"This [is a] page-turning novel full of historical details and sensuous romance."Publishers Weekly (starred review)
He's noble. notorious. And takes no prisoners...
Strong as a Viking. Handsome as Adonis. Rich as Midas. Collin "Cole" Talmage, Duke of Trewyth, is the stuff that legends are made of. He's the English Empire's golden sonuntil fate has its way with him. Cole's family is killed and his closest comrade betrays him on the battlefield, leaving him gravely injured. But Cole is not one to dwell on misfortune. He is a man of duty, honorand desire. And now he's ready for the fight of his lifetime...
Imogen Pritchard is a beautiful lass who works in a hospital by day and as a serving maid at night. Years ago, when she was young and penniless, she ended up spending a scandalous night with Cole, whose tormented soul was matched only by his earth-shattering passion. Imogen entered a marriage of convenienceone that left her a wealthy widowbut she never forgot Cole. Now that her long-lost lover has turned up in her hospital, injured and with no memory of her, Imogen is torn: Is it a blessing or a curse that their past remains a secret to Cole, even as his new passion for her leaves him wanting to protect and possess her...at all costs, in The Duke, the next Victorian Rebels novel by Kerrigan Byrne.
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By Kerrigan Byrne
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Kerrigan Byrne
All rights reserved.
London, February 1876
Imogen Pritchard shuddered as the fine hairs on her body prickled with alarm. The usually oppressive atmosphere of the Bare Kitten Gin and Dance Hall turned electric with danger, charging every nerve in her body with the awareness of an advancing predator. After placing her armful of empty ale and gin glasses on the sideboard, she palmed a knife from the utensil bin, concealing it in the folds of her skirts as she turned to face the threat.
A cadre of scarlet-clad soldiers filed through the door, their lean, young bodies taut with masculine restlessness. Their eyes gleaming with feral hunger. They reminded Imogen of a roving pack of wolves, licking their chops and smiling their sharp-fanged smiles in anticipation of a macabre feast.
Since she'd been forced to work at the Bare Kitten, Imogen's instinct for peril had been honed as sharp as the sabers hanging from the soldier's waists. And these men, these young wolves, were on the hunt for trouble, only waiting — straining — to be unleashed by one affirmative gesture from their alpha.
As dangerous as they might prove to be, she knew at once that the young soldiers, now fanning into an arc, hadn't been the source of her internal alarm.
Their leader had.
He was a point of disturbing quietude in their chaotic energy. He rose head and shoulders above them, looking down upon all in his path by the sheer necessity of his towering height. His was the iron fist that held them in check. His was the will upon which they lived or died. His was the command they executed without question.
And well he knew it.
Imogen couldn't remember glimpsing such a haughty brow before, nor such astonishingly handsome features. The structure of his face would have been ideal fodder for the Greek sculptors. They'd have used their most precise tools to carve the aristocratic features, almost perfect in their symmetry, from only the best stone. Her fingers tightened around the knife, though they itched for her paintbrushes. She'd paint his long body in great, rigid strokes and broad, bold lines.
A stab of recognition pierced her. She'd seen him somewhere before, surely. Normally, a unique color palette such as his would have clung to her memory. It was as though God had sculpted him out of precious metals. His skin was brushed with a golden hue, his hair shone with a darker, more phosphorous accumulation of bronze, and his eyes, too luminous to be brown, gleamed in the dim lantern light like two smoldering copper ingots as they surveyed every shadow and nook of the great room.
That gaze landed on her and didn't waver for an uncomfortably long time. His expression never changed from stony and assessing. Though something about the strain between his eyebrows, and the slack in what must have been a normally rigid jaw painted the hint of an emotion that bewildered her.
Was he ... exhausted? Or sad?
As Imogen struggled to breathe, she became quite certain they'd never met before. She'd have remembered sharing the same room with him, let alone being introduced. And yet, she'd had a chance to admire the sharp, patrician nose. She'd traced the barbaric cheekbones and wide, square jaw that created the perfect frame for the acerbic slash of his hard lips.
Beneath the weight of his unrelenting stare, she found herself identifying with the deer chosen by the alpha to cull from the herd and take to ground. Retreating, she turned on her heel and almost ran into Devina Rosa.
