The Duke I Once Knew
by Olivia Drake
Unlikely Duchesses #1
St. Martin’s Press | December 31, 2018
I’ll put my overall impression upfront here. I’ve read this twice, both readings I spent completely caught up in the story. If that isn’t the best reading recommendation, I don’t know what is.
In The Duke I Once Knew, Olivia Drake has crafted a unique story for the genre that fully fits in with all of the loveliness romance fans expect, but with a few fresh situations and characters thrown in.
I will admit, my first reading I found Abby, our heroine, less than thrilling. I kept thinking ‘no one is this nice’ or ‘why won’t she stand up for herself even the tiniest bit?’. On my second reading, however, I grew to appreciate how true to character she was. A girl who has spent her life as a patient, family oriented helper is not going to flip to a die-hard feminist before her time, no matter how much my brain wants her to tell her siblings to stick it where the sun don’t shine.
Elise is, hands down, one of the best written female villains I’ve read in my beloved escapist genre. I absolutely LOVED hating this woman. Her scheming, evil little bitchy self around other women was so perfectly juxtaposed against the sickeningly simpering sweetness she portrayed around any man. She may have been my favorite character, not because I liked her, but because I was seriously invested in wanting to read an epilogue about how awful the rest of her life was. Alternately, I’m willing to bet Ms. Drake could spin a delicious tale about why Elise was so awful and turn her into a heroine worth rooting for. I’m honestly now dying to see that book.
If I had one (oh so small) critique: it took me way too long to care about The Duke, Max. Maybe this was be design, otherwise the character of Elise would be completely ineffective. But I loved Abby, and I kept half looking in the wings for when another possibility might kick in.
Final note, for those of you who, like me, live in fear of a cringeworthy sexy scene: have no fears with this author. Emotive description seems to be Ms. Drake’s forte. Very well done, where so many seem to collapse onto metaphors that kill the moment completely.
Solid four stars. I’ll be looking for more from Olivia Drake.
The sounds of cooing and kissing mortified her. Good Heavens, would they never stop? Anyone might walk into the library! They ought to have the decency to take their amorous activities upstairs to a bedchamber.
But, of course, Rothwell did not possess a shred of decency. It made her cringe to recall that she herself had once fallen prey to his allure.
She risked another look over the edge of the table. Her eyes goggled.
The duke was delving beneath the hem of his paramour’s gown, sliding his hand up her ankle and out of sight. The ladybird squirmed and squealed in a frisky attempt at evasion. He leaned down and silenced her playful protests with a masterful kiss.
Abby sank back down again. Her pulse pounded and a blush heated her inside and out. She oughtn’t be so scandalized. Rothwell had a reputation as a notorious rake. Over the years, she had heard many a tale whispered among the neighbors of his disgraceful doings. Yet it was one thing to listen to idle gossip and quite another to actually witness him in the throes of depravity.
And here she was, trapped. What was she to do?
If she made her presence known, the duke would find out that Miss Abigail Linton was the new governess. She could not be absolutely certain that he had forgotten her. And if he did remember, he surely would dismiss her on the spot, for he wanted nothing to do with her.
Her spirits fell into a fit of the dismals. That would mark the end of her little adventure out into the world. Oh, she could apply for a position elsewhere, but who would hire her if she’d been summarily discharged from her previous post? She would be forced to return to her brother’s house and resume her predictable life as the maiden aunt, growing withered and gray, shuttled between relatives, with no real say in her future.