Favorite Quote: “This was the kiss she’d been waiting for forever. And she hadn’t even known till that moment.”
Reviewed by Tori
Alexander Savage, the Duke of Blackshire, is known throughout the ton for three things: the burn scars on his neck, his ornery disposition, and the trail of broken hearts behind him. None of which would concern Miss Elizabeth Lacey in the least—if she weren’t living under his roof. As his grandmother’s companion, Beth is all too concerned with the moody and compelling duke. Incensed by his plans to banish the sweet dowager duchess to the country, Beth refuses to do his bidding. If Alex wants her help, he’s going to have to take her dare…and grant her three wishes.
Alex adores his grandmother, which is precisely why she must leave. A string of unfortunate incidents has him worried for the safety of everyone around him—including the dowager’s loyal and lovely companion, Beth. But the notorious wallflower isn’t as meek as she appears, and as their battle of wills heats up, so does Alex’s desire. He’s dangerously close to falling in love with her…and revealing secrets he’d rather keep hidden. How can he convince her that his darkest days are behind him—and that, for the first time in forever, his heart is true? (Goodreads)
I Dared the Duke by Anne Bennett is the second story in her Wayward Wallflower series which is based on a trio of orphaned sisters. A classic romance with its faint Cinderella theme. A scandalous Duke falls for his grandmother’s beautiful companion and they live happily ever after. What makes this story interesting is the characters themselves. Our companion is a companion by choice, not because of economic or social factors. Our Duke is anything but scandalous.The many rumors that surround him are just that…rumors…From their first meeting, this affordable and personable couple amused me with their witty, energetic banter and simmering chemistry.
The story starts out on a bang with our hero and heroine sharpening their verbal swords on one another as the Duke, Alex, tries to fire the companion, Beth. Alex is determined to get his grandmother out of London and away from him due to the near fatal events that seem to befall him lately. Behaving in his usual overbearing snotty self, he attempts to browbeat Beth into quitting and finds himself quite intrigued when she turns the tables on him.
“Now then,” he drawled. “I believe Miss Lacey has something of import she wished to tell us.”
“Why no, your grace. I’ve nothing to share. Nothing at all.”
“Are you quite certain you have nothing to share?”
“I believe you had some news concerning your own situation.”
“Situation is such a vague word, is it not? It could refer to a number of topics. I’m afraid you will have to be more specific.”
Alex and Beth dance around one another and the topic at hand until Beth finally offers Alex a deal. If he grants his grandmother three wishes, she’ll help to convince her to leave. Beth just wants the Duke to spend some time with his grandmother. His grandmother adores him and to Beth family is everything.
Elizabeth (Beth) Lacey and her two sisters were orphaned and left penniless when their parents are killed in an accident. Only their uncle, Lord Wiltmore, is willing to take them in and his odd reputation doesn’t exactly ensure their welcome into society. Their uncle adores them and just wants them to be happy but Beth and her sisters are given an unfortunate nickname that follows them around the ballrooms for years; making them the recipient of snubs and jokes made at their expense. Though Beth is tired of being humiliated through no fault of her own, she accepts a position as the Dowager Duchess of Blackshire companion as a favor to her uncle knowing it will place her in society’s sights again. Beth loves to feel needed and while she the epitome of a well-bred lady, she is quite amusing with her dry wit, subtle set downs, and sheer stubbornness.
“Good evening, Miss Lacey.”
“You ability to make a simple greeting sound like an insult. Not everyone can manage it, you know.”
Alex, the Duke of Blackshire, is not quite the cold, detached jerk he presents himself to be at the beginning. Someone is trying to kill him and he fears for grandmother’s life. His grandmother is his heart. He lost both his parents in a fire at a young age. She not only raised him but nursed him back to health when he was injured in that fire. He is unable to comfortably investigate while worrying for her safety but refuses to tell anyone (beyond his best friend) what is going on. When he and Beth first meet, it is like mixing oil and water. They repel one another all while trying to co-exist in the same space.
“Aren’t you one of Lord Wiltmore’s ___?”
“Wallflowers?” she provided. “How kind of you mention it, “ she added dryly.
He raised a dark brow. “I was going to say nieces.”
She shrugged. “Perhaps. But you were thinking wallflowers.”
“I am fascinated by your uncanny ability to know what I am thinking. If you can predict what I’m going to say before I say it, this whole conversation is rather pointless.”
“I couldn’t agree more. Are we through?”
As they spend more time together, the attraction between them intensifies yet they both feel that nothing can come of it. Alex has secrets, one especially that revolves around Beth and her sisters. One that he is convinced will cause her to hate him. Beth is sure that Alex will grow bored and eventually leave her as everyone always does. Emotions run high and the sexual teasing and tension is quite delicious as Bennett slowly but steadily leads them towards their destiny. Nicely framed love scenes dot the landscape to invigorate the reader as this couple takes advantage of a few stolen moments.
It was a heady feeling, being in the arms of London’s most notorious lover. Before this kiss, she never understood why otherwise perfectly intelligent women would sully heir reputations for a night with him. But as he speared his fingers through her hair and trailed kisses down the side of her neck, she understood all too well.
A hint of mystery adds to the overall anticipation of the story though the two storylines don’t blend was well as I would hope. Bennett attempts to merge them in the end but it comes off a bit rushed and forced.
The secondary characters are an interesting and diverse group used to create depth and to help push the story along. Beth’s uncle and sisters are quite frank and affectionate. They rush en mass when Beth is in trouble and I enjoyed their interactions. Alex’s grandmother is a pip and her matchmaking attempts weren’t all that subtle. Alex’s best friend plays a strong role and I hope we see more of him in the future. I do wish that the story hadn’t stayed so insulated on this couple. I would have enjoyed seeing them interact together with the outside world more. To be honest, I don’t even know the dates/era of this world. Regency? Georgian? Victorian? That’s how focused Bennett is.
The mystery wraps up in a surprisingly dramatic fashion with the villain unmasked and dealt with by a shocking source while Alex lays his childhood guilt to rest with a heroic act. All in all a pleasantly lightweight and amusing historical romance that is sure to elicit a happy sigh from its readers. Though part of a series, each book can be read comfortably as a standalone. The next sister’s story will be told in The Rogue is Back in Town-set to release January 2018.