"Mierda, but it's going to be a long night," she complained, tossing her sable curls and knocking back someone's half-finished gin. Imogen had never been certain if Devina was her real name, or merely what the Spanish harlot called herself.
"Aye, it is at that." Heather, a freckled buxom Scotswoman, agreed while adjusting the line of her bodice to reveal more of her generous breasts. "I know men with their marching orders when I see them. They'll try to fuck their fear into us tonight."
"I'll fetch extra oils." Devina sighed.
"And I'll get them drunk," Imogen offered.
"See that ye do, Ginny." Heather called her by the moniker she used while working in this house of ill repute. "Make yerself at least somewhat useful."
Imogen barely registered the bitterness in her words anymore. She knew many of the girls didn't at all like the understanding she'd forged with their proprietor, stipulating that she didn't have to spread her legs as they did.
"If we're lucky, a few of them will be afflicted with the Irish curse and we can still get our money off of 'em," Heather mused.
"You mean del Toro will get our money." Devina spat and cast a mutinous look at her pimp, and the owner of the Bare Kitten, who had to turn sideways to avoid knocking over chairs and patrons in his exuberance to welcome the newcomers.
The women only dared to make soft murmurs of displeasure, lest he overhear.
"What's the Irish curse?" Imogen whispered her query to Devina, who barked out a very indelicate chortle.
"It's a dead-drunk cock, ye daft cow," Heather answered for Devina with a melodramatic roll of her eyes. "It's when they've had too much so trying to tup them is like trying to stab someone with a rope, ye ken?"
"Yes," Imogen muttered, blushing furiously. "Your explanation is quite sufficient, thank you." She dared a glance at the soldiers, who followed Ezio del Toro's corpulent frame to the corner reserved for only their most important guests. Frowning, Imogen wondered what for. An Italian immigrant, del Toro had no fondness for men in any kind of uniform, nor was he particularly patriotic.
Why then the special treatment?
Del Toro plucked Flora Latimer as she sashayed by, proudly advertising the abundant flesh she had on display. Her eyes widened in astonished increments as he breathed orders into her ears. By the time he'd finished and shoved her toward the sideboard where Imogen and the others lingered, she resembled a big, blue-eyed owl.
"You'll never guess 'ew just walked in," she tittered, flushed with excitement. "Though what 'e's doing in Soho, I couldn't begin to imagine. Don't get much of 'is like 'ere."
"Spit it out, ye crooked whore, we're not about to be guessing," Heather demanded.
"See that one there?" Flora pointed at the officer who folded his long frame into a chair at the head of the table. "The tall one wot looks like a fallen angel?" They all nodded, not wanting to interrupt her long enough to point out that a man such as he was impossible to miss.
"Well, your eyes be feasting on Collin sodding Talmage, fresh from the funeral of his father and brother. Del Toro tells me 'e's leaving at dawn for his final service to the crown before 'e returns to take 'is seat as the Duke of Trenwyth."
Of course. That was why he'd been so familiar. His story was inescapably sensational. His father, the late Duke of Trenwyth, his mother, the duchess, and their heir apparent, Robert, had all been killed when a locomotive derailed near the French Alps, leaving behind their second child, Harriet, and their youngest, Collin. His likeness had been on the front page of every paper and periodical for a week. Lord, but they'd never done him justice, hadn't been able to capture the potent masculinity that draped like a royal mantle from his wide shoulders.
And a royal he nearly was. Some distant Hanoverian mixed in with an ancient family from Cornwall, directly related to their own dear Queen Victoria. It certainly made sense that he'd descended from those fierce Germanic barbarian hordes that kept Rome at bay so long ago. She could see it in his bone structure, in the way he surveyed his surroundings, as though he'd already conquered them.
He'd looked at her like that.
Furthermore, she'd been right. It was sadness she'd glimpsed on his features. A sadness he valiantly concealed.
"No time to dawdle." Flora bustled them in the direction of the table. "Del Toro said it's all hands on deck tonight, and that every man at that table must leave 'ere feeling like it's 'is birthday. Especially His Grace, as 'e's footing the entire bill."
