Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Never doubt that it is you I want.”
She wants revenge…
When bluestocking Vivienne Loren becomes the governess for the wealthy Spencer family, she’s searching for clues about the murder of her brother, not a husband. But Vivienne didn’t count on James Spencer, the autocratic and infuriatingly handsome Duke of Abermont.
He needs a wife…
As head of Britain’s elite intelligence agency, James has no time to woo a wife. When he discovers Vivienne’s thirst for revenge has made her a pawn in the treacherous plot, James realizes they can help each other. She’ll become his duchess, and he’ll keep her safe from one of Napoleon’s deadliest spies.
What begins as a marriage of convenience quickly becomes anything but, as they find out love is the most dangerous mission of all. (Goodreads)
I Spy A Duke is the first book in Monroe’s Covert Heiress series. A series that revolves around a ducal family of spies whose goal is to defeat the agents loyal to Napoleon Bonaparte. Monroe creates an entertaining abet slightly dark world filled with spies, humor, wit, intrigue, suspense, and an emotionally rich romance. Though heavily character drive, Monroe does a wonderful job of balancing the dynamic characterization of her characters with a story rich in details and plotlines.
Vivienne Loren lost her home when her father passed away, then her brother when he was murdered. Unable to discover what happened to her brother, she is stunned when she receives a missive that tell her they will give her the truth about her brother’s death if she spies on the Duke of Abermont for them. Willing to do almost anything to discover the truth about her brother, she applies for as a governess to the Spencer family and soon begins to gather information for her anonymous benefactor. Her guilt over her deception is compounded when she discovers her benefactor is not whom she thought. Now she awaits her punishment after confessing all to the Duke.
“How quickly the tides of her life had changed. From viscount’s ward to a governess to a criminal in a few small jumps.”
James Spencer, the Duke of Abermont, knows grief intimately. His family has served the crown as spies for centuries. He and his sisters were all trained in the art of deception, weapons, and combat. When he loses his sister Louisa during a mission, James is unable to shake off his grief or guilt over her death. Now his other sister Eleanor is harassing him to marry now that his year of mourning has passed. But he has no interest in the prospects his sister has listed for him. When he learns of Vivienne’s deception and the reasons behind it, he sees a way for him to avenge his sister and save another woman from almost certain death. He will marry Vivienne and help her exact her revenge
“He had not saved Louisa, but by God, he would save Miss Loren.”
James and Vivienne are delightful characters whose chemistry is felt from the beginning. There is a communion between them-a meeting of souls. I was instantly rooting for them from their first scene together. Both are intelligent, responsible, witty, passionate, and in possession a strong sense of family loyalty. I loved the fact that while James is an alpha, he isn’t of the mindset that females are better left at home tending to the home fires. He knows how strong and dangerous they can be-his sisters are a prime example. While his protective instincts rage to the forefront with Vivienne, he doesn’t do anything to break her spirit or make her feel as if she is inferior to him in any way. As was done with his sisters and other female agents, James makes sure Vivienne learns everything she needs in order to survive what and who is coming for her.
Vivienne’s willfulness and strength in the face of adversity only served to make her character more likeable. A wonderful mixture of fragility and steel, her tenacity in trying to find justice for her brother makes her a worthy addition to the Spencer family. Her guilt over deceiving James and his family is well documented but her love for family outweighs all.
“Faced with the choice between revenge for her brother and guarding Abermont’s feelings, she’d choose Evan. Everytime.”
The growth of their relationship is slow and steady; each having to make compromises to the marriage. Their attraction to one another is a wonderful foil to the danger they are in, affording them respite. Not as sexually explicit as some of Monroe’s previous works,, the emotional aspects is what garners the most attention. Reverent touches, lush caresses, and steamy decadent thoughts only serves to heighten the passionate response between this couple. I enjoyed the fact that Vivienne doesn’t experience any shame in her thoughts or deeds with James. She is not a shy retiring miss. She stands equal with him whether in his office or in their bed.
An engaging cast of secondary characters decorate the story, giving us more insight into the protagonists and hints towards future installments.The mystery of the story blends well with the romance though I do wish we had seen more actual spy scenes from the agencies involved. The danger weans gradually as the character’s relationship over takes the storyline. Steady action speeds the story along at a respectable pace as the conflict weaves its way in and out of the story. Clear and concise writing leaves little confusion to the direction Monroe is leading readers. With each scene we watch James and Vivienne face their fears and overcome obstacles meant to defeat them. The ending comes quickly, confirming resolution of the conflict though leaving the arc open for more to come.