gown or two." Her words snapped him out of his indecent line of thought. She gave him another tight smile.
He stood, crossed to the nearby sideboard, and poured himself a brandy. "Going to meet the comte again?"
"Careful," came her throaty voice from the settee. "It's nearly sounding as if you're jealous."
Still facing the sideboard, he cocked his head to the side. "Jealous? Whatever does that word mean?"
"The comte is a friend, nothing more." Her voice sounded dismissive. He didn't believe her, however.
Mark splashed more brandy into his glass. "I'm certain you'd tell me if he weren't."
"I'm certain you'd care."
Mark turned back toward her and took a healthy swig of his drink. "A man doesn't like to think of his wife in the bed of another."
She actually rolled her eyes at that comment. "Oh, you've been celibate all these years then?" she countered, her voice dripping with skepticism.
He had been, but he'd die a slow death back in the French prison camp before he told her that. However, he wasn't so unrealistic as to think Nicole would have remained untouched. They had agreed to part ways, hadn't seen each other in ten years. She was a beautiful woman in the prime of her life. Still, the notion of punching the comte dead in the face held a great deal of appeal at the moment. "I've never been one to kiss and tell, love."
She gave him a tight smile, which clearly indicated she didn't believe him, either. "You're a general now?" she asked abruptly, clearly ready to change the subject.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Duke Like No Other"
Copyright © 2018 June Third Enterprises, LLC.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A Duke Like No Other by Valerie Bowman is a phenomenal read. Ms. Bowman has once again delivered a story that is well-written and will keep readers anchored to their e-readers. Mark learns that he must be married to obtain the promotion he wants. He also happens to already be married. Nicole has been living in France for years when Mark approaches her to reunite for his career. Nicole has something she wants from Mark in return. Their story is packed with drama, humor, sizzle and suspense. I loved reading A Duke Like No Other and look forward to my next book by Valerie Bowman. A Duke Like No Other is book 9 of the Playful Brides Series but can be read as a standalone. This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I just love second chance romances. General Mark Grimaldi's professional life couldn't be any better. He is finally up for the job of the minister of Home Office, the position he has wanted his whole life, but he finds out there is a small problem.....they would prefer it, if he was married. Funny thing, Mark actually is married. He just hasn't seen his lovely bride in 10 years!!!! Mark foolishly married Lady Nicole Huntington, thinking they were in love, but then he came to find out Nicole had a secret that she kept from him, thus breaking his trust. The two of them have been living separate lives, content with how things are. Now, Mark must find Nicole and ask her for a favor....pretend to be his loving wife, at least until he gets the job. Then they can go back to separate lives. Too bad Nicole has a favor of her own! Oh, my lord I loved these two. They are both so stubborn and pig headed, but deep down they both still had feelings for each other. When they make the agreement that they will help each other out with what they each want, that is when things get fun. I loved the banter between these two. I also really enjoyed the mystery revolving around Mark's cousin. It was fun watching the women help solve the "who done it". Overall, this story has some really wonderful characters and a great story line that kept me entertained....and the chemistry between Mark and Nicole was sizzling!
I love the Playful Brides series. I hope Valerie Bowman keeps this series going, and brings back Lucy, Jane, and friends to the rescue. This book was good. Not my favorite compared to most of the others.
Nothing earth-shaking, but the characters are appealing and the pacing is good.
I was hooked from chapter one with the news that he has a wife. Even after being apart for so long that fire was still between them no matter what they tried to tell themselves. I loved the back and forth when making the deal for her to come back to London and how much they thought alike. The shocking news was nothing I could have seen coming or expected what would happen afterwards. They both had things in their past that were surprising and amazing. Nicole is straightforward and not like other ladies around her. I loved her right away because she enjoyed messing with him and the work she did. She thought she could detach herself from him, but her heart knew better. Mark would do anything to get what he set his mind on excepts for revealing his secret. He is one that you have to get to know and understand. I loved him because of how he tried to control things, but it didn’t go as planned and because he put others first when needed.
