To the Duke, with Love by Amelia Grey
Series: The Rakes of St. James, #2
Released: December 5, 2017
St. Martin’s Press
Reviewed by Sheena
Favorite Quote: “I figure if a man can’t tie his own neckcloth and needs a valet to do it for him, he probably can’t stable his own horse.”
Sloane Knox, the Duke of Hawksthorn is in a bind. He is a renowned rake and ruiner of women. His reputation, well earned and cemented in an act of impropriety, a deed so dastardly that it nearly rendered twelve young ladies unfit for marriage and shelved, to forever be spinsters, their coming out seasons in tatters and ruination. Deep in his cups and joined by his fellow rake-buddies, Hawk’s actions earned a target on his back and the one to possibly pay the price for his tampering with the pristine reputations of the dozen ladies? None other than his spunky and sweet little sister, Adele, who is coming out herself for her season. Paranoid, and rightfully so, Hawk will stop at nothing to secure her an engagement before the season begins and any angry brothers, fathers or uncles can exact their revenge on Hawk by ruining his sister as he had so thoughtlessly embarrassed theirs. And he has just the right man in mind. A responsible, kind and mature young man who isn’t known to be too deep in his cups or careless at gambling halls. The only thing standing in his way is an overprotective, hawkish older sister who is lovely and charms him to fascination within the first minutes of their meeting.
Loretta Quick has no interest in seeing her younger brother, Paxon, married off in an arranged marriage to what she is convinced can only be an entitled and innately shallow woman.
“…Since you are pressing the issue, I will say what I was trying to avoid and spare you the truth.”
The muscles in Hawk’s shoulders and back tightened. “I need no sparing from anyone, Miss Quick,” he said through gritted teeth. “Especially from the truth.”
“Good. Though I’m not in Society now, I have been. And I have met the daughters and sisters of dukes. I found them to be demanding, selfish, and terribly overindulged. I expect Paxton will marry someone who is sweet, thoughtful of others, and more suitable to his happy, gentle disposition. Perhaps a vicar’s daughter.”
Hawk’s jaw hardened. Was she disparaging Adele? Now the bold miss had gone too far; for the first time, her tautly spoken words didn’t sit well with Hawk. “A vicar’s daughter?” He repeated the phrase as though it were a curse. He took another menacing step toward Miss Quick. “Are you suggesting my sister isn’t good enough for your brother?”
She stood her ground. “I’m not suggesting anything about your sister particularly, but overall about what I’ve heard, read, and observed the short time I was Society. And I only add the kind of lady I would like to see Paxton marry.
“…I’d say you’ve made your case very plainly.”
“Good,” she said, seeming to be pleased with herself. He gave her a knowing smile. “But you must know that, the more you tell me you don’t want this to happen between our families, the more I intend to see that it does.” She moistened her lips and seemed to think on his comment before saying, “Your idea is rubbish.
Hawk and Loretta swiftly fall for one another, insta love/lust was in full effect and full blown as of chapter two. I enjoyed their banter and looked forward to their game of love connection, each playing advocate for their beloved younger sibling. I was a little disappointed that there was less of that sort of action, more focus instead was given to Loretta’s resistance to Hawk’s advances. Nearly a victim of an arranged betrothal, years ago, Loretta averted her own marriage by standing up the groom and taking a vow to never marry. Her refusal to marry infuriated her uncle and benefactor who was so angry she thwarted his meddling that he punished her (and Paxton by proxy) banishing her to live lonely with only a few servants and her brother to keep her company, in one of his unkept manors and away from society.
The novel’s conflict had a duality that would have been interesting if it wasn’t so weak in nature. On one hand you had Loretta and Hawk. Hawk wanted her, she wanted him with only her vow to never marry between them.
That’s it. A vow that Hawk suggested she break when he proposed to her, the same vow that she considered recanting practically from the beginning. I really don’t like when character motivations are so weak that the most obvious way out of their predicaments is passed over for drawn out, ridiculous options- only to have the obvious solution crop up at 90% and ta-daa cue the trumpets for the HEA. This is exactly what happens with Hawk and Loretta. Her reasoning for maintaining her vow was preposterous and the weakness of it undermined every scene they had together as the novel wore on. Quickly, I became much more interested in Paxton and Adele and their positively cute budding relationship. I loved their similar quirky personalities and upbeat pleasing personas. Two people so alike were seldom crafted and I thought it a clever move that they didn’t have a smoldering insta attraction or revulsion. Instead they met, were of like minds and temperaments and went about their courtship in an amusing and matter of fact way that juxtaposed the burning and yearning going on between their siblings.
My favorite part of the novel was Paxton’s honest and realistic look at what he expected for his life. He spent much of the novel having others speak for him and it was nice to see what he had to say for himself. He and Adele were my favorites, primarily because they felt the most authentic.
There was a subplot that involved a street wise orphan that felt out of place, though it lent itself well to the epilogue (which was nice). The story felt a little crowded with the addition of the troublesome youth. His impact on the whole was negligible and more than once I was ready to figure out exactly how he would make his exit as he didn’t fit at all.
Regarding the crux of the story, I really didn’t like how the non-conflict conflict manifested and the plot was weakish. I rolled my eyes, released exasperated breaths and asked the universe, are you serious. Even so, there are some good moments and nice sensual tension that I’m sure can be appreciated. The other Rakes of St James make an appearance, but none really had a break out scene/dialogue to pique my interest much. Though To the Duke, With Love is book two of the series, it stands alone perfectly well, previous events and characters were blended into this second entry quite well. I specifically like how prior events were explained conversationally and filtered through the character’s perceptions and society gossip rags. Cute!
Overall, it was an okay read. I’m not really inclined to recommend it, but, I wouldn’t exactly warn anyone away from it either. Meh.