The Duke I Once Knew: Unlikely Duchesses

The Duke I Once Knew: Unlikely Duchesses

by Olivia Drake

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250174376
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 12/31/2018
Series: Unlikely Duchesses , #1
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 61,949
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Olivia Drake is a New York Times bestselling author who lives in Texas. Her novels have won critical acclaim and numerous industry awards, including the prestigious RITA. Olivia is the author of Scandal of the Year, Never Trust a Rogue, and If the Slipper Fits among others.

Read an Excerpt


If they didn't stop rearranging her life, she would shriek at them — all of them. Right here, right now, in the midst of a family party.

The tide of anger caught Abigail Linton by surprise, and she drew a deep breath in an effort to dispel it. It wasn't like her to feel such resentment toward those most dear to her. Or to be tempted to rant at them like an escapee from Bedlam. Especially not when she cuddled her infant nephew.

Standing near the open window, she gently rocked Freddie in her arms. Looking at his sweet little face helped to calm her. He'd fallen into a fretful sleep, thank goodness, after an eventful morning in which he'd suffered the indignity of having cold water poured over his brow at the baptismal font.

Abby, her four siblings, and their spouses had gathered in the drawing room to celebrate his christening. The newborn's father, Abby's brother James, was vicar of the village church. Since the rectory was cramped, the extended family had proceeded to their childhood home a mile away. Linton Manor now belonged to her eldest brother, Clifford, upon the death of their elderly parents the previous autumn.

The youngest of the five, Abby had enjoyed exchanging news with her two sisters and two brothers. She had relished visiting with a throng of nieces and nephews. She had loved hearing the laughter of the younger children playing outdoors on this pleasant summer afternoon, and she'd smiled at the older ones who were gathered around the pianoforte while seventeen-year-old Valerie practiced her playing.

Abby had felt enveloped by a warm sense of family. At least until a moment ago when the conversation had turned to her future.

"It is only fitting that Abby remain here in her childhood home," Clifford proclaimed from his stance by the hearth. A portly man in his early fifties, he presided over the gathering as head of the family. "Now that our children are married, Lucille needs a companion."

"Indeed," his stout wife murmured, taking up the silver pot to refresh his tea. "You've so many duties since inheriting the estate, my dear, and it's pleasant to have someone with me during the day while you're out."

Abby's middle sibling, Rosalind, set down her cup with a rattle. At forty, she had retained her girlish figure, though strands of silver glinted in the signature copper hair of the Lintons. "But Abby must come back to Kent with me. I'm counting on her!"

"Whatever for?" Clifford asked testily.

"Valerie will be making her bows soon, and you know how lively the dear girl can be." Rosalind cast a fond glance at the strawberry-blond beauty flirting at the pianoforte with her older male cousins. "I daresay she'll be the toast of the season. It shall take two of us to properly chaperone her."

"For pity's sake, it's merely August." Mary, the second oldest, bestirred herself from a scrutiny of the cake plate in order to address her younger sister. "You shan't be departing for London until February at the earliest."

"But there is her trousseau to prepare! Her dancing and curtsies to practice!"

"Bah," Mary said dismissingly. "Rather, I should find it extremely helpful to have Abby with me. The twins will soon be coming for an extended visit while George and Caroline holiday in Italy. Poor Caro cannot find a nanny who can stop them from running wild. Isn't that so, Ronald?"

"What's that?" Her balding husband glanced up from where he and Peter, Rosalind's husband, were studying the latest racing form. "Yes, darling, whatever you say."

"There, you see?" Mary said, regarding her siblings with a superior air. "Abby is much needed in Suffolk. I am the wife of a baronet, after all. I cannot be chasing after a pair of three-year-old boys. It isn't dignified."

"Oh, pooh!" Rosalind waved her hand. "A title doesn't make you any better than the rest of us. Nor should your wishes take precedence over mine."

Clifford frowned. "Nevertheless, Mary is right, you've no need of Abby until spring. As for you, Mary, you ought to hire an extra nanny for a few months rather than drag Abby halfway across the country. This is her home, after all. She ought to remain right here."

"Hire an extra nanny!" Mary looked aghast at the prospect. She could be pleasant company except in matters of money, when her skinflint nature rose to the fore. "Only think of the expense —"

"I must concur with Clifford," James said. He was a slim man in a clerical collar who exuded a gentle demeanor that helped him to shepherd his flock. "There are needs greater than yours, I'm afraid. Now that the new baby has arrived, it has been a blessing to have Abby so close to the village. Daphne can scarcely find time to breathe between caring for our other three children and fulfilling the duties of a vicar's wife."

"It has indeed been difficult," Daphne said, languidly waving an ivory fan at her pretty face. "There are times when I am quite overwhelmed, and Abby's help has been a godsend. Heaven knows, Freddie is very blessed to have the loving care of his aunt."

At the sound of his mama's voice, the baby stirred restlessly in his sleep, and Abby walked back and forth to settle him. She told herself to be grateful that she was needed. Grateful that her siblings desired her assistance. Grateful that she would always have a home with one of them.

Nevertheless, a rare knot of resentment tightened inside her.

They were speaking of her future. Yet she might as well be invisible for as much as they consulted her wishes on where she preferred to live.

