Review: Taken By the Duke by Jess Michaels

“So you know my name.”

She stared at him as if he were daft. “Of course I know your name. I know it as well as my own– it has been pounded into me since nearly the day of my birth, just as I’m certain my family name has been seared into your mind and soul.”

 Taken By the Duke (The Pleasure Wars #1) by Jess Michaels For generations the Rothcastles and Windburys have hated each other. No one living today knows why or even when the feud started, but the animosity between the two houses is well-known among the ton.  Christian Rothcastle is out for revenge and Ava Windbury is how he intends to get it. On a tragic night six months prior Ava’s brother, Liam, and Christian were involved in an accident that resulted in the death of Christian’s sister. Now he plans to kidnap Ava and keep her away from her family until they feel her loss and know the same grief he has known.

Ava is a wallflower, the long-standing Rothcastle/Windbury battle has affected her life more than anyone realizes. She’s felt the stares and heard the gossip. After the fateful night six months earlier it’s only gotten worse. Her brother’s body may be healing, but his mind and heart are so broken that she fears he won’t ever be the man he used to be. When she is stolen away by Christian Rothcastle she knows she must try to end this ridiculous war between their families before it ruins anymore lives. She is willing to make a deal in exchange for peace and the life of her brother, she agrees to become Christian’s lover for a month, surrendering her body to him fully,  if he will forgive the debt he feels is owed him by Liam and walk away from any further vengeance.

“You are here to pay your brother’s debt and that is all. What we are doing is fucking, Ava. It is a vulgar term for a vulgar act. There is nothing and will never be anything more to it than that. Is that clear?”

Ava is not what Christian expects. She doesn’t simper, or beg and plead. She’s innocent, yet strong and level-headed. One would think in this relationship that Christian would have all the power, but they’d be wrong. Christian and Ava come together at first because of a deal to satisfy a debt owed, but they immediately feel a pull between them and their relationship soon turns into more. Ava sets out to find a way to heal Christian and make him understand that the legacy between their families is stupid and wrong. That they can be the people to end it.

Ava is one of the best historical romance heroines I’ve read in quite a while. She’s smart, strong-willed and open to experiencing her desires. There is no lamenting her fate over and over or woe is me behavior. She’s very sensible and knows what giving up her virginity means, but ultimately is willing to sacrifice anything to save her family and see this feud end. She feels passion for Christian almost immediately and jumps into their affair with open eyes and full participation. Little by little she helps heal him, lessening his grief, helping his body mend.

“I brought you here for revenge,” he said, his voice very soft. “I could think of nothing else when I took you. But now… I wonder if we could spend the rest of our time together, not in a bargain, not in a war, but just as lovers who want to share a brief moment in time.”

I wanted to dislike Christian after the first chapter. I did, I found him to be irrational in his behavior and placing too much blame on Liam and not enough on himself. I could soon see he was blinded by his grief and the hatred passed down to him for years. As his affair with Ava progresses he tries desperately to hold on to his bitterness, he alternately finds himself wanting to be closer to her and then shutting her out to try and keep his distance.  He is soon overcome with her positive personality and openness in their lovemaking. They have some amazingly hot love scenes. The sex is very prevalent throughout this story, but even during those scenes I could feel the emotion and romance between this couple. I never felt their relationship was only about sex and found their HEA to be very believable.

The surprise for me was how much I absolutely despised Ava’s brother at the end. After feeling such a significant loss and experiencing the love of Christian’s sister I would think he would understand and react less harshly to the decisions Ava makes at the end of the book. His handling and treatment of Ava once she comes home disgusted me. I know his book is probably coming up somewhere in this series and Ms. Michaels will have to do some bold writing to make me like or even have compassion for him again.

There is another small revenge mystery in the plot that culminates to bring Ava and Christian together. I saw it coming and while I wasn’t surprised at what happened, I was taken aback over this character’s motivations. I think I would have rather had Christian decide to come back to Ava all on his own without outside interference, but I was okay with how this couple found their HEA. All in all, Taken By the Duke was a lovely, romantic, highly erotic historical romance that had me glued to the page. Definitely recommend. Final Grade: B

Favorite Quote:

“The only thing that has ever made me forget, made me forgive, made me want something beyond the brutal, laughable version of the life I’ve created for myself… is you.”

Rating: B
Taken By the Duke by Jess Michaels
July 2nd 2013 by Samhain Publishing
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  1. says

    Hmm, I haven’t heard of this author, but I think I’ve seen a few people talk about this book. It sounds quite interesting, I’ll look out for it.

    • Angela says

      Jess Michaels writes some very romantic, erotic historical romances. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by her.

  2. cayenne says

    I love Jess Michaels’ books (the Mistress trilogy was fantastic), and she’s an auto-buy for me, so there’s a little “you can download this on release day” smirking at me from my bookshelf at Samhain. I’m so glad you liked it, too – it makes me look forward to the release day even more.

    • Angela says

      I haven’t read the Mistress trilogy, but I just bought book one so I plan on reading soon!