As a fan of Valerie Bowman I was delighted to receive an ARC of the latest book in The Playful Brides series. Mark & Nicole Grimaldi, in A Duke Like No Other, separated after only a few months of marriage. The fight was horrible enough to send Nicole to France for 10 years & Mark to lose himself in his distinguished career as a spy & earned him the nickname The Stone Man. This may be why I had trouble accepting him as our hero. I didn't find him likable until the last third of the book when he began to show some feelings. Nicole had been an unofficial Bow Street Runner & continued her chosen work while living in France. For such a strong independent woman she had trouble speaking her mind to her own husband. Yet the story is a good one, the premise is believable & sound. Many readers will enjoy the journey as these 2 reunite & begin to make a new life together. The issues I have with characters are completely mine & should not discourage anyone from picking up A Duke Like No Other and having a delightful time with Mark & Nicole. I wholeheartedly look forward to the next Playful Bride which I hope will be Daffin & Regina's story.
This story captivated me from page one. I really enjoyed the tension between Mark and Nicole - married, but estranged for the past 10 years; both still madly in love with each other but feeling self- protective, leery, anxious, yet drawn to each other beyond all control. As a side note, they were involved in solving the murder of Mark's cousin and heir to a duchy. Fun story, great characters, can't wait for more!
This couple did not have a good reason for their angst. It bordered on the foolish side. Too much pride and no communication particularly on the man' s.
Valerie Bowman is a talented writer notable for her worthwhile characters. Even if the story is not particularly powerful or original, Bowman characters typically steal the spotlight and make the story worthwhile. That being said, A Duke Like No Other fell short. Both have their faults that their merits do not excuse. There were also many issues with the story. The reader has to suspend disbelief for the majority of the plot which feels both unrealistic, particularly for the time, and dramatic. Despite that, Bowman delivers with her signature style and heat. If the reader and accept the historical inaccuracies as well as frustrations the characters invoke, the story is actually quite enjoyable.
I enjoyed this story of a married couple finding their way back to each other. Nicole and Mark hurt each other but find they need each other now. The physical attraction never disappeared, but the trust needs to be rebuilt. Both are strong characters, and I laughed and cried as the story progressed. I recommend this book and look forward to more from this author. I received a copy of this story through Netgalley, and this is my unsolicited review.
I totally enjoyed reading A Duke Like No Other by Valerie Bowman, book 9 in her Playful Bride series. This Historical Romance is a second chance at love and marriage, that is filled with mystery and intrigue. In order for General Mark Grimaldi to further his career and meet his goal to become the next Home Secretary in England, he must find himself a wife. But, he already has a wife; unfortunately they are estranged and haven’t seen each other in ten years. Mark knows his estranged wife, Nicole Huntington Grimaldi, is living in France, but he has a plan. He will go to France, surprise her and ask Nicole to do a favor for him by acting as his loving wife for a short period while he secures his promotion. What a great plan! However, Nicole has her own plan, she will agree to Mark’s favor as long as he agrees to do a favor for her. Mark readily agrees and off they go, back to England, together. Although it seems simple, life has a way of making simple things turn out to be a little more complicated. In this case life turns out to be a lot complicated. The likeable and intriguing main characters, General Mark Grimaldi and his estranged wife Nicole were quite entertaining in this story. In addition she added secondary characters that added more fun to this story. Definitely be on the lookout for Aunt Harriet and her contribution to a very important interrogation Mark tries to achieve. I always enjoy some humor in a good story. With Mark being a spy and Nicole being an “assistant” to the Bow Street Runners there are lots of investigating going on along with some surprise conclusions to the mysteries. I totally loved these characters and didn’t want to put this book down. Ms. Bowman did a fantastic job creating her characters, keeping the story intriguing, making me forget the world around me and did not let me go until I turned the last page. I highly recommend this book to other readers. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, supplied by the publisher through NetGalley.