Perhaps it was her looming birthday that made her feel so prickly. In a fortnight, she would turn thirty years of age. Thirty! With no husband or children to call her own.

The youngest by seven years, she'd been the surprise child born when their mother had been in her middle forties. While her siblings had wed and started families, the task of caring for their aging parents had fallen to Abby. In her youth, when she ought to have enjoyed a season in London, being courted by a bevy of eligible gentlemen, she had remained here in Hampshire because Mama had broken her hip in a tumble from a horse and had never regained complete mobility. As well, Papa had come to depend on Abby to help with the research for his book on medieval history. Her twenties had slipped away as she'd busied herself with tending to their needs. Then, less than a year ago, both her parents had fallen ill with influenza.

Their deaths had been a shock. She had spent her entire life in their company and for months afterward she had grieved. Today, in deference to the happy occasion, she'd put off her blacks for a gown of dove gray. The rest of the family had donned brighter colors weeks ago. Of course, none of her siblings had had such a special closeness to their parents as she'd had.

Nor did they quite understand the sacrifices she'd made.

Not that she had minded. Certainly not! She'd dearly loved Mama and Papa. Their care had never been a burden. Yet now, contemplating the rest of her life, Abby felt a disquiet that bordered on panic.

Was this to be her future? Was she doomed to be shuttled among her siblings, never having a place to call her own? When she grew old and gray, would there come a time when her nieces and nephews squabbled over who must take her in?

Running a fingertip over the baby's soft cheek, Abby knew with a pang that life had passed her by. The romantic dreams of her youth had burned to ashes. She was a spinster. In all likelihood, she would never know marriage or motherhood.

Oh, she'd had a few suitors over the years, one quite recently. Mr. Babcock, a gentleman farmer, had offered for her this past spring, but she had put him off with a polite refusal. Nevertheless, he'd declared his intention to ask again once her full year of mourning was over.

Abby toyed with the notion of accepting him. Mr. Babcock was a decent man, solid and respectable, but she would have to share the same house with his henpecking mother and strict Calvinistic father. Was she truly so desperate as to wed someone whose sole interests were cows and sheep, anyway? Who failed to stir even the smallest spark of fire in her blood? Could she endure his dull company day after day, month after month, year after year, for the chance to avoid being a vagabond who moved from relative to relative?

A deep-seated resistance in her balked at taking that drastic step. Yet she did not relish the notion of spending the rest of her life as the family's unpaid servant, either.

Perhaps there was another answer.

Just that morning, she'd learned an interesting tidbit of news from her best friend in the village. Lizzie Pentwater had whispered it in her ear during the christening at church. An idea had crept into the back of Abby's mind. An idea that was appealing and audacious. An idea that would most definitely put her at odds with her siblings.

Clutching the swaddled baby, she started toward the door of the drawing room. She needed to be alone to think. To consider all the consequences.

"Abby! Where are you taking my son?"

She turned to face her sister-in-law. Daphne lounged in her chair in a place of honor at the center of the gathering. Since her papa owned the draper's shop in the village, she always dressed like an illustration out of La Belle Assemblée, despite being the vicar's wife. Today, a gown of shell-pink India muslin swathed her dainty form and a gold comb secured her sable curls.

"I'm going to the nursery," Abby murmured over the music of the pianoforte and the laughter of the children. "The noise is disturbing Freddie."

"Oh, but my little darling must stay. It is his day, after all, so why should he be put upstairs?" Daphne turned a winsome smile toward her husband. "Do tell her, James."

"Babies need their naps," he said, though his face softened as he gazed at his wife. "Nevertheless, this is a special occasion, so I'm agreeable to making an exception."

"Perhaps you should hold him, then," Abby said.

Stepping forward, she placed the sleeping child in her brother's arms. His brown eyes widened. Although an otherwise affectionate father, James, like most men, was accustomed to leaving the care of infants to the women.

He gingerly clutched the bundle against his black clerical suit. "Er ... I'm not certain this is wise. What if he should awaken? He might howl!" He glanced rather desperately at Daphne, who in her finery looked equally unwilling to take the baby, then turned his gaze back up at Abby. "Perchance you'll be so kind as to have him back?"

"No. I won't."

The words spilled from Abby's lips without conscious thought. Nor had she planned to shove the baby at him like that. It wasn't like her to be rude. Or to refuse to do what was expected of her.

Yet her tongue seemed incapable of voicing a retraction.

Everyone gaped at her. Clifford paused with his teacup half raised to his mouth. Lucille clutched a plate of cakes. Rosalind's eyebrows winged upward. James and Daphne wore identical frowns as if Abby had just uttered a salty expletive. Even Ronald and Peter glanced up from their study of the races.

They all appeared so shocked, Abby had to swallow a mad laugh that bubbled up from nowhere. There was nothing remotely amusing about the situation. It was just that she'd always acquiesced to their wishes.

And it felt incredibly liberating to utter a refusal for once.

Mary huffed out a breath. "Abigail Jane Linton! That is most ill-mannered. Do take the child and apologize at once."

By way of reply, Abby crossed her arms. Her slippers felt glued to the ancient rug with its cabbage-rose pattern that had been worn threadbare by generations of Linton feet. An inner voice whispered that if she conceded now, she might never again find the courage to stand up for herself.

