Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Men. She’d be better off just making the fictional men in her life do what she wanted, since she thus far had little luck with the real ones.”
Lady Margaret Sawford has lived her life on her own terms since she refused to be forced into marriage by her parents and they disowned her. Using her skills at cards and writing serial romances, Margaret not only manages her own household but also helps those who are far less fortunate than her. When she meets a mysterious man wearing an eye patch, she expects an adventure only to discover a duke whose sedate nature screams for her to shake his foundations up.
The Duke of Lasham has spent his whole life doing the proper thing as befitting his station. Something that was drilled into him from the moment he was born. Awkward, uptight, and very unhappy, Latham has no idea who he is anymore. Meeting the beautiful and scandalous Lady Sawford tosses him into a sea of confusion and lust. Can he slip off his self-imposed leash long enough to experience the passion and temptation she offers? And if so, will he be able to rein it back in or will he choose to remain in her orbit as he plummets to the earth awash in scandal and disgrace?
Though this is the third book in Megan Frampton’s Dukes Behaving Badly series, each one is a perfectly designed standalone that doesn’t require you to read them in order. Slightly reminiscent of The Lady Risks All by Stephanie Laurens, Frampton creates a lighter more humorous journey with this couple. Repressed heroes and spirited heroines always make for a fun read and Frampton doesn’t disappoint in here. This lightweight heavily character driven romance focuses on the hero and heroine, using their respective situations, witty dialogue, and some manipulated situations to facilitate and deepen their attraction to one another. Friendship and trust are the base themes of this novel. A straightforward plotline and steady pacing introduces Margaret to Lasham and follows them as they build an unlikely friendship that develops into much more despite their opinion that nothing can ever come of it.
As I’m not a historian, I have no idea if a woman such as Margaret would be able to exist as she does on the fringes of society during this era; flitting in and out with such strong independence and disregard for the rules she was born into. There is a dichotomy here that switches from formal to casual in both dialogue and actions. Frampton manages to skirt this issue at times by maintaining her focus on the protagonists and conveniently brushing aside certain aspects that do cause some concern.
Regardless, Margaret’s characterization is an amusing concoction of wit, charm, and strength that encourages the reader to play along. Her laissez-faire attitude hides the pain and shame of her parent’s actions; their rejection of her firm proof that her only use to them was in making their social status higher. The fact that she has chosen to live her life as she chooses while trying to help other women gain a similar freedom goes far in explaining her mindset.
Lasham is the perfect foil for Margaret’s impulsiveness and cheery good nature. Knowing his own status forgives him almost any indiscretion, he has begun to feel confined in a trap of his own making. Unhappy and not sure why, he struggles between the enormous weight of his responsibilities and the yearning to be truly free of his obligations if only for a moment. Watching him slowly open up with Margaret is sweet and at times funny. She pushes him out of his comfort zone, showing him that even the smallest rebellion can be liberating. I liked that she takes his need for adventure seriously, never hinting that it is time wasting or silly. She has been where he is at and knows the strength it takes to buck against convention.
The romance develops slowly with a sweet cascade of emotional and sexual tension. The chemistry is strong and present from their first meeting but their friendship takes precedence over their libidos. Especially as it strengthens and Margaret begins to fear Latham’s association with her could bring disastrous results. Lasham’s gradual awakening refuses to allow her to distance herself from him and his status- both of which Margaret originally despaired over. Ironically it’s his status that gives them the freedom to explore their burgeoning passion away from prying eyes.
An engaging cast of secondary characters helps to round out the storyline; adding some necessary subplots in order to expand the roles of our protagonists. They flow in and out of their lives, offering advice and subtle pushes when needed. Frampton use of excerpts from Margaret’s own serial is rather cute and offers some foreshadowing towards the direction and intentions of the couple. I do wish more conflict had been introduced. The potential is there but not acted upon. Perhaps this is where reading the first two of the series is needed. I wanted more depth and action in Margaret’s backstory and those involved rather than hearing about it after the fact. I was also a little taken back that Lasham’s missing eye wasn’t utilized more with its rather big build-up in the title and blurb. Instead, it was just a part of his physical make up and treated as nothing more or less.
A fast ending leaves a clean slate for our couple and assures us that there are more adventures in their future. Fans of historical romances offering a lighter fare and a unique couple who choose to live life on their own terms are sure to enjoy Frampton’s latest regency romp.