The Wicked Duke by Madeline Hunter

June 23, 2016
What a treat.

Madeline Hunter puts the finishing touches on her Wicked trilogy with The Wicked Duke. I'm always amazed how some authors can pack a whole lot of story in a little under 300
pages. This was a gem of a book.

Lancelot Hemingford, Duke of Aylesbury, is rusticating at his country estate. For some reason he and his brothers believe if he keeps a low profile and his Mr. Toad in his pants, society will forget just what a wicked man he is. Out of sight out of mind. But it's been nine long months and Lance is becoming bored with the waiting. But there is also another problem besides his profligate ways; he is under suspicion for his brother's death. Society has jumped to the conclusion that Lance did away with his brother, and while Hemingford believes that his brother Percy did die a questionable death, he knows that he is not the one responsible for it. Lance has been twiddling his thumbs waiting for the local magistrate Sir Horace to declare Percy's death an accident, then Lance can be free to live life again. However, Sir Horace has a plan. Sir Horace is interested in an aristocratic lady's hand in marriage but he must have access to society. Here's his plan: he has a daughter, Nora, who he wants to get off of his hands. So, he hangs a carrot in front of Lance - if Lance marries his daughter, Sir Horace will say Percy's death was an accident. Having his daughter married to a duke will give Sir Horace access to his widow. Lance is ok with that - here's the problem - Nora suffered a mysterious trauma when she was in her teens and she has a fear of people, places, and things. In fact she goes into hysterics when Sir Horace suggests the marriage to her. Enter our heroine, Marianne. Marianne is Nora's very protective cousin. She forces Sir Horace to back off - Sir Horace develops another plan. All is not lost in his endeavors to charm the widow. He tells Marianne that if she marries Lance he will not force Nora into marriage and he would still have his entry into society. Marianne grudgingly agrees, but she loathes the Duke of Aylesbury. You see, she has arrived at the conclusion that the Duke of Aylesbury is the man who assaulted her cousin. Lance and Marianne marry - the end. Not really, their marriage is only the beginning of some wonderfully satisfying writing.

This story was slow moving, which in this case was all right because the characters had time to fully develop. It was refreshing to read a book in which an author took some time. Lance and Marianne are very complex characters who are supported by a group of unique secondary characters. All of the characters in this book have selfish motives for doing what they want, but it works. The scenes when the brothers were together were wonderful. They were a real family. They cared about each other but they also got their quips in.  Not only is there a wonderful romance in The Wicked Duke but also a couple of mysteries to be solved. Actually Percy was murdered - so there is that mystery and then there is the one revolving around Nora. Kudos to Ms. Hunter for deceiving me on the one. I figured out the Nora mystery almost right away, but the "who killed Percy" mystery was a surprise. Also, the solution to that mystery was handled differently and satisfyingly.

Overall, I recommend this book. There's some lovely full writing between the pages and that makes me smile. I love a good story.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

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