"Well!" Rosalind said in a perky tone. "One can scarcely blame our sister for rebelling at being treated like a nursemaid. That's all the more reason for her to come home with me. Together, we can plan Valerie's wardrobe and study Burke's to make a list of the most eligible bachelors. It shall be a treat for Abby."

"That matter is already settled," Clifford declared. "Since both James and I have need of her, she must remain right here for the near future."

"Ever since we lost our parents, you've had Abby at your beck and call," Rosalind countered. "You haven't stopped to consider that the rest of us might appreciate her company, too. Why, she has never even traveled to Kent to visit me!"

"Enough." He slashed his hand downward. "There is nothing more to discuss. She will stay here."

"No," Abby said. "I most certainly will not."

Again, everyone turned to stare. It was as if, in the midst of their bickering, they'd forgotten her presence again. Was she merely a wallflower to fade into the woodwork except when they needed something from her? Or worse, a commodity to be traded back and forth between them, depending upon who complained the loudest?

She loved them all dearly — they and their children, her nieces and nephews. Family had always been her entire world, the very center of her existence. But it was time to break free of their stifling demands. Her siblings must be made to understand that she wanted to set her own path for once.

At least for a time. At least until she'd experienced a little of life outside the sphere of their influence.

She was nearly thirty, after all, and she had never ventured farther than twenty miles from home. She had never lived anywhere but right here in this old manor house with its ancient wallpaper and the chipped porcelain dogs on the mantelpiece that had been there for as long as she could remember.

Clifford stared at her with a hint of bewilderment. "I cannot fathom this sudden defiance in you. Is our company so abhorrent to you?"

"Of course not!" Abby said. "You mustn't think such a thing —"

"What else am I to conclude when you seem so eager to leave my home and my protection?"

She nearly quailed under the force of that piercing look. Because of their age difference, she and her eldest brother had never been close. He'd married Lucille the year before Abby had been born. At fifty-three, he was old enough to be her father.

Nevertheless, she must not allow him to dictate to her.

"You may conclude," she said firmly, "that what I do should not be decided by anyone but myself. And no one here has bothered to inquire as to my thoughts on the matter."

Lucille wrung her hands as she glanced at her husband, then back at Abby. "Does your head ache, darling? I daresay it's this changeable weather, chilly one day and scorching the next. Perhaps you would care to go upstairs and have a lie-down?"

"Thank you, but I'm perfectly fine. It is only that I should like to have a say in my own future."

Rosalind jumped up, looped her arm through Abby's, and smirked at Clifford. "There, you see? Our sister doesn't wish to be the subject of your decrees. She must be allowed to make her own choice and enjoy a holiday in Kent with me."

Abby slipped her arm free. "That is your choice, Rosie, not mine. And what I choose to do is to apply for the post of governess to Lady Gwendolyn Bryce at Rothwell Court."

For a moment, the only sounds were the tinkle of the pianoforte and the shriek of children engaged in a raucous game of blindman's buff outside the open windows of the drawing room. Then a clamor of adult voices broke out.

"A governess?" Clifford said in astonishment. "Whatever put such a wild notion in your mind? Your place is with your family!"

"Oh, dear," Lucille murmured, looking scandalized, "you cannot labor for a living. Whatever will the neighbors think?"

"You've never even had a season," Mary added bluntly. "Lady Gwendolyn must be close to an age to make her debut. What training do you have for preparing the sister of a duke for presentation at court?"

Abby had wondered that herself. But she chose to sidestep the question. "Lady Gwendolyn has just turned fifteen. She won't be entering society for another three years."

"Never mind all that," Rosalind said, her brown eyes bright with interest. "Did no one think to tell me that the Duke of Rothwell is in residence? Valerie and I must pay a neighborly call on him tomorrow. Why, he is the most eligible bachelor in England!"

"He is also England's most infamous libertine," Clifford said curtly, pacing back and forth. "Lechery, fighting, gambling — he is the master of vices. You would scarce believe the stories that circulate in London! I cannot — I will not — permit any sister of mine to venture within a mile of his house."

"His Grace isn't at Rothwell Court," Abby pointed out. "You know as well as I that he hasn't come in many years."

Fifteen, to be precise. Not since his late father had whisked the family away upon the death of the duchess, the present duke's mother. She had died of childbed fever shortly after Lady Gwendolyn's birth.


Excerpted from "The Duke I Once Knew"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Barbara Dawson Smith.
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.

