February 27, 2017
Huzzah! I'm impressed!
Recently I read a great review on In Between the Devil and the Duke by Kelly Bowen. I thought "ummm, I believe I've purchased some of her books in the past, but haven't read them. This sounds like one I should check out." So I did. It didn't take me long to realize I had a really interesting story on my hands. As luck would have it, this book was the third in a series of three (that would be a trilogy for those following along). That would also explain some of the dark looks being exchanged by the men in this story, which I had no idea why they were being exchanged. Some of those looks were downright murderous. After a few "should I buy the other two books" moments I decided the only way for me to find out what the glacial looks were about was to get the other two books in the series. Joy, oh joy, oh rapture! Turns out Kelly Bowen has written a fantastic series in Season for Scandal. What a breath of fresh air these three books turned out to be. I think I can place this series in amongst my other favorites. I haven't really decided which one of the books was my favorite. They are all filled with ultra-strong women and men who aren't afraid of those women being strong. I was enthralled with all three books.
Let's take a closer look. Warning: unlike me, I suggest you read these books in order. First is Duke of My Heart. In this book we are introduced to Chegarre and Associates. This
organization is a fixer-upper place. A place one would go to hide a body or find a missing heir; a place which doesn't leave any traces behind of anything. The person who runs this place is a Miss Ivory Moore (at least that's who we are told she is). But this book is full of mysteries and things that aren't what they seem and people who aren't who they are (or something like that).
The story opens with Maximus Harcourt, the Duke of Alderidge, returning home after years of absence, sailing the seas and ignoring his sister. Well, Max is in for a surprise. Instead of finding his young sister, he finds the Earl of Debarry naked, tied to his sister's bed - and by the way Debarry is dead. Instead of his sister being there, he also finds a couple of women investigating the scene, one of them being Miss Moore and the other being Elise deVries. Before he can even ask "Hey, who are you?" he is swept away by the machinations of Miss Moore. Now, because Max is an alpha male and Ivory is a take charge woman, heads immediately butt. There is an almost constant struggle between these two. But it's a fun struggle to watch.
In fact there is more than just the struggle between the two combatants. There is also a struggle inside both Max and Ivory. As they circle each other and step on each other’s toes, they are also forced to give in. They both learn to accept help from the other. They each let go of some of their controls and in the end form a delightful partnership.
Of course there were some wonderful secondary characters. Some show up in all three books and some don't. But all of the characters are well-rounded and well thought out. If I had any quibbles with this story it would have to be the modern feel of the language and thoughts throughout. But, hey I am a big fan of Julia Quinn and I like the book, so I learned to live with the anachronisms. The other little quibble was the ending seemed rather abrupt, I think I like to see a bucolic family scene in my last chapters.
On to the second book in the series: A Duke to Remember. Like the first book, the opening
scene hooks one in right away. This one starts in Bedlam and our heroine is disguised as a male doctor. Elise deVries works for Chegarre and Associates. She is a tracker, she finds things. She is almost a super-hero, she's so perfect. Not only is Elise the best tracker in the whole world, but the best shooter, best actress, and best disguiser ever! She's almost toooo perfect and I might have found that a little irritating, except she has no control over her feelings for our hero so there was a balance.
Our hero is Noah Ellery and he happens to be a manly-man beta hero. He is also in hiding. He is also a duke. When he was a child he didn't talk, so at the age of 10 Noah's father committed him to Bedlam and told everyone that Noah was dead. There are only two people who know that Noah is alive: his sister and his mother. Well, his mother makes the mistake of saying Noah is alive to the wrong person. That person is our villain Francis Ellery. Francis is Noah's cousin and is deep in debt and he needs money now. Francis also wants to be a duke, so he has Noah's mother committed to Bedlam - because everyone knows Noah is dead and here is this looney woman saying he's alive. Remember, this is a time period when women were not really listened to. And, that leads us back to Bedlam and Elise pretending to be a doctor.
Elise has been hired by Noah's sister to find Noah. And, that's just what she does - pretty easily. Actually, this is a pretty simple story and everything is solved fairly easily. But it's still a powerful tale, because both Elise and Noah are pretty complex people. This is sort of a story of two people in love adjusting to each other and not struggling too hard to do so. There is no misunderstanding, no betrayal, not many secrets that remain secrets - there is just growing, and accepting. It's really a lovely love story.
My quibbles: Once again the ending was abrupt, the language modern. There was also a whole cast of village people who are left behind (bye - see ya - I'm a duke now) with no chapter to sum everything up. I guess they went to the Island of Abandoned Secondary Characters. Still this was a wonderful story and I highly recommend it.
Now for the third book in the series, In Between the Devil and the Duke. This is the one I
read first and the one which caused me to read the other two. In this one we have Angelique Archer, who is not employed at Chegarre and Associates, but boy oh boy can she count. Our hero is Alexander Lavoie who is a partner in Chegarre and Associates and also the brother of Elise deVries.
It just so happens that Alex owns a gambling establishment. Guess who's counting cards - go ahead, guess. If you guessed Angelique you'd be right. She has visited his gambling den a number of nights, incognito, and she doesn't think anyone has noticed her. But, Alex has been covertly watching her every night she's been there. He hasn't done anything about it, because he suspects she's in desperate straits. When Angelique is accosted by an inebriated sore-loser, Alex steps in. There are immediate sparks between Angelique and Alex. You know, I noticed a pattern in all three of the books: when our pairs met there is never any question of anyone else. Their focus is on the other.
Because Ms. Bowen does not write misunderstandings in her books, Alex and Angelique join forces right away to find out who is blackmailing her. While I was reading this story, I was just as fascinated with the mystery part of it as I was with the romance. There is murder, blackmail, mayhem, and possible villains galore. I had my suspicions early on as to who the culprit was and I was partially correct, but Ms. Bowen threw in a little surprise - and I'm not going to tell you!
In closing, I have the same thing to say about this book as I did the others. It's a good thing I liked them, because if I hadn't the modern thought processes and slang would have really irritated me. And, Ms. Bowen - you really need to work on your epilogues. Having said that, I highly recommend the entire Season for Scandal series. That includes Duke of My Heart, A Duke to Remember, In Between the Devil and the Duke. They are a real treat.
For All Three:
Time/Place: Regency England