Penelope Thorne and Camden Rothermere, Duke of Sedgemoor, have been friends since childhood. When Cam decides to marry he asks the only woman he has ever liked. They have known each other forever and will suit nicely. Nicely enough to not bring the nasty l word into the equation. Love has no part in Cam’s future. He saw what it did to his father when his unfaithful mother had the power and he will not ever involve himself that way. He will marry a woman he can turn into a proper Duchess and avoid any hint of scandal.
Though it about breaks her, Pen turns Cam down. He wants proper and she wants love. The two will never see eye to eye and she will not subject herself to a lifetime of hurt and misery. She would rather be without him. To avoid being harangued by her mother she leaves the continent and travels with an aunt.
Almost 10 years later she is rescued from a desperate situation by the Duke. Her brother has passed and Cam made a promise to find her and bring her home safely. When they are caught in a situation neither can control they must marry to stave off any nasty gossip. It seems their relationship has come full circle and they are back where they started so many years ago.
There are really two stories going on in What a Duke Dares. There is what I would consider the main couple, Pen and Cam, and then the secondary story of Sophie and Harry. I’ll talk more about them later. Pen and Cam are exactly what I want when I look for historical romance. They are both complicated and bury all strong emotions deep within themselves. It seems like it was inevitable they marry but Pen tries so hard to make it not happen. She has been in love with Cam for most of her life and knows that he will not ever return that love.
She backed away as if distance would bolster her resistance. “You’re inviting years of misery.”
The tension eased from his face, leaving him somber by adamant. “I’ll live with that.”
“I’m not sure I can.”
He paled and she was shocked to see that she hurt him.
“I’ll do my best to make you happy, Pen.”
In a low, trembling voice, she repeated, “It’s not enough.”
He didn’t pursue her. He didn’t have to. He knew he’d won. “It must be.”
So they marry and Pen resolves to do her best to be the duchess Cam deserves. She buries herself so deep that she comes across as too cooperative and bland. Cam thought he wanted the perfect duchess but when faced with that reality from Pen he is anything but happy about her changes.
The irony stuck him that he’d asked fate for a wife who was the opposite of his mother. Fate had very generously granted his wish. He wanted to plant fate a facer, then kick it in the ribs for good measure.
As the reader, we all know what Cam is getting at. He has deep, strong feelings for Pen but he will never acknowledge them. In getting what he though he wanted he learns it really isn’t what he wanted at all. So much delicious angst and emotion happens between this couple. I ate up their page time.
That is why Harry and Sophie, the secondary storyline, fell so flat for me. Harry is Pen’s brother and Sophie is the sister of Cam’s newest enemy. They are young and supposedly in love. They have been forbidden to see each other but Harry begs Pen to carry messages for them. She doesn’t want to for fear it will cause the scandal she wants to avoid, but for true love Pen will do anything. This couple is clearly in the story to set up the main issue between Pen and Cam at the end of the book. When the scandal breaks, Cam and his reactions will determine the future between him and Pen. I know why this storyline was here but I was absolutely bored with this simpering pair and I found myself groaning when I saw their names on the page. They pulled me right out of the story and made me lose the intensity Cam and Pen created.
So overall, I completely loved Pen and Cam. Had this book just been them I would have been over the moon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just them and I have to take that into consideration. I still really enjoy Ms. Campbell’s writing. She provides a level of connection I don’t normally find in historical romance novels. She remains one of my go to HR authors and I can’t wait for more from her. Final grade- B-