This is a fun series. I have enjoyed each of them greatly. The characters are a lot of fun. I loved Nicole and Mark and how they must learn to admit that they love each other and need to be together. I received a copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.
I’ve received an eARC at no cost to the author. A few days ago, I read a review somewhere that talked about who much you can love a book and still acknowledge that it has some problems. And I have to say that this book fits that description. I really enjoyed it, and I really liked both the plot and the author’s writing style, but sometimes there were small problems that slightly annoyed me. An example: Mark is a very intelligent man, he knows who the world works, and knows that influence and titles are important. However, somehow, he fails to see how that might come in handy for when he decides to propose a new police force to the House of Lords, etc. Really? It was small things like this that sometimes annoyed me. Anyway, the story starts with Mark focused on trying to get a promotion and him needing a wife to achieve it – but he already has one that went to France 10 years ago. And right away we start wondering what happened between them – 10 years is a long time (in another country, especially!). I really liked Nicole, and I sympathized way more with her than with Mark (he was a bit too proud for me, and it took him too long to realize it). Their love story is a bit complicated, but like most love stories, if they had just talked to each other and weren’t so proud (and arrogant, in Mark’s case), those ten years apart would not have come to that. With all of this said, you would expect me to give a lower rating to this book, right? Wrong! Because even though it had its issues, I really enjoyed reading it – I read it in just a few hours! It was very engaging, with a Clue-like mystery to keep the plot going, and steamy romance between Nicole and Mark. I have to say, I’ve read my fair share of sexy/sexual/sex scenes, and these were some of the best! Granted, they were only bedroom scenes, but you can tell a lot about an author and their style of writing from the way they can actually describe a romantic scene: every sense most be awake (and awoken) with these scenes, and I really liked how the main characters connected by using their lovemaking as a way to be able to talk (both literally and metaphorically) to one another, and eventually work out their problems. I also liked that, even though this is an independent book, it sets the scene for the next one. All the secondary characters were there for a reason, they weren’t just there to fill in the space, they actually brought something to either the plot, the main characters development, or both. In the end, it was a very pleasurable read, with romance, mystery, and strong enough points that kept me interested and made me want to keep reading as fast as I could.
A Duke Like No Other by Valerie Bowman is Playful Brides #9. General Mark Grimaldi has devoted his life in service to his country, rising the ranks on his own merits as a spymaster and he is now up for promotion to Home Secretary. With one condition. He needs to be settled. They want him to have a wife. The only problem? He's already married. Nicole Grimaldi has lived her life driven to do more. First as an assistant to the Bow Street runners and then as part of the foreign office as a lady spy during the war. Estranged for 10 years from her husband and retired to France, she more expected to receive notice of his death before seeing him at her doorstep. I found both characters to be passionate and driven as well as witty and intelligent. The one hole each seems to have in their ability to figure out and influence their environment with confidence is their relationship with each other. I liked how much confidence and capability each displayed as well as how fun their battles with each other were. While at first the idea that both Mark and Nicole, very intelligent in other areas, had such a difficult time seeing the things in their own relationship, in the end I found this almost more realistic. Often times its the things right under our noses that we have the hardest time seeing. Overall I very much enjoyed A Duke Like No Other by Valerie Bowman and the battles and passion that Mark and Nicole shared with each other. (I voluntarily reviewed an advance review copy of this book I received for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my open and honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.)
A Valerie Bowman read takes on a life of it's own. With intense heroes and headstrong heroines, a good time is usually had by all. From a hurtfully chilly estrangement to a passionately turbulent reunion, A Duke Like No Other weaves an intricate maze of dangerous liaisons and tempestuous seduction. Let the tango begin.
I'm not usually a huge fan of second chance romances,but A Duke Like no other won me over. It was an emotional roller coaster from the beauty and heartbreak of old lovers reuniting, to the suspense of a great mystery. I cried and then I rejoiced with Nicole. If only every book did such a fantastic job of captivating its audience.