Simultaneously, the women turned and checked their reflections in the gilded mirror above the sideboard. Even Imogen adjusted her dark wig and made certain her lip rouge was fresh and even. It didn't really matter what she looked like, so long as she kept the drinks coming. She wasn't a prostitute, only part of the serving staff, someone to look at, someone to sneer at and grope, but never anything beyond that.
Such was the deal she'd struck with del Toro, that she work at night in the Bare Kitten for as long as it took her to pay off her late father's gambling debts. She toiled here, even handing over her gratuities to the loathsome man, and then kept her mother and younger sister, Isobel, housed and fed with her job as a nurse at St. Margaret's Royal Hospital.
"Ye heard her." Heather dug her elbow into Imogen's side hard enough to cause her to stumble forward. "Stop yer lollygagging, and get them ready for us."
Imogen snatched an empty tray from the sideboard and clutched it to her middle, feeling the need for whatever scant protection it would provide.
She wound her way to the bar, where Jeremy Carson already had one pitcher of ale waiting, and was filling the next. At twenty or so, he was only younger than her by a few years, so Imogen felt guilty that she always thought of Jeremy as a boy rather than a man. His face, while clean, achingly young, and earnest, didn't at all match his scouse accent, which hailed from the Liverpool docks. "Looks to be a night to remember, in'nt Ginny? A duke in here and all."
"I can't believe it, myself." She placed the pitchers he provided and a stack of clean glasses on her tray. If she appreciated one thing, it was Jeremy's cleanliness and attention to the needs of her customers.
"What do you suppose a man like him orders to drink?" the barkeep speculated, flashing a conspiratorial smile full of crooked teeth that made him seem even younger.
Even on the worst day at the Bare Kitten, Imogen found it impossible not to return one of Jeremy Carson's smiles. "I'm about to go discover that very thing."
"Well, you take care around them tonight, Ginny," he warned with uncharacteristic gravity. "They say soldiers are to be feared and respected, even among those they protect."
Imogen didn't know who'd said that, as she'd never heard the saying before, but as she threaded through the sparsely occupied tables toward the duke and his rowdy compatriots on legs made of lead, she knew the truth of it.
Trenwyth adopted an expression of sardonic amusement, but rarely participated in the masculine conversation. Though she approached from his periphery, he glanced over at her the moment she moved, and didn't look away. His intense regard turned the innocuous walk from one side of the hall to the other into a perilous, heart-pounding journey.
She only stumbled the once before she reached them, almost upsetting her tray. Cheeks burning with mortification, she placed herself between Trenwyth and a black-haired Scotsman who would have been handsome but for the cruel gleam in his marble-black eyes. She meticulously poured the ale, avoiding the awareness of the duke as he watched her in complete silence.
That accomplished, she opened her mouth to address them — him — and froze, her mind seizing in panicked fits and groping for her memory. Anyone in service worth the starch in their skirts knew to address the person with the highest rank and work their way down the line. But just what title should she use for Trenwyth? A duke was the highest peer of the realm not in the direct line of the royal family. They were generally addressed as Your Grace. When in uniform, a soldier's rank often superseded any other title, but Trenwyth's uniform frock coat was like none she'd ever seen before. The dominant color black, rather than the traditional scarlet, and red only adorned the sleeves and high collar. He had no hat with him to help her to guess. The stitched braiding about his cuffs and shoulders was intricate and fine and utterly foreign to her. He could have been anything from a captain to a colonel and she had no sodding idea which.
"Better ye close yer mouth, love, unless ye're advertising yer services," the dark Scot drawled. "In that case, we appreciate yer eagerness, but we'd like to drink first, if it's all the same to ye."
Imogen snapped her mouth shut so hard she worried that she'd cracked a tooth as the dozen men surrounding the table guffawed at her expense. A tremor of misery clutched at her, and she chased it away with the brightest smile she could possibly muster and aimed it at Trenwyth. He, at least, wasn't laughing.
"What — what would you like?" was all she could manage.
"What are you offering?" His question landed in her belly like hot coals tumbling out of the hearth. His mouth didn't move much when he spoke, his voice barely above a murmur, but the register was of such depth and resonance that it vibrated through her, spearing her chest with the duplicitous meaning.
Again she found herself without words or breath.
