Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Duke by Gaelen Foley

Book Description:
Driven to uncover the truth about the mysterious death of his ladylove, the Duke of Hawkscliffe will go to any lengths to unmask a murderer. Even if it means jeopardizing his reputation by engaging in a scandalous affair with London's most provocative courtesan-the desirable but aloof Belinda Hamilton.

Bel has used her intelligence and wit to charm the city's titled gentlemen, while struggling to put the pieces of her life back together. She needs a protector, so she accepts Hawk's invitation to become his mistress in name only. He asks nothing of her body, but seeks her help in snaring the same man who shattered her virtue. Together they tempt the unforgiving wrath of society-until their risky charade turns into a dangerous attraction, and Bel must make a devastating decision that could ruin her last chance at love. . . .

I am somewhat of an historical romance snob.  One of the things I have a hard time with in romances is when the heroine is a courtesan.  Rarely have I come across a romance that had this scenario where I could live with it.  One exception is A Courtesan's Guide to Getting Your Man.  Another one is ... The Duke. 

The Duke is the first book of the Knight Miscellany Series.  I had a bit of trouble getting into it at first because of the depressing scenario.  Our hero, the Duke of Hawkscliffe is suffering due to the fact the woman he loved - the married woman he loved - has drowned.  Something is afoot, and Hawk is certain she was murdered.  It's an uncomfortable scenario, for her elderly husband (who's up to something) convinces Hawk to avenge her murder.  Her husband, Coldfell, sends Hawk on his way convincing him his nephew (and heir) may have been the murderer.  Hawk rushes off to avenge the death of his love, Lucy Coldfell (whom he never actually had relations with - their love was too pure for that).  The elderly Coldfell rubs his hands gleefully, certain that the duke will conveniently kill his nephew in a duel.

Before all of this, we meet Belinda Hamilton, an honorable young lady who is down on her luck.  Beautiful beyond compare, she has attracted the notice of an obnoxious young "gentleman", Sir Dolph.  Dolph wants to marry her and refuses to take no for an answer, going to extreme lengths to get her to capitulate.  Her absent minded father, a professor only interested in his illuminated manuscripts, forgets to pay their bills.  Dolph uses this as his chance to make her agree to marry him.  He has her father thrown into debtors prison.  But, Belinda fights to keep her head above water and does everything to earn her own money - except the unthinkable.  She will not sell herself or marry the creep.   Guess who the creep is?  The nephew that Hawk is out to kill!

Unfortunately for Belinda, the worst thing happens and she is raped by the warden of her father's prison.  It's horrible, especially after trying so hard to remain respectable.  Now what can she do?  Ruined and traumatized, she has no where else to turn to.  All she knows is she needs help and a protector - someone that will make her feel safe.  Out of choices and resources, she goes to the most exclusive and sought after courtesans in London.  She resigns herself to becoming a courtesan herself.  An independent woman who will be able to have her own home and money and never be hungry again.  She is taken in by the sisters who run the exclusive brothel and taught the ways of love - but only in theory.  Though no longer technically a virgin - Belinda has yet to try out her new talents. She realizes she'll need a protector, but she doesn't rush into anything - waiting for just the right man to come along.  She can now afford to be choosy.  She'll know who he is when she sees him.

And guess who comes along?

As you can guess, Hawk and Bel meet at a ball and he becomes enamored of her instantly, against his better judgment.  He believes she's an experienced courtesan, the newest sensation amidst the demimonde.  Yet he can't abide women who sell themselves that way.  Little does he know how his principles will be challenged!  Upon watching Bel that first evening, he soon realizes she has an axe to grind regarding Dolph.  He wastes no time in making a deal with her.  She will pose as his mistress so the two can work together to set up Dolph and get him to admit that he murdered Lucy Coldfell.  As Bel and Hawk "live" together, things heat up fast.  They're both dying for each other, but part of the bargain is they don't sleep together - it's all a ruse.  Fat chance.  Before long, they're in love and Belinda knows that there is no hope for her.  Once a respectable lady, she knows only too well a duke can never marry a notorious courtesan.  She can only keep up the facade of being happy with him for so long.  Inside her heart is breaking.  Meanwhile things are getting dangerous in regard to setting up the nephew.  This book was chock full of excitement, sensuality, surprises and danger.  Not to mention the absolute roller coaster ride leading up to the outlandishly romantic ending!  I loved it!!  (I'm deliberately leaving out a lot so as not to give away any clues or spoilers).

