The second book in Lenora Bell’s delightful Disgraceful Dukes series features two characters introduced in How the Duke Was Won. Lady Dorothea Beaumont, half-sister to Charlene, and Dalton, the Duke of Osbourne, best friend to James, the Duke of Harland.
After several disastrous seasons and the embarrassment of being left at the altar by a groom arranged by her mother through nefarious means, Thea has had just about enough of society or marrying well. She doesn’t crave a husband at all, but rather looks forward to a life of obscurity, living with her spinster aunt in Ireland. Nothing would please her more than to throw off her mother’s expectations and settle down with the bees her aunt tends and study art. When she happens upon some paintings that she believes need to be brought out into the world she sets on a letter writing campaign with the estate’s owner hoping to cajole him into giving her access to them. His surly responses and adamant refusal have her even more determined than ever to confront him and make him see reason. Only the Duke of Osbourne does something that completely ruins her plans. He whisks her out onto the dance floor and makes her the belle of the ball.
Dalton, the Duke of Osbourne, has enough problems of his own. His search for the man who murdered his brother years ago consumes his life. By day he plays the part of a rakish, care-free Duke, by night he becomes the Hellhound, masked avenger out to save men from their vices and the gaming hells. No one realizes his real motive is to discover the identity of his brother’s killer and the only thing he has to go on is a list of the men his father robbed of their greatest treasures. Thea is nothing but a nuisance and the only thing he knows about her is that she almost trapped his best friend into marriage. Setting her up as the most popular woman of the season seems to be the easiest, quickest way to get rid of her. Unfortunately, he discovers her determination to live a life on her own terms just when his need to abandon the city becomes a necessity, which means his only choice is to take her with him.
This book had me under its thrall almost from the first word. It begins with the back and forth letters between Dalton and Thea and I was immediately delighted at their banter. Thea is another smart heroine who wants nor needs a man in her life. She craves independence and is willing to do whatever necessary to get it. Once she and Dalton head out on their road trip she loses her shyness and social anxiety seems to blossom. Dalton does not scare her in the least, his refusal to allow her access to the paintings in his attic and his repeated misunderstanding of her desire to be a woman who makes her own choices irritates her, but being with him alone only brings out desire.
Together they are so fun and sexy! Both are so stubborn and set in their ways at first that I highly enjoyed watching them fight an attraction for each other that would interfere with the direction they believed they wanted their lives to lead. As they slowly fell in love, Dalton learning that there was more to life than regret and vengeance and Thea that she could fall in love with the right man and still be her own woman, their romance becomes soft and lovely. I really did enjoy them together.
My only complaint was how easy Dalton’s family conflict wrapped up. I expected epic angst, but it is fixed rather quickly, with almost to no real drama. I was even kind of surprised at how simply his mother’s issue was overcome. It’s only a small complaint really, and since I expect that we might see more of Dalton’s family in future books I’m hoping that maybe there will be some residual anger and resentment to overcome. Sounds weird I know.
Overall, another enjoyable read by Lenora Bell. I expect great things from this author and am looking forward to whatever she releases next. Final Grade-B
Nothing had changed. She would choose to take a skilled, attentive lover tonight.
Everything had changed.
That lover would be both rake… and warrior.