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The Duke I Once Knew: Unlikely Duchesses 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
PegGlover 4 months ago
Abby was tired of being taken advantage of. Her siblings were squabbling once again, over where she would live, and who needed her help the most. It would have been nice if they had considered Abby’s feelings in the matter, but they didn’t. So Abby knew it was time for a change. Her family was not happy. Abby was twenty-nine years old and decided that it was time for her to take control over her life. She applied for a governess position at the Duke of Rothwell’s residence. Abby had once known the Duke when he was fifteen years of age. Before he left for London, Max had pledged his love, promised to write, and return home to marry Abby, when he was of age. Abby never stopped loving Max, even though he broke her heart. Max never wrote to Abby or returned home, as promised. In fact, Max hasn’t been back to the Rothwell residence for fifteen years. Abby was shocked to not only find the Duke at home but showering a beautiful woman with inappropriate attention. Just as Abby expected, he was not pleased to see her. He gave Abby one week, to finish out her employment working as his sister’s governess, and then Abby would need to seek work elsewhere. Although being dismissed by Max, was humiliating and stung, Abby was glad to finally, put an end to her romantic fantasies regarding him. That was, however, until Max kissed her. Although Abby was anxious during her last week of employment, she never expected her life to be in mortal danger. The Duke I Once Knew is a well-written historical fiction romance. And, even though I found the book predictable, it was still an entertaining and enjoyable read. Thank you, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley, for my advanced review copy.
Sunshine1006 4 months ago
Can you go home again? Max, Lord Rothwell did and found his first love as the governess of his young sister, Gwen. Abigail is tired of everything being decided for her. She is being taken advantage of by her much older siblings. Being pulled different ways to be used as a spinster aunt is getting to be, too much. She is almost thirty, and needs something for herself. She goes to Rothwell Court as a governess to Lady Gwen, not expecting Lord Rothwell to be there.. When he shows up with a woman who may be his mistress and a few of his other London friends, both are surprised to see each other. Max and Abigail had been childhood friends and more. The promise of what they were to each other should have been forgotten years ago, but it comes back with an ache of what could never be. The attraction is still there, but Max has secrets. Will he be able to reveal his most private thoughts? What about his reputation as a rake? I loved this book and the story was more complex than many others I have read. I received this book from Net Galley and St. Martin's Press for a honest review and no compensation otherwise.The opinions expressed are my own.
BabyDee 24 days ago
First time read by Olivia Drake. The “Duke I Once Knew” was a very nice read that had me turning pages at certain parts of the story. The pacing of the story was very good, and I thought the HEA could have been done a bit better than what was presented in the story. I did feel that the author rushed the ending a bit to get there but I was glad to see the MC’s finding that they still loved one another. Abigail “Abby” Linton, approaching her 30th birthday is finding herself slowly becoming the spinster that her family see her as and this was due to devoting herself to care for her parents (now recently deceased) with no assistance from her much older siblings. Yet she also has dedicated her life to assisting her older siblings with their housekeeping, children and other things because they see her as nothing more than a pawn to do their bidding. Because of their own shellfish needs, Abby has never had the life that she should have had when she was younger, but they could care less. She finds herself at the family estate having to listen to her bickering siblings try to determine where Abby should live and why her services to them is needed the most. Unfortunate for them, she decides to try to find her own way in life and takes on the position of governess to the sister of an absent Duke…Maxwell Bryce, her first love in the estate neighboring her family. Maxwell Bryce, now the Duke of Rothwell, at age 15 years found friendship, romance with promises towards Abby when they use to meet by the lake to discuss everything. They secretly pledged devotion and love towards one another each time they met. However, on the day of his mother’s funeral, his father decides to take him and his infant sister to London. Max finding comfort in Abby’s arms was seeking more from her that day, but she never relented her virginity to him. He went away angry, hurt and in the process caused her emotional heartbreak. To patch things between them, they sent several letters but neither receive them. Believing that Abby did not care anymore for him, Max remained in London which accumulated to a 15-year absence from his estate. After getting comfortable in her role as governess, Abby is surprised to see Max back at his estate and with what she believes is his now mistress. For Max, after seeing Abby he finds himself not wanting to leave his estate ever again. One problem, he must find a way to get rid of the want-to-be Duchess who interferes with his intentions of rekindling his love for Abby. The MCs in the story were okay and adaptable although I did become irritated with Abby because of her tendency to jump to conclusions and voicing her opinions without thinking first. She had no problem confronting Max when he did something wrong, but never did the same with her family whenever they tried to take advantage of her kindness or had her acting as a servant. I too thought Max was a bit condescending at times and was lacking towards his affections for his sister. He in some ways did the same as Abby’s family when he took advantage of her position as governess because he wanted to devote himself to his prize fighter. Although there were some rough edges in the story, I thought it was well written and presented. I did enjoy the characters and the story ending in a HEA. 4- Stars
Pompie1999 3 months ago
