I’m going to try to write a review to do this book justice, because it deserves that, but dang it I’m not sure I can. A Duke in the Night left me completely surprised, partly at how wonderful it was, but also because at about halfway through I realized this is the first Kelly Bowen book I’ve ever read. And how did I let that happen?
August Faulkner, the Duke of Holloway, is a talented businessman. He buys out failing companies and then turns them around to make them profitable. Sometimes by making them more than they were before, and sometimes by breaking them apart and turning them into something new. He wasn’t always a duke, he was once a lonely boy on the streets trying to get his family out of debtor’s prison and back to respectability. He has never forgotten what that feels like, which is why no amount of money or power will ever be enough to satisfy him. His purchase of a school owned by the Hayward family, sets his mind to also remembering the night he danced on a dare with a young wallflower named Clara Hayward. And was absolutely enchanted. When August discovers the reason the family is selling off the school, he sees yet another business opportunity, but when he talks to Clara again he soon discovers there might be something he wants more than money.
Clara Hayward at her heart is a teacher. She has been headmistress of her own school for years, but she also teaches a few students during a summer session at a leased property owned by an elderly lord. Since the death of her parents and the discovery that their excesses have led to the possible ruination of the family shipping business, she and her siblings have done everything they could think of to keep it afloat. That includes selling off the beloved school her mother left her. But she still has students whose minds she intends to broaden and whose gifts she wants to see blossom and grow. Her methods might be unconventional, but they benefit the few students she picks every summer. This session will be a bit different though, since she will not only have to guide her students, and worry about her family’s finances, but also try to keep her interest in the newly arrived Duke of Holloway under control.
What can I say about this couple? I absolutely adored every single thing about them. I adored them apart. I adored them together. I just flat-out adored. Clara is so ahead of her time. An independent woman determined to stay independent who offers her students the ability to learn things not acceptable for the time period they are living. She teaches them to look beyond their family’s holdings and money, to see each other and themselves for their own gifts and wants and needs. She offers them the ability to learn in the area of their choice and the opportunity to work in that field in a practical way. Clara is pragmatic, and wise, and progressive. Yet, it’s the way she teaches that I loved, she asks questions and makes inquiries and lets others make their own conclusions and discoveries.
“What is it that gives you the most joy out of life? The thing that gets you out of bed in the morning?”
Ownership. Acquisition. Building something from nothing.
He knew he should probably say something flippant like cards or whiskey or snuff. “Business,” he hedged instead.
She considered him. “Are you good at it?”
The best. “Yes.”
“Now just for a moment, pretend Lady Anne didn’t approve of what you did.” She pulled her fingers from his and stepped away. “And now, just for the moment, pretend she had the control and the power to stop you from doing what you loved.”
August is set up as an alpha male who loves making money, but from the first page I saw a man who was protective and kind and loving. A man who adored his sister and would do whatever it took to see her safe and happy. A man who might have been a tad bit stubborn, but listened when Clara talked and respected her for herself and her wisdom.
“Do not put words in my mouth, Miss Hayward. Because that’s not who I see when I look at you.” The force of his words made her eyes widen. “I see an intelligent woman, the same one who once put an ignorant buck in his place and taught him that things are rarely as they seem. I wish I had understood that then.”
“And what would you have done differently if you had?” she asked quietly.
“I would have asked you to dance again.” August reached for her hand and caught it, bringing it up between them, his thumb sliding over her bare knuckles. “I wish I had asked you to dance again.”
They have a lovely courtship and a lovely romance. They talk to each other. They learn about each other. August listens and broadens this thought processes, mainly about his sister and what would really make her happy in life. Clara learns to trust and that maybe she can be herself and just as independent with the right person. They are incredibly sexy together. There are several very well done love scenes and I kind of wish there were several more. I absolutely, one hundred percent believed this couple’s evolution from acquaintances to friends to lovers to in love. I might have been annoyed at times with each of them, but I also understood the whys and hows of what led them to make certain decisions and what ultimately brought about certain misunderstandings and upsets. In the end I loved their HEA and how it was written. My only complaint would be that I would have loved an epilogue.
If you read one historical romance this year, make sure it’s this one. A Duke in the Night hit all my romance lover buttons. I can not wait to see what comes next in this series. Final Grade-A
“I am not going to accept less of you, Clara Hayward. I will have you, and you will have me. You will show me everything that you have ever learned about pleasure, and then I will show you more. I will be the man who kisses you until you can’t breathe and you can’t think.”