"No punch, sherry, brandy, or port at the Bare Kitten," the Scot answered for her. "Only the best ale brewed this side of the Thames, gin, absinthe, and whisky. A place for a real man, not a gentle man. But what they lack in their variety of alcohol, they more than make up for in their assortment of other vices. Is that not so, lass?" A sharp pinch of her backside brought a gasp and the prick of tears behind her eyes.
Imogen turned and placed her tray in between herself and the Scot, baring her clenched teeth at him in what she hoped del Toro interpreted as a smile. "It is indeed, sir," she said stiffly, eyeing her astute employer as he glared daggers at her in a warning to behave.
This was turning into a disaster, she could feel it.
"Ye can call me Major Mackenzie, and that's not just a title, it's a promise." He cupped himself lewdly as the table erupted with hilarity. "One that will be verified later when ye are unable to walk."
Imogen's breath whooshed out of her in a great gasp when she was abruptly seized around the waist. She lost her feet from beneath her and fell backward, panicking as she was pulled down onto Trenwyth's knee, landing in a heap he controlled with his immense strength.
This seemed to greatly entertain everyone at the table except, of course, for Major Mackenzie, whose features tightened with mutiny.
Instantly she became rigid, preparing to spring back to her feet and retreat to the safety of the bar. She'd done it before, and used a limp, boneless sort of squirming to avoid the grapple of many a drunkard.
But none as big as this, none so intensely solid and unyielding.
"Don't. Move." The hard command froze Imogen in place, and she brought her chin to her shoulder, looking up in slack-jawed astonishment to assess just how much danger she was in from Trenwyth.
His eyes lit with perilous fire, the copper glowing in the forge of his temper, but he didn't spare her a glance, nor did he speak another word. His unflinching stare captured and held that of Major Mackenzie's with silent dominance. The air thickened, threatening to smother her in masculine challenge. Muscles tensed beneath her, around her, until she feared if he flexed any further, she might be crushed. Imogen held absolutely still, careful not to draw the notice of these two wolves, lest they rip her in half.
Major Mackenzie was the one to break eye contact, glancing down at the table.
Trenwyth's arm about her waist relaxed, but he didn't release her. "I'll have whisky."
"A whole case ought to do it," a young lieutenant with a dark but sparse mustache chuckled. "It'll at least whet our appetites for other pleasures the night may provide."
Imogen nodded and hurried to stand, finding herself pulled tighter against the duke. Her legs were braced on either side of his knee, her back ramrod straight, straining to keep her body away from his torso.
"In order for me to fetch your drinks," she began gently, "you'll have to let me up."
After a silent pause, he made a derisive sound from behind her, and the sweet-apple smell of brandy drifted to her from his breath.
He'd already been drinking.
Instead of letting her go, he gestured to del Toro who hovered at a discreet distance and hurried over as fast as his short legs could heft the rest of him.
Excerpted from The Duke by Kerrigan Byrne. Copyright © 2017 Kerrigan Byrne. 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
I read the reviews on the B&N review page. The reviews were not great...bashing the hero and heroine etc. I'm glad I ignored them and gave it a chance. The writing was good, we'll written...believable emotions and thoughts. I like that both characters are flawed. I like that she didn't go to him. It would not have been the same if she did. He was arrogant but that was part of his appeal. She was changed by her experiences and grew from them. Good book...also good series.
Loved the character development, the twists and turns in the plot and the mystery. Also like how previous characters are brought into the story as well.
Wow! Fantastic Story! This is the first story that I have read by Kerrigan Byrne and I am hooked. Wonderfully written with great era details. Ms Byrne created this world that at times was graphic and intense yet heartfelt and all consuming. This author’s detailed descriptive narrative places the reader firmly in the late 1800’s. I felt as if I was surrounded by the sights, sounds and characters of that time. Her characters come alive and jump off the page. So much tension and chemistry between Imogene and Cole. So many feelings and emotions. I struggled to put it down just because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Consuming and suspenseful as well as filled with exquisite passion, angst, twists and turns and danger. I was enthralled by it all. Loved it. Highly Recommend! Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this historical romance. I voluntarily agreed to received a ARC through NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Duke is a wonderfully written story which reminds me of Beauty and the Beast with a Victorian edge. A second chance love of sorts, we find the Duke and Imogen at odds and the tension is sizzling. He becomes her reluctant protector when a serial killer targets those around her, she tries to keep her distance because he doesn't remember her, and if he did, too many secrets of her past would be unearthed. Despite subterfuge to protect her heart and family, his need to find a woman from long ago with only vague memories, his injuries in service to the Crown, and her charity work for those of lesser and questionable means, they triumph in discovering the truth and almost lose it all. The passion between them cannot be denied, and they must overcome and trust each other with everything to find true love. I received at netgalley from the publisher. The opinion is my own.