I enjoyed this well-written book. It is a lovely second-chances love story with flawed but likable main characters and a ‘perfidious peahen’ of a villain. Overall, I loved the story, but I did think that some of the middle section could have been pared down and that space reallocated to flesh out the end because I thought the end was a little abrupt. Abigail (Abby) Jane Linton is just weeks away from her thirtieth birthday. This upcoming birthday has her considering her life – she is unmarried, has no prospects and is at the beck and call of all of her much older siblings and their families. At this very moment, they are all around her loudly discussing her future – which of them she should live with, what she can do for them, which of them needs her services the most. Not one of them has asked her where she wants to live or what she wants to do. This will be her future – going from one home to the other being the unpaid companion, caregiver, nursemaid – whatever. Now, she loves her family unconditionally – and they love her, but she just has to have at least one adventure in her life. So, amidst all of the family arguments, she interrupts and announces that she is going to apply for the open governess position at Rothwell Court. Rothwell Court is the property of Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell, although he hasn’t lived there for fifteen years. He’s actually only visited there once, very, very briefly in those fifteen years. However, it is the home of the duke’s much younger sister – Gwendolyn (Gwen). Gwen has spent most of her life living at Rothwell Court with only the company of her governess, an old aunt who pays little attention to her and the servants. Maxwell (Max) Bryce’s father whisked Max and his newborn sister away from Rothwell Court when his wife died. Max was sixteen and he was in love with the girl from the neighboring estate – Abby, who was fifteen. They had a tiff on the day of his mother’s funeral and they never saw or spoke to each other again for fifteen years. Each had promised to write and Max had told Abby that he would come back and marry her when he reached his majority. Each kept their promise about writing letters, but neither received any letters, so each thought the other to be faithless. Max’s father preached at Max constantly about not falling in love because love only made a man weak and brought him nothing but pain and heartache. Max took that advice to heart and became one of the biggest rakes in London. When Max unexpectedly visits Rothwell Court and finds Abby there – sparks fly – and not necessarily the good kind. Max has brought several friends from London and one of them is the woman he wants to become his mistress. Abby can’t believe it and constantly takes him to task about exposing Gwen to that woman. Max and Abby still feel that strong attraction that was there when they were 15 and 16, but both fight those feelings – especially Abby because she doesn’t want any part of the debauched man Max had become. So, I loved watching the two of them grow and come back to the sweet love they once had for each other. I did think it took a bit too long to get there, but when it happened, it was lovely. I recommend this book and hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did. Please check out my reviews at: Blog: Facebook Page: Twitter: Twitter:
Becca_Bradley 3 months ago
I wasn't sure how it was going to read as looking at the reviews that were already out there it really was a mixed bag, but what one reader likes another doesn't and so I jumped right in to decide for myself. I loved this book from the get-go. It was fast-paced and for me, it felt grittier and less fluffy than most books in the genre which was fabulously refreshing. It is full of drama, love, and a betrayal that has spanned the years. The world that Olivia Drake has created is rich and inviting and after being immersed in it I want to go back! This is my first Olivia Drake book and will not be my last. I am eagerly awaiting more in this series.
nelriv 3 months ago
Rcvd an ARC at no cost to author..(netgalley) This title was the Duke I Once Knew and after reading I wondered why she would want to know him again. So we meet Abby who is a doormat and allows her family to do whatever, she in an act of rebellion (yeah shocked me) decides to work as a governess and ends up working for her long lost love's family. At a young age Abby fell in love with Max and promises were made but unfortunately they broke up after some miscommunications and shade from others. Max goes on to become a manwhore literally after professing his love, like really quickly (yeah that's love) anyhoo he comes home years later and discovers that the woman whom he had loved and did him wrong is now working for him and his family and he comes with a mistress in tow. More misunderstanding, judgements all over and honestly I didn't care for any of them, not Abby, not Max and not her family. I wont continue with the rest of the series
BuckeyeAngel 3 months ago
For years, Abigail Linton devoted herself to caring for her parents and her siblings’ children. Now, eager to create a life of her own, Abby seizes upon a position as a governess on a neighboring estate. Unfortunately, her absentee employer is Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell, the notorious rake who once broke her youthful heart. But since he hasn’t set foot on his estate for fifteen years, Abby assumes she’ll never have to lay eyes on him ever again. Then, from out of nowhere, Max appears. He is stunned to come face to face with the girl next door he fell for years ago—before he went away, and she stopped writing to him. . .even though Abby swears that he is the one who left her without a word. Could it be that this spirited, witty spinster has won Max’s heart all over again—and that they may have a second chance at love? I didn’t like this book. Right from the beginning, I was really annoyed with all of the characters and how the story itself was. It just wasn’t for me. **I voluntarily read and reviewed this book
BuckeyeAngel 3 months ago
For years, Abigail Linton devoted herself to caring for her parents and her siblings’ children. Now, eager to create a life of her own, Abby seizes upon a position as a governess on a neighboring estate. Unfortunately, her absentee employer is Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell, the notorious rake who once broke her youthful heart. But since he hasn’t set foot on his estate for fifteen years, Abby assumes she’ll never have to lay eyes on him ever again. Then, from out of nowhere, Max appears. He is stunned to come face to face with the girl next door he fell for years ago—before he went away, and she stopped writing to him. . .even though Abby swears that he is the one who left her without a word. Could it be that this spirited, witty spinster has won Max’s heart all over again—and that they may have a second chance at love? I didn’t like this book. Right from the beginning, I was really annoyed with all of the characters and how the story itself was. It just wasn’t for me. **I voluntarily read and reviewed this book
BooksandBlends 3 months ago
