Reviewed by Mandi
He was the Duke of Montgomery. He’d successfully blackmailed the King. He was about to blackmail himself a wife. No one loved him.
And that was the way he liked it.
The hero in this book, Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery, is a villain. He blackmails everyone. (no, really). He murders people. He is cunning, arrogant, but he also has this child-like playfulness to him – I’m not talking giggles but more – his childhood was so messed up that he has this immature side. He wants to play, but doesn’t know how to play nice – and never mistake his playfulness for weakness.
The Duke of Montgomery was as deadly as a coiled adder discovered suddenly at one’s feet.
The only person that can wrangle him, is his housekeeper, Bridget Crumb.
Bridget loves her job – she runs Val’s house to perfection, keeping all the servants in line, no matter how poorly Val treats them or his eccentricities he puts on display. Bridget was born to an aristocratic woman, but her father was a footman. Her mother hid her pregnancy and then placed the baby with foster parents. Bridget knows who her mother is (readers of this series will too) and the only reason she took this housekeeper position is because Val is blackmailing her mother. Bridget’s goal is to find the letters Val is using to blackmail her mother, retrieve them and give her mother some peace. But Val is sly. Very, very sly and finding the letters proves to be quite difficult.
Val’s childhood was horrific. His father belonged to a secret society that had annual initiation rituals including kidnapping, rape and murder. Val was a witness to all of this, and an attempt to initiate him also occurred. His father would give Val kittens at a young age, and when Val grew to love them and care for them, his father would kill the kittens in front of him. Val was taught that everything he grew to love, would die a horrible death. His mother hated him too – so let’s just say, as an adult, Val isn’t 100% stable and his idea of loving someone isn’t healthy.
Bridget is definitely wary of Val and his moods, but she is also intrigued by him, and downright attracted to him. Val walks around in the nude around her, as he pretty much has zero shame. Val is very sensuous in this book, but he is such a different type of hero. He isn’t growly or big or grumpy. He isn’t serious and arrogant (well, he is arrogant) and broody. He is flamboyant. He wears pink and bright blue, and walks around in a dragon robe. His hair is long and wild. He is more on the shorter, slender side. Did I mention he has a full nude portrait of himself in his bedroom?
“You really are the vainest man in the world,” she said wonderingly.
He stopped chewing. “This is the first you’ve noticed?”
He looooooves to shock people. He loves attention and games. When he kidnaps someone in this book, it’s so thrilling for him. He has grown into an adult and missed the conscious and ethics line that adults shouldn’t cross. For him, power is everything. Absolute. So, anything to gain that power over someone – be it blackmail or kidnapping, is something Val yearns for.
Bridget recognizes this to some degree. She is very smart and mature, and is able to look past Val’s theatrics and understand what his main goals are. She is very practical and I adored her (he calls her Seraphine because she refuses to tell him what her first name is):
“Oh, Seraphine,” he rasped. “Are you making advances?”
“I’m wiping vomit and sweat from your body,” she said with rather too much tartness. “Nothing more.”
“Are you…sure?” And she thought she saw his lips twitch as if they tried for his usual smile.
She blinked hard. “Yes. This isn’t a moment for flirtation, Your Grace.”
“…always a moment for flirtation,” he whispered, the beginning of his sentence to low to understand. “Especially…when you’re handling my cock.”
“Pity. Though he has very soft hands.”
Bridget and Val start this unlikely friendship. He loves having her around. She stimulates him with conversation and can keep up with his chaotic lifestyle. She also challenges him:
He leaned over it, reaching for the headboard, and opened the concealed compartment.
He felt the grin spread over his face, felt his cock throb and stiffen. Suddenly the day was bright, singing with vibrant colors and stratagems.
She’d outmaneuvered him.
And that? That hadn’t happened in a very, very long time.
She isn’t afraid to tell him when he is being crazy and then she starts to fall in love with him. I loved it. She isn’t a virgin, which shocks him. She has raven black hair with a white stripe in the middle and this drives Val crazy with lust.
This book is sexy, with such a unique hero and a heroine I totally fell in love with. Plus there were so many scenes that made me laugh.
You don’t need to read the previous book to enjoy this one.
The publisher also provided an excerpt:
“I was told you had need of me, Your Grace,” she reminded him, folding her hands at her waist to hide the trembling that had begun again. She’d been in demand before this position. Duchesses and lionesses of society had wanted her.
“So practical,” he mused, tilting his golden head back to gaze, presumably, at the gaudy sky-blue velvet canopy of his bed. She’d always thought it rather vulgar, actually. “I suppose that would be considered a good thing in a housekeeper.”
“It’s generally considered so, Your Grace.”
“And yet, I find it somewhat…”—he raised his naked arm straight up above his head and twirled his hand as he thought—“irksome.”
“I am sorry, Your Grace,” Bridget said as pleasantly as she could, which, sadly, was not very.
“Oh, don’t be,” the duke murmured silkily. “One can’t help one’s nature, no matter how irritating it is to others.”
His azure eyes suddenly dropped to pin her, hard and merciless, and she lost her breath as she fell into his predator’s stare. It was like looking into the eyes of something inhuman, almost otherworldly. Her chest ached as she stared at him, the air still locked within her, but at the same time the place between her legs ached as well.
Then she inhaled, filling her lungs with sweet air, as he watched her still, his eyes half-lidded, and she felt an odd exhilaration, as if a gauntlet had been thrown down. As if they were adversaries, equal on the field.
Which was completely ridiculous.
Possibly she shouldn’t have indulged in that third cup of tea this morning.
“I wonder whom you work for, Mrs. Crumb?” he whispered.
“Why, for you, Your Grace,” she replied, holding his gaze.
She felt a bead of perspiration trail down her spine.
He strode, nude, to his desk, and, bending over it, afforded her a quite scandalous view of his muscular bottom. He seemed to have a dark mark of some kind on the left cheek. Good God, it looked like a tattoo. What—? “Why, Mrs. Crumb,” he drawled, and she snapped her gaze belatedly up to find that he’d turned back to her—damn it! “Were you ogling my arse?”
She opened her mouth and then wasn’t sure, exactly, what to say. Was he about to dismiss her or not? “I…I—”
“Ye-es?” He took one long stride toward her.
She was suddenly, overwhelmingly aware of what she’d until now successfully ignored: He. Was. Nude.
His shoulders were wide, his chest highlighted by pale-pink nipples drawn tight, with but a few curling golden hairs between. His torso narrowed in a perfect V to a slim waist and a shallow belly button. A thin line of slightly darker hair led to his genitals.
During his supposed absence Bridget had had plenty of time to study the life-size nude portrait of the duke hanging next to his bed. She’d long thought the dimensions of his manhood exaggerated.
They were not.
She hastily glanced up to find him standing far too close to her, a wicked smile playing about his mouth.
“Oh, Mrs. Crumb, such a look,” he murmured, his voice a deep purr, his bare chest brushing against her snowy white apron. “Why, I don’t know whether to guard my bollocks…”—his gaze dropped to her mouth—“or to kiss you.”