Friday, April 25, 2014

Never Tempt a Duke by Virginia Brown

He could not forgive her deception. She could not resist the desire they shared. When a scandal forces them to marry, their passions lead to dangerous secrets.

Deverell regarded his beautiful bride dispassionately. He had begun to think—hope—he could find in her what he’d never had before. That had disintegrated into ashes when she tricked him into marriage. Now, the wedding breakfast done, the revelry just beginning, she gave him a nervous glance from where she stood near the arbor. He returned her gaze, took note of the wreath of baby’s breath and pink roses atop her head, the Belgian lace train cascading from her shoulders and draping loosely over her bare arms before falling to the hem of her gown, and felt nothing. She was beautiful; fairy-like; virginal. Deceitful.

A changeling, he told himself. She’d undergone so many transformations since he’d first met her that he wasn’t certain who she really was. Except that now she was his wife. Deverell excused himself from Craven and strode to his bride; saw her instant wariness as he approached. The past fortnight had not endeared him to her, no doubt. Fitting enough, he supposed, since her actions had not endeared her to him either.

“So, my lovely bride,” he drawled, taking one of her hands and drawing her away from her companions, “I trust all has gone according to your wishes.”

Apart from the others, she tried to pull her hand free but he held it firmly. She flicked a glance at him from beneath her lashes, a maiden’s trick that had never worked on him. He’d had ample time to study the female strategy. Yet he had still been conquered by treachery. A galling admission of defeat.

“If it had gone according to my wishes, your grace,” she retorted, “I would be quite far from here, I assure you.”

“Somehow, I doubt that, my sweet,” he said softly. He lifted her gloved hand to his lips as if to press a loving kiss to her palm and murmured, “I think you’ve had things your way far too long.”

As much as I wanted to love this book, I just couldn't get behind the central romance between the two main characters. The book started strong with 17 year old American twins Nick and Alyssa conspiring to fool their new guardian in England. While Nick runs away to sea, Alyssa poses as a boy to save herself from being shuttered away in an oppressive religious school. Sadly, this portion of the novel is the most interesting; once Deverell discovers the deception, things head steadily downhill.

Deverell is not an appealing hero- autocratic and quick to anger, he unreasonably blames Alyssa for tricking him into marriage even though it is clear she is innocent. I simply couldn't understand how or why Alyssa was in love with him, other than the fact that she never recovered from her teenage crush. Alyssa never seemed to fully grow up and take a stand for herself which made her a little one note for my taste. I was especially disappointed that the initial closeness of the twins was quickly written out as Nick become a rather unappealing young man.

Characters aside, the mystery element was also a bit of a let down. The ancient family history was very confusing and never really fleshed out. Deverell's refusal to share his thoughts puts his wife in incredible danger toward the end of the book, and then he leaves her in danger for long hours simply to follow through on his plan? Not very well-done on his part in my opinion.

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