Her Night with the Duke
Her Night with the Duke is book one in Diana Quincy’s new Clandestine Affairs series of historical romances, in which a young widow and a handsome duke share a night of incredible passion only to discover that their lives are about to become entangled in a way neither of them had expected. It’s an engaging read featuring a clever, spirited Anglo-Arabian heroine, although her much vaunted cleverness is inconsistent, and my disappointment in the characterisation of the hero ultimately kept it from a higher rating.
Lady Delilah Chambers, a young widow, is stranded at an inn after two years of traveling abroad, visiting family, and researching for the travel books she writes. At the same inn is Elliot Townsend, Duke of Huntington, who saves Leela from molestation by a group of drunken men. Afterwards, the two of them give in to their mutual attraction and spend the night together. After going their separate ways the next morning, they are both stunned to find they’re guests at the house-party being thrown by Leela’s stepson Edgar, and even more stunned to discover that Elliot is the prospective suitor of Lady Victoria, Leela’s beloved stepdaughter. Edgar, who is only two years older than Leela, has never approved of her, mostly because of his hidden desire to sleep with her. Due to this tension and the fact she is finding it hard to be near Hunt, Leela moves out of the main house and into a house on the estate. It is right after this that she finds out Edgar has been keeping her inheritance from her; the very house she has moved into.
In the meantime, she encourages Victoria, who is slightly terrified of Hunt and continually stutters around him, to get to know him better to see if they can make a match of it. Hunt and Victoria slowly start to become friends while Leela jealously looks on; Hunt tries to tell Leela multiple times that he is not really interested in Victoria and wants her instead, but she only tells him he should be with Victoria. After Edgar lets news of the impending engagement between Hunt and Victoria ‘slip’ at dinner, Hunt feels trapped. His main goal in life is to avoid being a scapegrace like his late brother, and he certainly doesn’t wish to ruin a young woman’s life by publicly denying the existence of a betrothal between them. Together, Leela and Hunt must decide if their one night of passion is worth upsetting both their lives for.
There’s one great thing in this story: Leela is a unique heroine who isn’t content to merely sit at home and live quietly as a dowager, instead forging ahead and living life as she sees fit. Being mixed-race also makes her unusual in mainstream historical romance; her father was proclaimed to be mad for marrying her mother because she was Arabian. At the beginning of the book, Leela has just returned from visiting her mother’s family. The author’s descriptions of her family and culture were fascinating and I loved that Leela was an author in a time when such an occupation for a woman was frowned upon. There’s a scene where she visits her publisher and reveals she’s a woman, and I loved it because it showcased what a tough, smart individual she is. The only thing that drove me crazy about her was her stubborn refusal to listen to Hunt about their relationship. He kept telling her he wanted to make a go of it with her and she kept shoving him at Tori. It seemed more like a way to fill pages rather than what a real person might do.
I really wanted to like Hunt, too, but it was so hard to because we’re given so little information about him. The main thing that came through was his determination to stick to the straight and narrow because every other generation of his family caused scandal upon scandal. So the idea of his being a straitlaced guy falling in love with an unconventional woman like Leela was interesting, even if I did not like the way it was executed. I wanted more from him; more personality coming out as the romance moved along.
I was kept from loving this book by a couple of other things as well. One is that Hunt and Leela’s romance was so underdeveloped; because they had already slept together at the beginning of the book, there was zero building of that attraction into a genuine emotional connection. Another – there is a scene where Leela literally humps a pillow until she orgasms, and I laughed the entire time I was reading it.
Diana Quincy is a talented writer, and perhaps if the romance had been between Victoria and Hunt after he had slept with Leela, I might have found Her Night With the Duke more to my liking – mostly because Leela is a wonderful heroine and she deserved a better hero than the one she ends up stuck with. Regardless, the book is well-written and I look forward to Ms. Quincy’s next release.