I am so happy to have discovered this author. Kerrigan Byrnes books are amazing. They truly take romance novels to the next level. Her books are so deep and emotional and everyone is so damaged. She takes her characters and readers on such an emotional journey to the HEA. Cole and Imogen were wonderful characters. I especially loved Imogen. She was perfect for Cole and I really loved their story. I love when an author brings characters from past books into the story. I love reconnecting and checking in with them. I am looking forward to more books by Ms. Byrnes she has quickly made it onto my auto buy list
5 Stars…all the way…wish I could find book one of the series but where I live…probably won’t happen. So…with books 2-4 now read I want…book 5…and any other books that will appear in the future. Okay…I saw a review that made me question why I rate this series so highly and the star points the reviewer gave made me rethink BUT come away believing this author gives more than an easy read to those that find her work. Will she give you romance? Yes Will she give you hearts and flowers? Not in this book but perhaps in others…perhaps. Will she make you think and question and feel? Definitely Will you come away feeling you have read something worth reading? I did – hope you will, too. So…this book… There is a woman trying to provide for her sister and mother after her father gambles away whatever they might have had if he had not been so feckless. She works to pay back his debt - as a nurse by day and a serving wench in a brothel at night. One night a Duke walks in and her life changes…for the better? Maybe but … perhaps not. Can she question or refuse? More than likely…not The fact that the man who deflowers her is gentle and kind lingers in her mind and a year later when he appears in her patient lineup she saves him but it does not save her…it is another of her patients that changes her life…a perhaps once young and swainish type that helps her overcome her horrors and leave her better off than she was before…except…there is a murderer on the loose and her neighbor is someone she remembers warmly but…he is no longer that man…and she is not the woman he remembers… This is a book that intrigued me, caught me and kept me to the end. I liked the characters, the plot and a lot more. Was the hero perfect? NO Was the heroine perfect? NO Did they grow? Yes Did they suit one another? YES Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC. This is my honest review. NOTE: I can hardly wait to find book one in the series and am looking forward to book #5…as I ponder WHO will star in it when it appears ;)
I don't usually read series, I find that the second book is never that good a read. But I find myself waiting for the next book in this series. And liking each book that is released. Can't wait for the next one.
One of the best! Romantic and rxviting to the end! Could not put it down! LORRAINE
This is the 4th novel in Byrnes series, and I enjoyed how characters from the previous three novels made camo appearances- and they stay true to their nature. There were just a few incidents that I found a little too over written (such as going on about ones emotions) thus the reason for 4 stars. But the novel is well written, the storyline keeps a reader engaged, and you want to know who Byrnes will write about next.
I loved Cole and Imogen's story!! Imogen was definitely not one of the typical heroines that you normally read about (although Byrne's never are) in historical romances. She came from the lower class and ended up marrying into the peerage, something that Cole didn't let her forget. He didn't really treat her very well when they first started encountering each other. He thought that she had tricked her late husband into marrying her for his money. Being a duke and all, he thought he was much better than she. Too bad he couldn't stop thinking about her. I really enjoyed watching this story unfold and reconnecting with past H/H from the series. I'll state again, that this is one of my favorite series of all time!!
I have read the sample of this book and two reviews . If It was under $4 I may buy it . Too many of my almost a thousand books library cost $7 and up and happen to be a disappointment .
