Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Believe me when I say that I have desired you since that day you upbraided me as a trespasser. It is convenient that you desire me too.
Adam Penrose, Duke of Stratton, has arrived back in England on a mission. He is determined to discover the reasons behind his father’s suicide. With his two best friends, fellow members of the Society of Decadent Dukes, he begins to pick through the rumors and innuendos, putting together a story that smacks of betrayal, deception, and jealousy. He finds his plans derailed when his eye and heart is captured by a gorgeous woman…who just happens to be the daughter of the family he suspects helped to destroy his.
Lady Clara Cheswick is an independently wealthy daughter of an Earl. She has no need for marriage or the trappings that come with it, especially to a man who may be looking for vengeance against her family. Unsure of Adam’s true intentions, she wonders if his desire to marry her is due to his thirst for justice. Chloe decides to do a little investigating of her own soon discovers nothing beats the thrill of a mystery and being courted by the most dangerous man in London.
The Most Dangerous Duke in London is the first in a new trilogy by Madeline Hunter. Entitled the Decedent Dukes Society, Hunter follows three best friends as they maneuver their way through society and marriage-minded mamas in search of justice. Written in a traditional and appealing form, a spicy romance balances well with an intriguing mystery, encouraged by Hunter’s subtle humor and biting wit. A firm pacing, dynamic dialogue, and an informative yet unburdened setup place the reader gently into the know with no unnecessary filler.
Adam Penrose has returned to England after a lengthy stay in France with a deadly reputation and a need for revenge. He and his mother fled there after his father’s death to escape rumors of treason. Believing the rumors were started by the last Earl of Marwood, Adam is surprised when the Dowager Duchess of Marwood contacts him about a truce, proposing an alliance through marriage. Introduced to the youngest sister as this potencial mate, it’s an energetic meet cute with the older sister, Clara, that begins a humorous and mildly antagonist game of cat and mouse as our hero tries to discover the reason behind their family feuding and nurture the attraction between them.
“My sister is both lovely and bright. She would make a splendid duchess, of course, only not for you. I am relieved you lacked decisiveness.”
“Do not blame me for the delay in knowing my mind on the matter. There I was, making my decision about a lovely dove, when a black crow flew by and distracted me.”
Crow? Why, the—
“Then the crow flapped her wings in my face and turned her tail to fly away.” He walked over until he loomed above her. “I never stand down from a challenge, Lady Clara.”
Adam instigates himself into Clara’s life rather boldly, showing up unexpectedly with little gifts and pushing for dates. The easy and witty banter between them amuses to no end Clara finds herself attacked from all sides when her family keeps congratulating her on her brilliant catch and Adam informs her they are going to marry.
Her hackney coach waited behind the duke’s carriage.
He gazed hard at that hackney. “Why are you not using the family’s equipage?”
“I chose not to.” She descended the stone steps and aimed for her coach.
“You are going to a secret assignation, I assume. One that you prefer the family servants not know about. There is no other explanation for using a hackney instead of a family carriage.”
She truly wanted to hit him with her package for saying that within hearing of the footman waiting to hand her into the coach. She settled herself on the seat while the footman closed the door. The duke rested his forearm on the window’s edge and waited while the servant walked away.
“I will not demand an explanation now,” he said. “However, if you are going to meet a man, that liaison must end immediately, now that we are engaged.”
She stuck her face to the window. “We. Are. Not. Engaged.”
The chemistry that ignited at their first meeting only continues to gather fuel and burn brighter with each new interaction as Clara begins to fall for his charms. Though she clings firmly to her intentions of not marrying him. She has very good reasons for wanting to maintain her independence. She publishes a monthly news journal and desires to keep her inheritance in her hands. She also witnessed how her father treated her stepmother, showing her that marriage reduces women to nothing more than a child and servant in their own home.
I decided I would not live like that if I had the choice. And I did have the choice. Of all the privileges of my station, that has been the greatest one.
Adam and Clara were a delightful couple to engage with. Intelligent, witty, and formattable, both are of the same social standing so the normal conflicts we might see are here are nonexistent. No social or economic issues to resolve. No dark or sordid baggage to unpack. Humorous dialogue and ripe sexual tension keep the storyline and the romance flowing slowly forward. I liked the strength in Clara. While she abides by societies rules in public, she refuses to be bulldozed by anyone.
The romance is a slow burn regardless of the hero’s assumption of marriage. He encourages Clara’s sexual education, not in order to compromise or force her hand, but to show her all the delicious delights that can be found in the bedroom…and beyond.
“Do you want me to kiss you?” he asked.
“Of course not. You are the last man I want kissing me, I assure you.” She refused to look at him and continued trying to pull away.
“That is not true. Let us be honest with each other in this if nothing else.” His head dipped and his lips hovered over hers.
Her breath caught. Heavens, but he was beautiful. And exciting. Even that darkness seduced. Thrills kept spiraling through her, begging to have excuses to become something more powerful.
“Part of the fun is the anticipation,” he said quietly, imprisoning her with his gaze. “Although there is always the danger of it building to a fever.” His lips brushed hers, ever so faintly, but enough to create a starburst of sensation.
It was a terrible tease. A provocative promise.
He released her and stepped back. She stood there speechless, and utterly defeated, shocked at how he had used her own words against her to imply they shared some sympathy on sensual matters.
As their assignations heat up, so does the mystery surrounding Adam’s father’s death. With Clara’s help, the secrets that shroud the feud are lifted and reveal a sad and sordid tale. Clara knows Adam’s affections aren’t altogether altruistic. She knows he seeks revenge and he seeks it against her family. Hunter does an excellent job of allowing her and Adam to see beyond their own wants to what their actions may do to the other.
…thinking about Clara kept interfering with the righteous anger he had carried back from France. Her blind loyalty to her father, seen again just this afternoon, mattered now, even if it had not at first. When he first decided to pursue her, it had been an impulse born of lust and revenge, an oblique way to prod old enemies by taking possession of that family’s most privileged and prized daughter. Now he envisioned her hurt if he discovered things that impugned the late earl.
Layering the intrigue and suspense, Hunter gives voice to the various individuals involved and the reasons behind their actions. While I was able to figure out the who and what… the why came as a surprise.
There were two scenes that bothered me.
One was Adam coming into Clara’s bedroom without an invitation and staying even after he realized his mistake. The second was Clara’s grandmother implications that a woman’s desire smells like fish water. I have no idea why people say that. It’s gross and derogatory.