This is the start of a new series from Linden, and since she’s a new-to-me author, I was looking forward to the read. However, this one proved to be a bit of a disappointment, because of its lax pacing and lack of real conflict.
Edward de Lacey is the second son of a duke. The book starts with the old man on his deathbed and several pages of “but I must tell you my secret!” before the duke dies in good old “It was Argh!” tradition. But the secret, or part of it, is vouchsafed by the family lawyer. The duke was married before he married the mother of the three sons who consider themselves his heirs. That would illegitimise them, and so they couldn’t inherit anything that wasn’t left to them personally, and would, of course, disbar them from the entail and the title. There is a cousin, Augustus, who would be the heir.
So Edward, who is the responsible one and runs the estate, goes to London to engage a solicitor. I wasn’t quite sure why, but I think Ms. Linden has confused the roles of a solicitor and a barrister. That continued to be an annoying niggle. A great house like that of a duke would have a regular “man of business,” or solicitor, and he would take care of all the estate business and engage a barrister when necessary. People don’t go directly to barristers as a rule, and a barrister’s only job is to represent the client in court. So why Edward would want a new solicitor who seems to do a barrister’s job when he has a perfectly serviceable solicitor is a bit nonsensical. But it does mean that he gets to meet the heroine, Francesca.
Francesca is a widow, and she wants her niece back. She believes that her niece is being held by the family of her aunt against her will and being used as a drudge, and she wants to engage a solicitor to act for her in court (which he couldn’t do, not in the higher courts, anyway). The man agrees, only to be thrown into a frenzy by getting the case from Edward about the dukedom.
There is my other disconnect, because I’ve read Bleak House, which is about a real-life case of inheritance. The lawyers throw this one into such complexities that the estate is eaten up by legal fees and lasted generations. A case like this would be nuts to the lawyers, and there is one easy solution. The Crown takes away the title and reinvests it in the eldest son as the first of the dukedom of the second creation. It happened sometimes, and it sorted out legitimacies or, otherwise, created new conditions.
Why am I going on about this? Because the book does. The first 30% (I read the ARC on my Kindle, which does percents rather than pages) is full of it and little else. There is little character development or plot development and no tension or reason to read on. I nearly gave up, but I wanted to read at least half, to see if there’s any story at all in this.
Well, not really. The story about the niece kind of peters out and has a conclusion I find a little difficult to believe. The duke problem, of course, goes on to another book.
So I always say that the romance is about the characters, right? Okay. Edward doesn’t seem to have a character, apart from being steady and boring. There is nothing to attract me to him, other than his performance in the sack. He’s tall, dark, and boring. Francesca is similarly plodding and a bit boring. She has a nice life—and there’s a word that’s used inappropriately in this book—and except for the problem of her niece, everything’s hunky-dory. And there’s a woman called Evelyn in this story, which was a man’s name in this period.
There is quite a lot of sex in the second half of the book, as if making up for lost time.
The book is reasonably well written, and most of the historical details are nicely done, although the author didn’t really create a world for me, just bits of one. Things like the heroine’s clothes, which are described as full and frothing (in the Regency?) took me out of the story occasionally, and the “g” word crops up a time or two. My main problem with this book is the lacklustre plot and characterless characters. I wasn’t really engaged in their story.
Oh, yes, and the frankly horrible cover. What is she doing? Presenting herself for doggy-style sex? Not the author’s fault, though, so I can’t hold that against her, except that I kept putting the book to the bottom of the virtual TBR pile because of it. But I read it all, and I don’t think I’ll be aching to read the next in the series. Sorry.
A bargain that was all business . . . and pure passion.
Neither wealth nor beauty will help Lady Francesca Gordon win custody of her young niece Georgina, saving the girl from a cruel stepmother; she needs London’s top solicitor for that. But when Edward de Lacey, son of the powerful Duke of Durham, hires away the one man who can do the job, Francesca decides Edward himself must champion her case . . . if only she can melt the dashing lord’s stony heart.
Edward has reason to be guarded, though. London’s tabloids have just exposed a secret that could ruin his entire family. When Francesca offers a unique chance to undo the damage, Edward is forced to agree to a partnership . . . and now, each moment together feeds the flames of his scandalous longing for the passionate widow. But when Georgina disappears, fate will test them both . . . and leave their love hanging in the balance.
No excerpt available.