A Duke Like No Other by Valerie Bowman Playful Brides #9 Looking for a second chance at love historical romance with spies, strong minded stubborn outspoken characters? This might be for you. If you are looking for a believable story true to the times…probably not this book though it does have a mysterious murder to solve and an interesting group of characters. Nicole and Mark met and married quickly. She comes from a titled background and his father was without a title though there are titles on his mother’s side of the family. He has been a spy and so has she. When he needs to be “settled” to receive a promotion to a position he’s been working toward he decides to talk his estranged wife of ten years into returning to England with him. With his agreement to her condition they head from Calais to London. Shortly after they arrive a murder occurs that sets in motion changes that can and will impact both of their lives. I had trouble believing this story though it was well written. The reason they became estranged seemed like an easily remedied one if they had not been so stubborn and taciturn. I wanted to shake them both and have an intervention in which they had to speak truthfully to one another. Solving a problem for another, finding a murderer and time in the bedroom seemed less difficult for this couple than an honest conversation. I did enjoy the story…just had trouble buying into it. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC – This is my honest review. 3-4 Stars
Great read. Do not want to put down
This is an interesting variation on the separated spouses trope. Madly in love until one or the other misunderstands and departs in anger. Both waiting for the other to make the first move. Living separate lives until one needs the other for a specific purpose. I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns of the story line. Valerie Bowman never fails to deliver a good story.
Grim and Nicole are perfectly matched. Both are strong, independent characters with the same hubris: pride. Both characters use pride to mask their vulnerabilities and destroy their marriage in just a few months. After 10 years, circumstances force Grim to seek out Nicole and return to London. Nicole has her own goal, and agrees to return as Grim's loving wife. As they pretend to be happily reunited, they have the opportunity to break down the walls surrounding their hearts. A Duke Like No Other is part of the Playful Brides series, but it works exceptionally well as a stand alone. It is well written and crafted with humor, romance and sassy characters. This is one of my favorites in Ms. Bowman's Playful Brides series.
Nine books into this series and it is still as amazing as the first! You may remember General Mark Grimaldi as a friend of the Cavendish brothers and their wives. Mark has been a spymaster for years all the while holding several secrets of his own. One is that he has been married for a decade, yet his wife has lived in France since their disastrous fight three months after the I do’s. Now, to get the promotion he wants, he’ll need to bring her back to England to play the part. Nicole Huntington Grimaldi fell in love with a man she never really knew and after three months, it all fell apart. Since she was also somewhat of a crimefighter/female spy, she took an assignment in France and never returned. Even though she was surprised when her husband found her, she honestly never thought it would happen. Mark needs a wife. Nicole wants a baby. Simple, right? Not in the least. Valerie Bowman takes us on another adventure from the lavender fields of France to the richest homes in London. Mark and Nicole are a unique in the sense that they’ve been married for a decade and aren’t in the fresh blooms of youth. Yet, they are still hold on to old wounds and jealousies like two adults that should know better. I still loved them both to pieces! Mark can be stubborn, but he’s incredibly intelligent and a voracious lover. Nicole wants to guard her heart, but with a husband like Mark, a woman can only enjoy every moment of their intimacies. Both of them have their attitude problems, but Bowman has a way of making the most difficult puzzle pieces fit together perfectly. I came into this series at book seven and didn’t feel at all lost. Don’t be scared away because this is the ninth book in the series. It can definitely be read as a stand-alone novel. I can’t promise you that you won’t want to go back and devour the other eight novels until the tenth, Kiss Me at Christmas, hits shelves later this year. If you want your Historical Romance with shocking secrets, a deadly dose of mayhem, and love scenes that singe the pages, A Duke Like No Other is your next must read novel! I received this book for free. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