Imogen Pritchard endured the worst life had to offer. The Earl of Anstruther had been her friend and patient. He married her as a way to protect her and her family. Now she's a wealthy widow who's determined to help those less fortunate. She and the Duke of Trenwyth have an unusual connection. He met her when she worked as a bar maid at the Bare Kitten. Cole wanted to forget that his family was dead as well as the dangerous mission he was undertaking for Queen and country. He used her and left. Now the Duke is back. He's become a cruel and embittered man. This story highlights the love - hate relationship between these two passionate people. They each have their secrets. Their verbal sparring kept me reading. I wanted to know how these two would deal with their powerful chemistry. The suspense ramped up when Imogen becomes the target of a serial killer. Kerrigan Byrne has written powerful characters that leap off the page. I must admit at times Cole frustrated me with his stubborn, intractable attitude. I was glad that Imogen didn't let him bully her. She gave as good as she got. I'm enjoying the Victorian Rebels series. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series. I received a copy of The Duke. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book. My comments are my honest opinions.
Author Kerrigan Byrne has a beautiful way with words and emotions which pulls the reader into this deep emotion packed read. This book is filled with various chain of events that filled me with dread, sadness, excitement, tears, laughter and thankfulness. Meanwhile, mixed into the story are several interactions between Imogen and Cole that just burn up the pages. Imogen is a female character that one can admire and wish for all good things to happen to. I love that her main strength is what draws and drives Cole away. This unconventional woman drew my attention more than most heroines I have read recently. She is kind, considerate, caring, honorable and dependable. Cole's character was handled with extreme finesse both in who he was and who he became. I delighted in the manner that the author used to show the differences and similarities of his before and after person. The richness of his character will keep the reader’s attention trying to figure out what he will do next. There are many secondary characters within this story and most of them are characters that could use attitude adjustments but they are perfect for this storyline and really create the drama needed to keep this book moving forward in a fast pace. I have always liked intrigue and this book has it in spades so sit down with a nice hot cup of coffee or tea and enjoy the ride. For me, the authors ability to pull forth all my emotions caused this book to standout from other books and for this reason I give it 5 STARS. Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
I found this book hard to put down. It is the fourth in the series, but I felt it stood alone. Ms. Byrne's style of writing is not the usual historical romance. There are a lot of incidents of despair, violence, grit, but hope grows and shows the way to love. This is Cole's story, and he is battle-hardened with scars inside and out. The only thing keeping him going is the one night he spent with a woman who made him feel. Imogen did not forget that night either, but the outlook for her future became bleak so she took the option to help her step out of the filth. As they come together again, the secrets stay front and center until danger is knocking on Imogen's door. I highly recommend this book and the series, but be prepared for a darker journey toward the light. I received a copy of this story through Netgalley, and it is a Book Obsessed Chicks Star Review selection. This is my unsolicited review.
This read has plenty of drama and suspense with a brooding hero and the heroine who does what she must. I liked this historical read as well as the characters and their chemistry. The story is fast paced and held my interest throughout.
Imogen Pritchard’s life changed drastically after her father died. He left his family desolate. Imogen, much to her dismay was forced to work at the Bare Kitten as a server to pay off her father’s debt. She also worked at St. Margaret’s Hospital as a nurse to support her younger sister and ailing mother. Collin Talmage, the new Duke of Trewyth, entered the Bare Kitten to drown his sorrow in alcohol. He was intrigued with Imogen, aka, Ginny. He convinced, the owner, to sell her to him for the night. What happened during that night surprised both Ginny and Collin. Ginny’s memories of Collin’s tenderness comforted her during many lonely nights. And, Ginny’s loving memory gave Collin a place to retreat to while being tortured in a Turk prison. A couple of years later, fate brought Collin and Imogen together again, only this time, they were two very different people. Collin was an angry, bitter man, and Imogen, a widowed Countess. Unfortunately for Imogen, her home was next-door to The Duke of Trewyth. She lived in fear of being recognized by him, as the Ginny; he once spent a night with. If Imogen's carefully concealed past were to be exposed, it would ruin not only her but her family also. Although Collin thought Imogen to be a foolish and annoying neighbor, he found himself protective of her, especially when women resembling Imogen were being murdered all around her. Collin was determined to find out who exactly this beautiful neighbor of his was. This is the fourth book in the Victorian Rebels series. Imogen is a lovable character, strong and caring. Collin was a more difficult character to like because of his cruel, angry outbursts. The Duke is a well-written and captivating romantic tale as well as an intriguing mystery. Thank you, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley, for my advanced review copy.