I really wanted to love this one! It had two tropes that I love. Duke needing a governess and second chance romance. However, it didn’t win me over as I hoped. I expected a bit more angst and romance. These two did a dance around each other that could have ended a bit sooner if they would have spoken about the past. Abigail became a pushover in her family by being the youngest and going along with whatever her family wanted her to do. It was good to see her get a backbone and take charge of her life. While she was a bit on the prudish side, I did like her character. Max, Max, Max. There were so many times that I wanted to shake him. He really wanted to make himself believe that he loved his lifestyle as it was without love. However, He knew he loved Abigail. He just kept fighting it. Since it was a first in a series, I’ll round up to three stars. While I wasn’t in love with it, I did enjoy it and will be reading the next book in this series.
MellieReadsALot 4 months ago
I loved this story and the awakening of a previous young-love on a deeper adult level. Taken advantage of by her loving, yet oppressive siblings, Abby grabs at an opportunity to live independently as the governess for the sister of an absentee Duke. Max, the absentee Duke of Rothwell, is stuck bringing a small house party to his ancestral estate despite his attempts to avoid the memories it awakens. Abby and Max are surprised to see each other (and more surprised about the circumstances). Despite the unhappy ending to their teenage fling, they are are drawn to the innocent love they had once shared.
TwistedReader 4 months ago
Historical romances are my guilty pleasure so I jumped on the chance to read The Duke I Once Knew. The synopsis held promise of the type of light and fluffy romantic read that I love losing myself in once in a while. I am a complete sucker for “lost lovers over time”. While I found this book to be a fairly quick and somewhat enjoyable read, I honestly couldn’t wait to get to the end of it. I needed this book to be finished. I couldn’t get enough of the storyline of a second chance romance but I could not stand the characters at all! Any of them! Well, except maybe Goliath. Him I enjoyed. I was expecting Max and his friends to be your typical rogues; flirty, temperamental and just all out impossible to live with. That I was prepared for. What shocked and annoyed me was Abby. I had such high hopes for her at the beginning with her want for independence but all my hopes were just shattered. I understand that women were meant to be seen as obedient and meek during this time period, but come on! I had such respect for this woman holding her ground and speaking her mind but she turned out to be such a doormat, especially when it came to Max, that I just lost interest in her. I also got the impression of a snob from her. I mean, there is being prim and formal and then there is taking it a little too far. Sure, she had her moments where her guard was let down but those were fleeting and far between. I prefer a female lead with more spunk and tenacity than compliance and apologies. I probably could have forgiven Abby her conflicting personality traits had I not been constantly reminded of them. It seemed every page or so was Abby second guessing something, wondering if she had misread something, thinking about how improper her thoughts were or trying to decide how things would have been if something had played out differently. We got a lot of this from Max as well, but I found it more irritating coming from Abby for some reason. I think I had just expected more growth from her character. There was also a lot of repetition throughout the book that made me feel that it could have been done at least 50 pages earlier. During those moments, I found myself skimming a lot because there was no new information, just a lot of facts and thoughts that were unnecessarily repeated. Though I did have some issues with The Duke I Once Knew, I did find the overall story quite enjoyable and the parts that held my interest were very quick to read through. This was my first work by the author and I will keep an eye out for other titles by her. I received this copy from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press to read and provide my own opinions.
Horsebranchjess 4 months ago
The Duke I Once Knew is a second chance at love historical romance. Abigail Linton is quickly approaching her thirtieth birthday and tires of being passed back and forth between her siblings. On the shelf and an aging spinster, Abby gave up her chance at marriage to take care of her aging parents. Now that they are gone, she spends her time playing nursemaid to her nieces and nephews. Abby wants and needs a life of her own, so in a fit of independence she applies and receives a governess job at the neighboring estate of the Duke of Rothwell. Maxwell Bryce, the Duke, and Abby have a past and a shared heartbreak, a youthful love affair that promised to be more until Max ghosted Abby. When Max's party of unscrupulous friends is forced to relocate due to a measles outbreak, Max and Abby find themselves occupying the same residence and butting heads. Max's rakish ways and the past bring the two to a head and the reader is swept along as a leopard might be able to change its spots. Secrets come to light and jealousy rears its ugly head in a quick paced and compelling story of second chances with a sweet HEA. My voluntary, unbiased review is based upon a review copy from Netgalley.
book_junkee 4 months ago
This was a new to me author and I love second chance romances coupled with childhood friends. Sadly, I am wondering if 3 stars is too high. I liked Abby well enough. She wants to be independent and I liked her strength and desire for something of her own. Max is just okay. He was stoic and I never warmed up to him. The scenes between the two of them lacked chemistry. Plot wise, it was meh. Things felt repetitive and rushed {especially when it came to the letters. And while the ending was good, I wanted something a bit more and would have loved to see an epilogue. There were several snide comments about the personalities and fragility of women. I get that it’s the time period, but this seemed fairly excessive. Overall, it was an okay story. I’m not entirely sure why I kept reading it and I’m not sure if I’ll continue the series. **Huge thanks to St. Martin’s Paperbacks for providing the arc free of charge**
thisbibliolife 4 months ago
