Sunday, November 2, 2008

Duke Most Wanted by Celeste Bradley

Book Description:
Sophie Blake's grandfather willed his fortune to the first of his granddaughters to marry a duke. Since her cousin, Deirdre, will seal the deal any day now, the quiet, bookish Sophie can sit back and enjoy her time with the only man she truly adores: Graham. No matter that the part charmer, part scoundrel has absolutely no designs on her! Sophie is content to engage Graham in lively conversation, beat him at cards. . . and probe at the darkness hiding behind his rakish smile.

Then Graham unexpectedly gains a title, an estate in near ruins and a mountain of debt. If there is any chance of survival he must find a rich wife—quickly. As his hunt for a bride begins, Sophie realizes that she isn’t even in the running. Suddenly no longer content to be a wallflower, Sophie gets a stunning make-over and becomes the belle of the ball. Lots of heads are turning…including Graham's. But this beauty has secrets of her own. Will she be his salvation or seal his fate?

This is the third and last of the regency based Heiress Brides trilogy, and I must say, I enjoyed them. This is the story of plain, bookish, bespectacled Sophie who was always the quiet one of the three girls, who never had any interest in the Pickering fortune and marrying a duke. Sophie's great friend is Gray Cavendish, 4th son of the Duke of Edenton. Gray has always been a wastrel type, selfish, but fun to be with. He and Sophie have a platonic sort of friendship, both aware that nothing can ever occur between them in a marriagable sort of way. But, Gray's father and three older brothers wind up dying in a freakish sort of way in Africa while big game hunting, and Gray suddenly winds up being the new Duke of Edenton. But with the title comes a mountain of debt and a crumbling country estate that needs an infusion of money immediately or Gray will not be of this world much longer since the creditors are already after him! He must now marry for money, and as a Duke, there will be no shortage of heiresses who are willing to trade their fortunes for becoming a duchess.

I really liked Gray, he's endearing and cute, blonde, tall, broad shouldered - the usual. He goes through a transformation once he becomes Duke and wants to save his estates and the people living on them. He's torn for his need for money, but his desire to be with Sophie and marry her - guess what he does?

Meanwhile, Sophie decides to transform herself into the belle of society with the help of stellar dressmaker, Lementeur. We've met him in the previous two books, and he works wonders with Sophie and transforms her from a wallflower to the toast of the town, a la Pygmalion. You see, Sophie secretly wants to marry Graham herself, get the Pickering fortune, and help him save his estates. But, Sophie has a big secret, which we don't find out about until almost 3/4 of the way into the book. She's not really who we think she is. This kind of bothered me. I guess I'm sort of a romance book snob when it comes to this sort of deception.


As it turns out, Sophie is a nobody, an orphan who is posing as the real Sophie Blake (who had died young years ago). So she really doesn't even have any right to inheriting the fortune, even if she marries a duke. At least in the story of Cinderella (which this book parallels) Cinderella actually came from noble birth, in this book, Sophie is a nothing. I hate to sound callous, but this was a real turn off for me. I had a hard time with it, until they justified it at the end, and all was made well, but it still irked me a bit.

Anyway, Sophie and Gray have a few moments in which they can't deny they are now attracted to one another (although it took Gray a while to come around to this, but once he saw her in one of Lementeur's gowns he was convinced). One thing leads to another and they declare their love to one another, but as usual, there is the mix up at the end, some angst and then everything is put to rights. The nefarious solicitor, Wolfe, is in this again, trying to prevent the Pickering fortune from leaving his firm's hands, though his partner Stickley is in no part of it this time. We also follow the budding romance between the butler, Fortescue, and his love for Irish lady's maid, Patricia. All sorts of surprises come out in this book, not only about Fortescue, but also a transformed Lady Tessa at the end, which was amusing, though farfetched.

I liked these books, they had their humorous moments, the descriptions were frothy and well done and the heroes were sexy and charming. All the heroines had some endearing qualities to them, but I think Sophie was my least favorite because of her deception. Still, this was a worthwhile read, and a must if you've read the other two books because this book wraps up the whole series and brings it all to a close.


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