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The Return of the Duke: Once Upon a Dukedom Kindle Edition
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In the thrilling third book in New York Times bestselling author Lorraine Heath’s Once Upon a Dukedom series, the dashing son of a disgraced duke teams up with a sultry beauty to thwart an assassination plot against Queen Victoria.
When his father, the Duke of Wolfford, is hanged for an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria, Marcus Stanwick is stripped of everything. Vowing to return honor to his family, he seeks to expose the others involved in the treasonous plot and bring them to justice. His search forces him to turn to a woman he despises for her unforgiveable betrayal—a woman known as the heartless harlot.
Harboring secrets, Esme Lancaster has her own reasons for wanting to discover who’s behind the conspiracy that’s still afoot. She doesn’t trust Marcus but can’t deny the handsome devil makes her wonder if she does indeed possess a heart, one he could very easily steal.
As their hunt for the truth leads them into danger, Marcus finds Esme isn’t cold and calculating as he’d assumed but fire and brimstone, with courage and determination to match his own. Soon, they’re unable to deny their growing desire for each other. But giving into temptation comes at a cost, and they must decide if love is worth the risk of losing their one chance for redemption.
About the Author
When multiple New York Times bestselling author Lorraine Heath received her BA degree in psychology from the University of Texas, she had no idea she had gained a foundation that would help her create believable characters—characters often described as “real people.” The daughter of a British beauty and a Texan stationed at RAF Bovingdon, Lorraine was born in England but soon after moved to Texas. Her dual nationality has given her a love for all things British and Texan, and she enjoys weaving both heritages through her stories.--This text refers to the mass_market edition.
“[Penelope and King’s] evolution to lovers is pleasing and satisfying, especially since they have to trust each other with truly devastating stories from their past in order to make a future together. Heath explores how society’s confining rules force people into uncomfortable and even desperate choices. The end result is a fascinating exploration of power…A complex romance [that] explores how two lovers are influenced by class, gender, and societal expectations.” -- Kirkus Reviews for The Duchess Hunt
“Heath opens her Once Upon a Dukedom series with a satisfying, character-driven Victorian romance... a promising spin-off.”
-- Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Scoundrel of My Heart
“Lovely prose showcase how much these characters pine for each other, physically and emotionally, and crave lives full of happiness and purpose…Sensuality shines in this tale of yearning.” -- Kirkus Reviews on Scoundrel of My Heart
“Heath has crafted a love story dedicated to the inherent romanticism of books; she understands the sensual, comforting, compassionate appeal of books, reading, and those that treasure them. The Earl Takes a Fancy possesses all her usual skill for devising romance, but more potently, it also celebrates a more deep-seated emotion and sense of connection familiar to any bookworm.” -- Entertainment Weekly
“This Sins for All Seasons series finale is full of heart.”
-- Kirkus Reviews on Beauty Tempts the Beast --This text refers to the mass_market edition.
- ASIN : B09KC9Y3PH
- Publisher : Avon (July 26, 2022)
- Publication date : July 26, 2022
- Language : English
- File size : 3560 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 365 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 0063114593
- Best Sellers Rank: #52,249 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in the United States on July 26, 2022
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THE STORY: Marcus Stanwick has prepared his whole life to become the Duke of Wolfford. His future is smashed when his father is hanged for an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria, and the family's titles and properties are stripped from them. Now Marcus is working to uncover his father's co-conspirators. At a dead end, he goes to the person he has avoided approaching -- the woman reputed to be his father's mistress. Esme Lancaster is also looking at who else was involved in the conspiracy for her own reasons. While she doesn't want to work with Marcus, she has no choice but to join him in searching for the conspiracy. Marcus and Esme discover that their preconceptions of the other don't fit the reality. And the reality is that the two begin to realize that there is a strong attraction between them.
OPINION: This book was unexpected. It has more of a historical spy feel as Marcus and Esme try to determine who has been plotting to kill Queen Victoria. While adjacent to the world of ballrooms, this book takes place in the shadowy places of London. I enjoyed the different emphasis in the story as some of the historical issues of the time are explored.
And I loved Marcus and Esme. Both had their expected lives pulled out from under them and yet managed to be caring people. We finally find out what Marcus has been doing during the timeline of the other books in the series.
Marcus was more thoughtful and self-examining than I had expected. When he first met Esme, I worried he would be a total jerk to her. (Ok, honestly, he is terrible to her at the first meeting, but a reader can be assured that only lasts a moment.) Based on his obsession-laden appearances in previous books, I hadn't expected to like him so much. I found that he is a caring person and ultimately reasonable as he quickly begins to understand Esme and even has empathy for her.
Esme is an incredible heroine. I especially liked that Heath made her more modern thinking without making her feel ahistorical (as many romance writers are wont to do these days). Esme is a trailblazer in how she lives her life and what she has chosen to do with herself. At the same time, she has soft edges, and it is clear that she is strong enough to live alone but needs someone who will love and care for her.
And that is what makes this book so good for me. Esme and Marcus have both been betrayed and have lived in darkness. In one another, they find understanding, companionship, and love. They are such a good couple who talks to one another and seek understanding rather than being immature and jumping to conclusions. Their relationship feels mature, and when their happy ending comes, I'm not surprised, and I'm assured that they will love one another forever.
My final enjoyment of this book is that appearances are made by all the main characters from the series and also from the Sins for all Seasons books.
WORTH MENTIONING: Dr. Graves from the Scoundrels of St. James series has an important (but off the page) role in this book.
CONNECTED BOOKS: THE RETURN OF THE DUKE is the third book in the Once Upon a Dukedom series. The book can be read as a standalone, although there is an overarching story for the series that is resolved here. Enough information is given but there are significant appearances from characters from both this series and also from the Sins for All Seasons series. This book is also a bridge to the Chessmen series.
STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.
Esme Lancaster is not what she seems, she is not the loose woman she has portrayed, she is actually an agent working for the home office and the queen’s protector. She met the duke while investigating rumors of a plot to assassinate the queen and was ordered to engage with him. Even now she is still looking for answers about the plot to assassinate Queen Victoria and is surprised it has taken Marcus so long to confront her and even more surprised at her immediate attraction to him. He is rude to her and demands to know if his father confided his plans or co-conspirators to her. When she can’t provide him with any new information, he leaves, but they meet again in a few days and she believes his intentions are honorable, so she offers up a name that she says his father mentioned. She is following up on a lead given to her by her superior and isn’t really surprised when her path crosses with Marcus again but realizes her cover is blown when he saves her from being discovered. They escape, but he is injured and she takes him home to tend his wounds. The next morning the truth comes out, she was never his father’s lover, she was investigating him, she suggests they work together to figure out who was the mastermind behind the plot and stop them before they can strike again. So all they have to do is find the killer and try not to fall in love – simple right?
This was such a great read! It was well-written, nicely paced, and tied up all the loose ends from the series perfectly. This book has it all; intrigue, wonderful characters, action, great secondary characters, steamy love scenes, redemption, and finally a lovely HEA complete with an epilogue. I think this might be my favorite book in the trilogy, and while it could be read as a standalone title, I would recommend reading the books in order for the best reader experience.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that I requested and was provided to me by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.*