The Duke I Once Knew delivers a charming second chance romance with recognizable cliches and tropes of the romance genre. It is refreshing to read a historical romance book that doesn't try to anything but a historical romance book. Warning: the heroine is thirty-year-old virgin spinster and the hero is a complete rake. Their first meeting after fifteen years, the hero is getting handsy with his wannabe mistress. But don't let this dissuade you from taking a chance on this book! Once upon a time the hero and heroine formed a teenage love and promised to marry each other when the heroine became of age, but due to some unknown force their letters never reached each other. Now, this type of miscommunication/reasoning for a second chance romance is usually one I stay clear of, but Olivia Drake managed to have the couple confront each other early on about the miscommunication. Despite that, they didn't' fall head over heels in love with each other again. I liked that. They understood that the past was the past and nothing they could do to change it. However, I did find the resolution concerning why they never received each other's letters to be anti-climatic. I was expecting something a bit more dramatic. It made the reasoning for their separation minuscule. The story mainly focused on how the hero and heroine connected again after fifteen years, which was fine by me. I enjoyed seeing how their feelings resurfaced again and bloomed into more mature feelings. The hero especially I think had a lot more growing up to do before he could commit himself to the heroine. He didn't get much character development unlike the heroine which I would have liked more. He didn't take much actions towards his character growth until the end and we only got a glimpse of his past what the heroine inferred about it. Their chemistry was sweet with a little heat. I mostly felt the chemistry and angst from the heroine's POV. What made this book special was the writing style. The author did a wonderful job of balancing out the internal emotions with the story narration. I'm definitely looking forward to reading about the next couple in this series.
Virginiaw 4 months ago
This is a fun romance. I enjoyed the main characters. It was interesting to read about how the fights were handled back then. I really liked Abby and grew to like Max. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.
Mermer 4 months ago
A good romantic Historical story. Really liked Abbigail and Max they once cared for each other. Max went away after a tragedy and each thought they forgot about each other and felt hurt. After 15 yrs they were reunited in an employee employer situation and discovered that they still have feeling for each other but have to come to an understanding of what really happen 15 yrs ago. Some very good dialogue,situations,and romance. Enjoy reading. Voluntarily reviewed.
stanhope3234 4 months ago
Second chance romance, where both main characters have resigned themselves to a life alone on their terms. Fifteen years ago Maxwell the Duke of Rothwell and Abigail Linton had what they thought was a romance that would last a lifetime. When Max’s father took he and his sister to London after his wife died, their romance ended even with promises of love letters and marriage. Abby cared for her parents for fifteen years until their death, now with her older siblings fighting for who she must help with next she has decided to apply as governess to Lady Gwendolyn Rothwell. Max has strived to stay away from his boyhood home, but a case of the Measles at his friends home has sent he and is traveling companions to Rothwell Court. This throws him directly in the path of the one person he has no desire to see, Abby. Max did not know his Aunt hires Abby as Gwen’s governess and will see that she is relieved of her post immediately. Max agrees to let Abby stay on until he and his companions leave and to stay out of his way. The more time spent in the company of each other the more they realize they just might of wasted fifteen years and what a lonely life they have lead. And just maybe there’s a fine line between love and hate.
MLH438 4 months ago
The road to happily-ever-after was not easy for Abigail Linton and Maxwell Bryce, who met and fell in love when they were teenagers. Fate separated them, and their letters to each other were waylaid, but that first love remained in their memory. Fast forward 15 years, and Abigail is a 30-year-old spinster who wants to spread her wings after years spent taking care of her now-deceased parents. Even though her family objects, she resolves to take the position of governess to Max's young sister. Max is now the Duke of Rothwell, enjoys quite the rakish reputation in London, and hasn't been home in fifteen years. Fate, in the form of a measles outbreak at his friend's estate, brings him home with a party of friends, just as Abigail has taken up her position. Max and Abigail strike sparks off each other and find their way back together, in spite of past assumptions and the scheming and meddling of Lady Desmond, a widow who is angling to become Max's Duchess. The Duke I Once Knew is the first book in Olivia Drake's Unlikely Duchesses series. It is lovely and well-written, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an enjoyable second-chance romance.. I look forward to other books in the series. I received a copy from the St. Martin's Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
MaBiche 4 months ago
The Duke I Once Knew will delight readers who are fans of historical romance novels that are light, entertaining, and simply about two people falling in love. There's no deep angst, dark deadly secrets, or hardline stance of any kind. Just good story-telling. Sometimes that's what I'm looking for. And it's all right. Abby and Max reunite after fifteen years and the return of their love for each other is utterly believable and quite obviously inevitable. The forces that are trying to keep them apart (misunderstanding about the lost letters, Lady Elise, Max's poor example of a father) are addressed one by one and in a timely manner. I love reading an older heroine in Abby. There are so few of them in historical romance that when I find one, I gravitate towards it right away. It was fine for me to read teenagers when I was younger, but not when I'm middle-aged and can't relate. I also love her taking control of her own life and not letting herself be pushed around anymore. And when she and Max had their intimacy, she proved her strong will once more. I also loved that the characters are flawed, but still sympathetic. Especially Max. It makes the book as close to reality as it could get. If I have minor complaints (villainess with no redeeming factor, some repetition in the PoVs, so many named characters some of whom never got fully developed), they're overshadowed by the positives.
Noire 4 months ago
