The Most Dangerous Duke in London by Madeline Hunter

June 19, 2017
"Oh, great.
Would you look at this?! Oh my God.
Tuna juice! Oh my God!"
- Everybody Loves Raymond
 May be spoilers ahead. The Most Dangerous Duke in London begins Madeline Hunter's Decadent Dukes Society series. Don't let the title fool you into believing this is a light and fluffy story, because it's not. This is a story about revenge, not my favorite plotline. The character bent on revenge in this book is our hero Adam Penrose, Duke of Stratton. By the way, he has two duke friends - Gabriel St. James, Duke of Langford, and Eric Marshall, Duke of Brentworth. They are in this book because we need to have a few buddy talks scattered throughout. Anyway, Adam is bent on revenge against someone in the Cheswick family. He hasn't quite put all the pieces together, but he believes one of the Cheswicks is responsible for his father's death. When the story begins he is on the way to the Cheswick's home. Much to his surprise he has been summoned by the Dowager Countess of Morwood. The dowager is a Cheswick; and let me tell you I had some problem keeping all the titles and surnames straight. Oh for the days of just plain Smith. For some reason the dowager wants to put aside the ol' family feud between Adam's family and the Cheswick family. It could be that it is Adam's reputation as a duelist which has preceded him and she just wants to protect her grandson Theo. Or it could be something else. When Adam arrives, he finds that she is going to settle the feud by offering up her youngest granddaughter as the sacrifice. She figures he wouldn't shoot his brother-in-law. Well, Adam's no dummy, he holds his cards close to his vest/chest; he's on to her game. And, he's not all that excited about it, but remember he's looking to do some kind of revenge and this young girl might be the answer. But wait! Who is that magnificent creature on that horse? He can tell from a distance that she's got spirit! He must have her! What! She's the old lady's other granddaughter! Revenge! Revenge! You know I never quite understand how marrying someone is revenge, especially if there is some kind of attraction. Now, he could throw her in a dungeon, but that would only hurt her, not the rest of the family. But hey, this is Romanceland and I don't have to understand revenge plots.

Anyway, up on the hill in the distance is the exciting Lady Clara Cheswick. And, she can see the handsome man staring at her. Being a strong woman who takes no guff from anyone, she sticks her nose in the air and rides off. This only makes Adam more intrigued and he gives chase. And, the story begins.

This story was hard for me to review. I like Madeline Hunter. I like her writing. I can depend on her stories to be filled with characters who have more of a mature voice and this one does. There are some interesting back stories which weave their way slowly throughout the entire tale. And, there is just a little bit of a twist to the end of the tale. Ms. Hunter ties up all the loose ends and it was enjoyable traveling down the path to get there. The interesting thing for me about the book was that in the beginning I didn't really care about the mystery of Adam's father's death, but the closer to the end of the book I read, the more engrossed I became with the secret. On the other hand, the romance between Adam and Clara had the opposite effect on me. I started out enjoying their romance, but the closer I got to the ending the less I cared. The reason I found the romance less than thrilling was mainly due to Adam.

I liked Clara a lot. She was a strong, independent woman. Yes, yes - I know there are a lot of "independent" women in romance books, but often those women are portrayed as being so strong-willed they become a caricature of what strong women really are. Yes, Clara is a secret publisher, and she supports other women in their efforts - but at no time in the book did I feel as if I was being hammered over the head by her strong convictions. Everything about Clara - her stubbornness, her strength, her intelligence - was mature. There was a completeness about her. She could see through almost everything that Adam was up to and she would confront him. He changed in the book because she asked him to, not because she forced him. That part of the romance was lovely.

The problem with Adam. I could not connect to Adam and not because of the revenge thingy. He was like a pod-person. There was just nothing there. All I saw was a handsome facade which was supposed to be sexy, similar to a cologne advertisement - looks good, but there is nothing behind the eyes. I was never able to see any vitality. There just wasn't any charisma. He was boring, and he shouldn't have been. For me Adam was just too cold, I couldn't work up any sympathy for him when it came to his father. While there was tons of hippedy-hopping-bedroom-floor-chair-wall sexcapades, they were all rather tedious. And there was even a pool-table scene! Nothing better than a hot pool-table. Could have been a spark - but nooooooo, he had to run upstairs with her - ruined the mood. On top of that I had an ewwwwww moment.

My ewwwwww moment. Why did you include this in your book Ms. Hunter? I have often wondered about the cleanliness of Romanceland - you know underarms, sweat, dirty hair, toilets under beds, hairy underarms, and unclean parts being orally entertained. You know those kind of things. But usually I am never told any of this real world stuff by the author. However, in this book there is such a scene. Adam and Clara have a night of humpidy-bumpidy, an exhausting night - so exhausting that Clara sleeps in later than normal. She wakes up to the aroma of last night's activities and the sudden arrival of her brother and grandmother. Panic time! She throws on some clothes and tries to head them off at the pass. She does not have a chance to pick up her discarded nightgown. She is not quite all together. Her brain is filled with her adventures of the previous evening and trying to prevent her relatives from catching on. She is frazzled. But her uncomfortable moment (and ours) is about to get worse. Her grandmother is lecturing her on all sorts of things and spots Clara's nightie on the floor, picks it up, waves it around and makes some kind of comment about "fish water" smell. Well, that was a vivid kick out of the book moment. But, it doesn't stop there. The grandmother tosses the tuna-water night gown to Clara’s brother. Evidently he is familiar with the smell because he gives his sister a "look" then makes some kind of snide comment about Clara's activities.  It was an ewwww moment. Granted this is not the first time smell has been associated with the morning after in a romance novel, but this is the first time I have been confronted with the identity of "fishy" and then to have a brother knowingly wiggle eyebrows and comment about it. I have expressed this before. I am close to my brother, but there are just some things I hope never to hear, see, or talk about with my brother. By the way my little Petunia's - if there is a fish fry smell after you share some connubial bliss with your better half or just your half, you might want to call the doctor. At least according to what I found when googling fishy smells. Yes, I did google an interesting combination of "fish smell" words. Oh, the wonders of the World Wide Web.

Overall there was much to like about this book, Clara for one, they mystery for another. But I found the hero to be cold and problematic and the ewwww moment jerked me out of the story. It was an okay book, but not one of Ms. Hunter's best.

And now it's time for a little tune:

"Fish heads, fish heads
Roly-poly fish heads
Fish heads, fish heads
Eat them up, yum

In the morning, laughing, happy fish heads
In the evening, floating in the soup

Ask a fish head anything you want to
They won’t answer, they can’t talk

I took a fish head out to see a movie
Didn’t have to pay to get it in

They can’t play baseball, they don’t wear sweaters
They’re not good dancers, they don’t play drums" -
  Kevin Stevenson

Time/Place: 1822 England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot (depending on your definition of sensuality)

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