An Inconvenient Duke
A grieving soldier-turned-duke meets a lively crusader in this well-written novel by Anna Harrington. This was the first book of hers I’d read, but it turned out well enough to have me looking for more.
Marcus Braddock is not having an easy time as the newly anointed Duke of Hampton. The former general returned home from war to be granted a dukedom, but life has not been all peace and relaxation in retirement. Not only is Marcus still haunted by images of war, but he’s received a tip suggesting that his sister Elise, who passed away three years earlier while he was abroad, did not die in a simple riding accident. Determined to find answers, Marcus turns his focus to Danielle Williams, Elise’s closest friend, whom he suspects is keeping a secret.
Danielle is, indeed, hiding something from Marcus, but not because she was knowingly involved in Elise’s death. A few years ago, Danielle started the group Nightingale to rescue battered women from abusive homes. Due to their illegal nature, Danielle strives to keep the ‘vanishings’ and her role in them a secret. Elise was also involved with Nightingale shortly before her death, but Danielle never dreamed that the two things were connected… until Marcus suggests foul play.
While it takes them a little while to get their act together, what with Marcus being suspicious and Danielle acting secretive, the pair ultimately end up on the same page and in pursuit of Danielle’s killer together. The investigation has the obvious effect of bringing them closer, until they’re deeply emotionally involved, a sweet aspect to the love story that feels very natural, even as the circumstances force the romance to develop quickly. The fact that Marcus and Danielle have known each other for years definitely helps the romantic development, so that even moments when they jump into more serious conversations don’t feel rushed.
One of those serious conversations is about the future of Nightingale, and it was the main thing which held me back from giving this book a higher grade. As a former general who lost his sister to violent causes, Marcus is all about protecting Danielle, but she stubbornly resists his attempts to shield her from danger. It all comes to a head when he demands that she give up her work with Nightingale… and then abruptly and after a lot of agonizing on Danielle’s part, their standoff ends with her full capitulation.
I actually didn’t have a problem with Danielle’s ultimate decision to give up Nightingale. Having decided to marry Marcus, she’ll soon be raising a family and it wouldn’t make sense to be constantly in danger from criminals or the law. But her turnabout felt too fast somehow, as though it left some feelings unresolved. Maybe it’s just that I expected Marcus to give in and find a way to continue to support the organization, even as it went on without Danielle.
In spite of this minor dissatisfaction, I really did enjoy An Inconvenient Duke. Although it took me a little while to get into it, once I was invested in the characters, the pages flew by.