"I need you to return to England with me for a few months and pretend to be my loving wife." FINAL DECISION: I loved this second chance at love story uses the heat and pride of the two main characters to weave a story about two people who loved one another but were too stubborn to fix things between them. THE STORY: General Mark Grimaldi has devoted and sacrificed most of his life to protecting England as a spymaster. Now that the wars have ended, he's about ready to achieve his greatest professional goal -- to be named Home Secretary. There is only one problem for Mark. The job is basically his, but those making the decision prefer having a married man in the position and suggest that he find a wife. The problem is that Mark already has a wife, but one he has been estranged from for 10 years. Nicole has spent the last decade in France when he husband returns to ask her assistance in pretending to be a devoted wife. Nicole, however, has a demand of her own that threatens the emotional distance that the two have kept between them. OPINION: I loved this book because Mark and Nicole are such a compelling couple. They are both too stubborn and prideful to admit to one another that they are in love. Instead, they have allowed the distance between them to fester and keep them apart for years. Yet, each yearns to be with the other. The story is written such that the past is interwoven with the present and this allows readers to understand what divided these two. As with most real life relationships, mistakes, keeping secrets, pride and stubborness dooms these two. These two want to be together and Mark's promotion gives them the opportunity to breach the gulf between them. Mark is a man who's love for his parents and being placed in their dramas with their own families has led him to stubbornly cling to the promises he made to his father. This despite the problems it created in his marriage. His job has also kept him apart and made it difficult to connect to other people who might have questioned his choices. The solitary nature has allowed him to cling to pride rather than recognizing it as his fault. Nicole was young when she married and her uncertainty allowed her to accept her husband's anger rather than fight for her marriage. She is capable and unconventional, but she is waiting for Mark to show that he values her above everything else. Just when I thought that the book was going to have to go deeply in a dark emotional journey, a mystery arises which allows Mark and Nicole to work together. The two do respect one another and just need to make themselves vulnerable to one another. I really liked this couple and enjoyed their journey. WORTH MENTIONING: There is another possible couple introduced and I hope we get their story before the series ends. CONNECTED BOOKS: A DUKE LIKE NO OTHER is the ninth book in the Playful Brides series. This book can certainly be read as a standalone with the caveat that there are some small appearances by characters from other books. This romance is self-contained. STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars. NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.
Mark Grimaldi needs a wife to secure a position, the only problem--he already has a wife he hasn't seen in years--Nicole. Deciding to seek her out and make a deal for her to play the good wife for a short while, he finds her in France. Only, she wants something in return--a child. They love each other, but both are too stubborn to admit it. Each feels betrayed in the marriage, but a mysterious death requires them to work together as it also gives them a higher status in the peerage. The mission is dangerous, but love might be the one thing to give their marriage a second chance and help them solve the crime before it's too late. I highly recommend this story, a wonderful addition to the series. **received an ARC from netgalley**
I love second chances, Ms. Bowman gives us Mark and Nicole Grimaldi. Mark finally has his goal in sight, to become Home Secretary. In order to get the promotion his superior tells him that he needs to be settled, to take a wife. Luckily he has a wife. Nicole is living in the French countryside, she loves her freedom. She can live as she pleases, racing her horse through the lavender fields, riding astride, wearing breeches with her red hair flowing behind her. Mark and Nicole have been estranged for 10 years. In order to receive his promotion, Mark needs Nicoles help. In order for Nicole to play the happy wife, she has a condition of her own. They return to London in time to attend a dinner party hosted by Lord Allen, Marks superior. Time to play the happy couple. Will they get the happy ever after? I received an ARC from the author for a honest review.
This was a well-written, entertaining Regency romance. Nicole has spent the last ten years in France and hasn't seen her husband since leaving for France. Mark is devoted to service to the Crown, then he finds out that to get the promotion he is seeking he needs to convince his estranged wife to return to England with him. I enjoyed this book very much and look forward to reading other books by this author. I definitely recommend this book and this author.