I received an ARC of this book to read through NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. The Duke I Once Knew by Olivia Drake is the first book in her new series Unlikely Duchesses. Abigail Linton fell in love with Maxwell Bryce when she was 15 years old but then his mother died and his father the Duke took him away to London and despite his promises to write she never heard from him again. She’s spent the last 15 years caring for both of her elderly parents, never getting the chance to have a season of her own and now firmly on the shelf she hears her older brothers and sisters squabbling over who gets to have her live with them as unpaid help in their households. Realizing she is tired of others making decisions about her life without even consulting her she announces that she is going to apply for the position of governess to the current Duke’s younger sister and take charge of her own life. Max, now the Duke of Rothewell and infamous for his rakish ways, counts himself lucky that Abby never replied to the letters he sent as he has no intentions of marrying and suffering the way his father did when his mother died. When plans to stay at a friends country house are thwarted by the household staff suffering from the measles he is forced to return to his estate for the first time since he left so many years ago. He is furious when he finds Abby in residence as his sisters governess and promptly fires her but then relents as he’s brought guests with him and needs someone to be there to add countenance to protect his sisters reputation. Sparks fly but they are both different people from those love struck teens and of course each thinks the other never wrote back to them. Medium Steam. Publishing Date December 31, 2018 #TheDukeIOnceKnew #NetGalley #OliviaDrake #StMartinsPress
Charlotte Pawson 4 months ago
Abby has devoted her life to her parents after her mother had a debilitating fall from her horse. Abby was now approaching her 30th birthday and her parents having passed away the previous year all that awaited her was the expected roll of looking after her family’s young children. Abby needed to escape so took up a position as governess to the Duke of Rothwell sister. You are taken on a delightful journey with Abby realising lost love and becoming a spirited individual who will make her own decisions in life. I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Jolie 4 months ago
I had mentioned in my WWW Wednesday post that I didn’t care for The Duke I Once Knew. When I had posted that, I was about 50% through the book. I wasn’t lying. I didn’t care for the book at that point. I did like the main characters and their storyline. I didn’t like the extra drama. Like I mentioned in that post, I just about lost my eyes because they were rolling so hard. Weirdly enough, I did like the last half of the book. All the drama was pushed to the back-burner and I got to enjoy the book for what it was. Abby and Max rediscovering each other. I thought that Abby gave up a lot in her life. To take care of her parents, Abby gave up any chance of marriage. At 30, she was considered a spinster. And guess what, she was fine with that. What she wasn’t fine with was her brothers and sisters arguing about what to do with her. I didn’t blame her for deciding to go and apply for that governess position. Even though she thought that Max hated her, she still went and became his sister’s governess. I loved how sarcastic Abby was. Her zingers at Max had me laughing. I liked Max even though I thought he was a tool. Who brings a woman he wants to seduces to a house he hasn’t been to in 15 years? Max does. But, for all his faults, he was a good guy. He went out of his way to help Abby when he shouldn’t have. He treated his house servants like family. He was willing to do the right thing by Abby when they had sex by the lake. He made hero status in my eyes with what he did with his wannabe mistress. I cheered when that happened. I loved that this was a second chance romance. I liked seeing Abby and Max rediscover their romance. It was sweet. Second chance romances are some of my favorites to read. I like seeing people rediscover what made them fall in love. Of course, they had obstacles to overcome. Mainly the witch that Max brought home with him. There was sex in this book. But what I liked was that it wasn’t graphic. The author left enough unsaid where I had to use my imagination. What I liked also was that Abby was comfortable enough in her own skin to own what happened. I liked that she didn’t want Max to offer for her because they bumped uglies. She wanted him to offer for her because he loved her. Not because he felt he was honor-bound because he popped her cherry. I couldn’t stand Lady Desmond. She was a despicable human being. She was so jealous of Abby that she was willing to hurt her to take her out of the picture. She was also willing to put Max’s younger sister in situations that young women shouldn’t be in. And with people that they should be around. I was wondering if Max was ever going to come to his senses about her. I was disappointed it took almost the entire book for him to actually do something. I didn’t like the end of the book. It seemed rushed. I didn’t like how Abby jumped to conclusions about Lady Desmond and Max. It went against everything that I had read about their relationship. It also ended suddenly. There was the HEA and then nothing. I was expecting an epilogue or something that showed what happened after the “I love you” was said. Also, seeing that this was book 1 in the Unlikely Duchesses series, I couldn’t pinpoint who the next story was about? Was it Abby’s niece? Or Max’s sister? Again, usually, there is a hint about who the next book is about.
Historical_Romance_Lover 4 months ago
I loved Abigail and Max's story! It was a reunion story, which is always one of my favorites. Tired of always doing things for her older siblings, Abigail is ready to make a life for herself. She becomes the governess for the Duke of Rothwell's sister. Abigail was once in love him, but since he hasn't been to his estate in 15 yrs, there is no chance that she will run into him. Too bad he unexpectedly shows up not a week into her new job. Max hasn't been home since his mother passed away. He sure didn't expect to find his former love working in his home. But Abigail seems angry at him whenever they encounter each other. Since she was the one that cut off all contact with him, he doesn't understand why she is acting the say she is. As they once again get close, they learn that all is not as it seems. Can they recapture the love they once shared? I really enjoyed watching these two come together. My emotions kept going up and down right along with them on this journey back to each other. This was a great start to what I am sure will be another great series by Drake. I'm excited for the next book in the series and can't wait to see what she has in store for us!
AmyHi 4 months ago
Enjoyable story of Abigail, a spinster whose family takes advantage of her, and her first love Max, whom is now a Duke. I am not always a fan of second chance stories but this one worked well.
CarissaR 4 months ago
I really liked this one. It's also my first Olivia Drake book. This story is mainly about 2nd chance romances. The characters are well diverse and the storyline flow very well and at a fast pace. When Max and Abby met again 15 years later, it was during an funny, awkward position lol. Both main characters pasts are also unique especially Abby's (a much younger sibling who takes care of her family and families kids) in that I haven't read before in a historical romance. I just really enjoyed a lot of aspects of this book! I look forward to more of her work.