Despite the great ending, I had some trouble getting into this romance.  I'd have given this book five stars, if it weren't for the fact I couldn't shake the pall that hovered over the story line wondering how Bel was going to overcome society's condemnation towards her.  How was she going to live happily ever after with her duke?  I found her side of the story depressing, especially in the beginning, and my prudish sensibilities kicked in when she decided to become a courtesan.  

Still, by the end, as Hawk realizes he can't live without her, I got more into it and I was won over completely.  Their love for one another was heartbreaking and bittersweet but the ending more than made up for all my doubts.  I really didn't know how the author was going to make it right!  But... she did.  Wonderfully!  I highly recommend this book but keep in mind it has it's dark side to it and it's somewhat angsty.

Hawk has a couple of hunky brothers, so I'm definitely continuing with this series!



Iris said...

I'm so glad to u've it to the series finally! IT's true, this book does have a dark side - it remains with u long after u've finished it - but it also adds a weight to the story.

I cannot wait for u to read the next one in the series! I recommended it quite a while back - Lord of Fire - it's one of my favourite books n Lucien Knight is just so desirable!

Eagerly waiting for tht review! =)

The_Book_Queen said...

I haven't read this particular book, but I've read a few others in the series and enjoyed them. I know what you mean about the courtesan plotline being a bit hard to get into most of the time, and I think I too have only found one or two I actually loved, but I am glad that this one was a good read, even if it didn't quiet reach the five stars that they strive for. :)


Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Iris, thanks for recommending these books to me, I've got the next one lined up on soon on my TBR list! I agree, the grim storyline and what happens to Bel and the consequences do give the book weight, but often I find it hard to take. More often than not, I'm looking for frothiness and lighthearted romances, but these dramatic ones are nice for a change, but I can't take too many of them at once!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

TBQ - glad to know I'm not the only one with a courtesan problem! LOL! In The Duke we meet some of his brothers and get the background on their mother - quite the scandal! I'm eager to read about them all!

Iris said...

I agree - I'm generally looking for the same things - have read 6 Georgette Heyers in a row now, and much as I like them, I'm missing Foley like material!

I read The Duke after reading Lord of Fire, Lord of Ice and Lady of Desire - u can imagine I was well curious about the Duke n Duchess! But Belinda's story was dark n sad - it did upset me - reminds me of Whitney My Love's glitch - makes me a bit uncomfortable, even though I like the book.

But this is a gud series =) I felt like I was in the family by the end of it! Didn't want to leave the characters!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Iris, funny you should mention, "Whitney" it's a real favorite of mine but again - that angsty dark storyline! Still, it was a great book, but I couldn't give it 5 stars. You're right they stay with you and are memorable, but they're really draining. I except drama when I'm reading a big thick epic or Diana Gabaldon Outlander book, but with a short 350 page romance - I want something to plop down with at night after work that won't take too much effort to read, you know?

I read all the Heyer's way back when I was in high school. Great books, I felt like I was an expert on the Regency period when I was 14!

Iris said...

True! 'Whitney' is a favourite of mine too - I have a weakness for alpha males, especially if they are witty, and handsome! =D But there were things I couldn't forgive Clayton for - he was rather immature and unreasonable - I prefer Royce from Kingdom of Dreams =)

Outlander is great too! But ur too fast a reader [I was checking ur list on Goodreads - u've read abt 8 times as much as me!] I don't know how u do it!

I've only read a few Heyers, can't seem to get into Cotillion - think i need a dose of Foley or something similar - and I too am a Regency expert by now, only 10 years late than ur age of expertise =D

Have u read Foley's Ascension series? That's nice too.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Iris this is the first Foley I've read. I'm crazy about alphas too! I'd probably hate one in real life, but in fiction they're my favorites!

Iris said...

our tastes r very similar then - i don't quite know how i'd respond to an alpha male in real life, but fiction or not, wit is my undoing =D

when u mentioned 'whitney' was angsty, it reminded me of YA fiction; i know u probably won't read it [i do =D], but there's a series by Cassandra Clare [City of Bones is the 1st] that i recently discovered - i only read it for the male lead, Jace! he's barely 17 - but quite my favourite.

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