The Most Dangerous Duke in London- Madeline Hunter
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Rating (out of 5):
Warning: Potential Spoilers!
Synopsis: Clara may be the woman Adam wants, but there’s one problem: she’s far more interested in publishing her women’s journal than getting married—especially to a man said to be dead-set on vengeance. Though, with her nose for a story, Clara wonders if his desire for justice is sincere—along with his incredibly unnerving intention to be her husband. If her weak-kneed response to his kiss is any indication, falling for Adam clearly comes with a cost. But who knew courting danger could be such exhilarating fun?
Adam Penrose, the notorious Duke of Stratton, has returned to England after several years in France. Rumor has it he killed several men in duels and was obliged to leave Paris. Rumor also suggests that his real reason for returning to England is vengeance. His father killed himself surrounded by whispers of treason, but who started the rumors? And just what kind of revenge will Stratton take? Clara Cheswick is happy with her life as it is. She inherited land and a decent fortune from her father and isn't dependent on her younger brother. She and her friends are publishing a journal that has started to gain popularity. She has a purpose in life and is answerable to no man. Clara never met Adam before he left for France but their families were notoriously at odds, the feud going back so long that no one could remember what it was about. When Clara's grandmother and brother, Theo, want to marry Clara's younger sister to Stratton to ensure he never challenges Theo to a duel, Clara is both skeptical of their motives and outraged they would offer up Emilia like a sacrificial lamb. Fortunately for Emilia, Adam is interested only in Clara. But is he looking for a wife, a mistress, or some kind of revenge against Clara's family? Can Clara discover the truth behind Adam's motives before losing her heart to the man Society calls "the most dangerous duke in London"?
Book One of Madeline Hunter's new trilogy "The Decadent Dukes" introduces us to the dukes of Stratton, Brentworth, and Langford- a trio who learned in school that the only one who will treat a duke like a normal person is another duke. While all three enjoy the lives of rich and carefree bachelors, we never really see them treated differently from any other peer. We do see the power of rumor and the leading figures of the Ton, and this is a shadow that follows Stratton throughout the book. He makes use of his reputation as a dueler and a dangerous man to try and get what he wants. The problem is that Stratton very quickly gets torn on what it is he actually wants. He has no way of truly getting revenge against the man who he thinks wronged his father- the Earl of Marwood (Clara's father) is dead. The new Earl is too young to have had anything to do with the mysterious rumors and too weak to be keeping them going today. The Earl's grandmother may be a terrifying old lady who kept Adam's mother on the fringe of Society back in the day, but kept her power plays to the ballroom. Adam's friends and his mother tell him to leave the past in the past, but he feels a duty to discover the truth. Only the more he searches, the more conflicted he is on whether he really wants to know the truth.
While I had a hard time really getting into Adam, Clara was a delightful and strong heroine. She is confident in herself, her path, and her decisions, even when those decisions don't run exactly with what Society dictates she should want. Unwilling to be relegated to a lesser role at home and commanded by her grandmother, Clara chooses to set up her own home. She has a comfortable fortune and no need of a husband. She rejects Stratton's first idea of marriage because she sees no benefit for her in marrying a duke. Fortunately, Clara is not a woman so set in her ways that she isn't willing to consider changing her mind when she starts to fall for Stratton. But she also doesn't allow love to blind her to the fact that Stratton is hiding things from her. She knows he somehow blames her father for his father's death. The more she finds out about the whole mess, the less convinced she is that Stratton wants to marry her for reasons other than a twisted sort of revenge.
Stratton is not Hunter's strongest hero in my opinion. But I had trouble deciding if it was Stratton, or his quest for the truth and vengeance that was my problem with the often uneven pace to the book. Sometimes Stratton is a strong, dark, and charismatic man. Other times he seems almost aimless, torn between the past and the present with no idea how to resolve the two. Sometimes the mystery around the rumors of his father's possible treason seemed important enough that you wanted to encourage him to keep searching for the truth. Most of the time it was hard to believe that it mattered. People younger than Adam's father seemed to have no idea of what rumors might have been spread, but every man was worried Stratton would challenge him to a duel. Considering the duels in France were supposed to be tied to his family's honor, you would think that men would just not insult a duke- especially for something most of them didn't really know anything about. Fortunately, Clara helped to carry this story to the end and kept me interested enough to want to see how things would be resolved. While the mystery and plot were more uneven than a typical Madeline Hunter book, the ending had a wonderful surprise twist. Presumably we'll see Stratton and Clara drop in on his friends, the other Decadent Dukes, in their forthcoming books.
Not Hunter's best work, I wouldn't recommend a reader new to Madeline Hunter start with The Most Dangerous Duke in London. As a pretty devoted Hunter fan, I found this a bit of a disappointment, but definitely a good introduction to characters we should expect to see through the series. Clara is an excellent heroine and her terrifying, domineering grandmother breathes life into every page she's on.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.