Loving the Lost Duke
Loving the Lost Duke is a charming historical romance that is interesting but a little bland, so it didn’t truly capture my attention or draw me into its story. This is the first book in Louise Allen’s new series Dangerous Deceptions and my first time reading any of her novels. While Loving the Lost Duke did not resonate with me, I enjoyed Ms. Allen’s writing and will definitely be picking up the next book in this series and seeking out more of her work.
Gareth Thorne, the Duke of Calderbrook – known as Cal – abruptly left England without explanation seven years ago in order to travel the world alone. The mystery surrounding his departure and his unknown whereabouts prompted society to dub him the “Lost Duke.” Now twenty-eight, he’s returned from his adventures a widower and with a five-year daughter, and he is ready to reclaim the life he has ignored for years – and to find a suitable wife.
No one knows Cal left because he suspected his uncle and his cousin had been trying to murder him throughout his childhood in order to inherit the dukedom. Cal was orphaned when he was seven, and his uncle assumed guardianship of him while also becoming the next in line to the title. After he moved in with his uncle, Cal began to experience frequent and mysterious illnesses. He was very sickly and no one could explain why; and he began to wonder if his family was slowly trying to kill him. He fled to the safety of parts unknown as soon as he achieved his majority, and his health returned when he left which all but confirmed his suspicions might be valid. Although he might still face danger from his uncle and cousin upon returning to England, he is now a strong and healthy man seeking answers and intends to secure his future by marrying and producing an heir.
Cal meets Miss Sophie Wilmott during a chance encounter at a ball upon his return to society, and he instantly likes the charming, personable and friendly young woman. She’s refreshingly honest and funny, and he wants to get to know her. Sophie is also intrigued by the Lost Duke, and their friendship develops rapidly. They are attracted to each other, but their connection is founded on a strong mutual respect and they genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
Cal and Sophie soon begin to see each other as more than just friends and to consider the other a suitable spouse. Although Cal worries any animosity directed towards him might also be directed towards his wife, he offers Sophie marriage, and vows to protect her. Sophie can’t imagine a better husband than Cal and would like to accept his proposal, but she is hesitant to do so, believing she is no longer a candidate for any kind of prestigious marriage due to an event that took place some years earlier in her début season. While what happened is not common knowledge, she has nonetheless resigned herself to making a marriage based only on practical considerations; but the friendship that has grown between herself and Cal gives her the strength to be forthcoming with him and communicate her reservations. Cal lovingly accepts Sophie and admires her honesty – and he still feels she will make a perfect duchess.
Unfortunately, Sophie’s past comes back to haunt her and threatens any chance she might have thought possible with Cal. She must solve the problem by herself, which is quite a task for a twenty-four year old single woman, but she is determined and hopeful for a future with Cal. Both she and Cal are dealing with very serious problems and neither share their concerns and burdens with the other. It would have been nice to see them work together to resolve their difficulties, although they both have valid reasons for keeping their secrets.
Loving the Lost Duke is well-written and has a strong sense of period, but there is simply a lack of compelling emotion throughout making it difficult to engage with the characters and story. Cal and Sophie are very even-keeled and practical while they deal with very serious and stressful issues that threaten their future lives – literally, in Cal’s case. The chemistry between them is lackluster, making their evolution from friends to lovers feel uneventful. Loving the Lost Duke is a pleasant and an entertaining book, but might be forgotten soon after reading it.