Saturday, March 11, 2017

Last Night with the Duke

Last Night with the Duke: The Rakes of St. James by [Grey, Amelia]

Last Night with the Duke (Rakes of St. James #1)- Amelia Grey
St. Martin's Press
Release Date: March 7, 2017

Rating (out of 5):

Warning: Possible Spoilers

Synopsis: The Duke of Griffin has never lived down his reputation as one of the Rakes of St. James. Now rumors are swirling around London that his twin sisters may bear the brunt of his past follies. Hiring a competent chaperone is the only thing Griffin has on his mind--until he meets the lovely and intriguing Miss Esmeralda Swift. In ways he could never have expected, she arouses more than just his curiosity. 

Esmeralda Swift considered herself too sensible to ever fall for a scoundrel, but that was before she met the irresistibly seductive Duke of Griffin. His employment offer proves too tempting for her to resist. She can’t afford to be distracted by his devilish charms because the stakes are so high for his sisters’ debut Season. . .unless one of London’s most notorious rakes has had a change of heart and is ready to make Esmeralda his bride in Last Night with the Duke, the first novel in the brand-new Regency Rakes of St. James series by New York Times bestselling author Amelia Grey.


The Duke of Griffin and his friends, the notorious Rakes of St. James, enjoyed their youthful antics as much as any young blade of the Ton.  But now, years later, past scandal may be coming home to roost.  Griffin's twin sisters are making their Society debuts and rumors are swirling that someone (or someones) may pay Griffin back by ruining his sisters.  Griffin decides the best way to help his sisters is to hire a chaperone to keep an eye on them when he can't be there.  Almost by accident, he finds himself at Miss Mamie Fortescue's Employment Agency.  He's just in time to hear a young governess getting dressed down politely but firmly by the agency's head, Miss Esmeralda Swift.  As soon as he hears her, he knows she's the only one who has a chance of dealing with his sisters.  As soon as he sees her, Griffin knows he wants Esmeralda as more than just an employee.  She matches wits with him, keeps him guessing, and isn't (too) afraid to say "no"- not what he's used to from a woman!  Griffin knows he needs to focus on tracking down the rumors and can't seduce a woman who's technically staff, but isn't sure he can be the honorable gentleman that Society thinks he isn't!

Esmeralda is the niece of a viscount, but her mother was disowned after remarrying a poor Irish poet.  She has no fondness for the gentry after how her mother was treated.  Hired as a governess by Miss Fortescue, she now runs the agency and takes care of her half-sister Josephine.  The last thing she wants is to work for a duke who is so used to getting his way.  But Esmeralda is also a realist and the amount of money he's offering for the job can help her out of debt.  What could possibly go wrong?

Esmeralda is undoubtedly the star of Last Night with the Duke. She is a wonderfully written character who could be any woman, but happens to be the lucky one to catch a duke's eye.  All the choices she makes are with her younger sister's best interests in the front of her mind, but she isn't too proud to admit to herself that she's attracted to Griffin.  She's never had a Season of her own and you can often hear whispers of the young, romantic girl she used to be in her reactions to Griffin.  She is infatuated enough to cling to things he says that, taken in a different context, would be highly romantic instead of practical.  But at the same time, she's old enough and wise enough to keep her fantasies to herself and act professional around him.  That might work, except that Griffin isn't interested in keeping things purely professional.  Griffin isn't the rake he once was, or that Society sees him as, but he's still alluring, and possibly dangerous.  As we learn about the past scandal that's come back to haunt him it's much easier to see him as a slightly wild youth than a villain out to harm innocents.  Now that's he's grown he still may bend the rules when it suits him, but it always suits him to protect those under his care.  He follows his instincts and, while he has his moments of male stupidity, is still a great leading character.

A few of the possible side stories of Last Night didn't get as much play as I would have liked.  We keep hearing about the conflict between Esmeralda's mother and brother, and how Esmeralda won't go to the family for help because she expects to be treated the way they treated her mother.  But nothing ever follows through on that and it becomes just a bit of gossip instead of a resolved issue.  Whether the family chose to accept Esmeralda and Josephine or cut them the way Esmeralda imagines would have been interesting to resolve and added an additional layer of drama and conflict.  The rumors of ruining Griffin's sisters started out as the impetus for Griffin to hire Esmeralda, but then became more of an afterthought thrown in occasionally than a major problem.  By the end it's more of an anticlimactic issue than the relationship between Griffin and Esmeralda.  Which both worked (there's only so much that can fit well into one book) and didn't quite work (you keep waiting for something serious to come up with the sisters).  But there's enough chemistry and drama between Griffin and Esmeralda to keep everyone happy.  

A good start to a new series from the author of Mistletoe, Mischief, and the Marquis. Can't wait to delve deeper into the other Rakes of St. James! 

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

No comments:

Post a Comment