The Duke is not a typical Historical Romance, this is a tale of deception, hostility, and darkness. The Duke has many different layers, but I found all of them to be disturbing on some level. The hero Collin has had a horrible life, even though he is now a Duke and his current situation has much improved. I understand why his character is so cruel, but I wished he would let up already and realize how much he now has. Imogen, also known as Ginny, was easier to like, but I wanted her to stop helping others when she needed so much help herself. The Duke begins its tale with Collin, the hero, actually purchasing our heroine for one night of sex. Imogen was not completely willing and only agreed as she was desperate for money, so from the very first chapter, I questioned Colin's character. Unfortunately for me, that situation set the tone for this novel and in my opinion, it only grew darker from there. Even the HEA was one of the most unsatisfying I have ever read. All that being said, The Duke was well written and a compelling story. I am sure others would find it gripping . This book just wasn’t for me.
I could not put this book down! The characters, the plots, the (to the best of my memory) accurate historical facts make this a keeper. The writing is wonderful and you feel the characters’ emotions. It’s a wild ride to the HEA. Imogen Pritchard works as a nurse by day and as a waitress at a bar/brothel to pay off her father’s gambling debts to the bar’s owner. She is supporting her mother and younger sister. One night a group of soldiers come in to celebrate. She catches the eye of one soldier, the new Duke of Trenwyth, who has just buried his family and is leaving on his last assignment. He offers enough money for her to pay a good portion of her debt and she agrees as she is attracted to him. A very ill Cole returns from being captured and tortured. Imogen is assigned to be his nurse. His goal, as soon as he is well enough, is to find Ginny, the woman from the bar. He believes if he can find her he’ll be okay. He does not recognize Imogen as she wore a wig when she worked at the bar. Their lives go in different and interesting directions, which I will not tell, until he settles in his London home and realizes the nurse lives next door and is now a countess. The rest of this wonderful book must be read without any spoilers from me. I highly recommend this book, but understand that some readers do not like their books to be realistic. This is not a light fluffy Lady gets Lord read, but one that shows how the lower/middle class survived during this time. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me this ARC.
To repay her father’s gambling debts, and to provide for her mother and younger sister, Imogen Pritchard had to take a second job. Besides working as a nurse, Imogen is a server at the Bare Kitten Gin and Dance, and not a prostitute. Until the most gorgeous man she had ever seen walks in one evening and steals her breath: he is Collin – Cole – Talmage, Duke of Trenwyth, he is very drunk, and wants to forget his sorrows. Imogen strikes his fancy, and he demands that she be is for twenty pounds, and the proprietor of the Bare Kitten agrees wholeheartedly. Imogen is distraught: she’s a virgin, she will lose all hope of a respectable marriage, but it’s either her or her younger sister. If one must be ruined, might as well be by a man of unearthly beauty. It was my first time reading a book by Kerrigan Byrne, so maybe I was unprepared for what awaited me. From what I have heard, THE DUKE sounds like an old skool historical romance novel. I must say I struggled right from the beginning, as never grasped why either Imogen became so obsessed with Cole, apart from his blindingly, dazzling good looks. Or Cole, who was very drunk, found solace in the arms of whom he thought a prostitute, then searched high and low for her, to marry her. Cole was a much more complex character than Imogen, but I didn’t like him one bit: I found him beastly, rude, vengeful, and his fixation on Imogen did not appear quite convincing. As for Imogen, I felt she came across as just too perfect. About halfway, a hint of suspense was introduced, and I thought I might enjoy it better, but not really. I thought THE DUKE was way too melodramatic and over the top, and this is a matter of taste of course, although it does fit with the tone of much of the late nineteenth century literature. A couple of characters also became a mere footnote, unless one of them pops up in a forthcoming book. I did adore a very minor character, the wonderful Lord Anstruther, and I would have liked a bit more story with him. I honestly did not care much for either Imogen or Cole, I didn’t feel the romance, and I didn’t enjoy the sex scenes. On the other hand the dialogues are brilliant, and the prose luminous, descriptive and elegant. This just was not a book for me. I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book.