Desert Isle Keeper
My Once and Future Duke
So many people whose reading tastes closely align with my own have had stellar things to say about the work of Caroline Linden, so I was very pleased to get a review copy of My Once and Future Duke, the first book in her Wagers of Sin series. It’s the story of a woman hovering on the very edge of respectability and the handsome duke who offers her a deal she simply cannot refuse. It’s a book I absolutely could not put down, and I can’t wait for others to read it and love it as much as I did.
Twenty-four-year-old Sophie Graham wants nothing more than to be financially independent, an almost impossible dream for a young lady of questionable social standing. Sure, she’s the granddaughter of a viscount, but Sophie’s grandfather has had literally nothing to do with her since the day long ago when he dropped her off at an academy for young ladies just four months after her parents died in a tragic accident. From then on, Sophie counts on no one but herself, and she’s finally devised a plan that just might give her the financial security she longs for. It’s a risky plan, one that will very possibly ruin what’s left of her reputation, but Sophie is desperate enough to chance it.
Jack Lindeville, Duke of Ware, is fed up with rescuing his hapless younger brother from scrape after scrape. So, when he learns that Phillip has lost a rather large sum of money at the Vega club, a gambling establishment with stringent rules for membership, he heads over there to put a stop to his brother’s recklessness. As soon Jack he enters the club, his eye is caught by a lovely young lady dressed in crimson who just happens to be in the midst of a game with Phillip. Determined to keep Phillip from losing more money, Jack interrupts the game and proposes a scandalous wager. If he wins the game, Sophie will spend an entire week alone in his company, but if she wins, he’ll give her five thousand pounds.
Every ounce of Sophie’s good sense urges her to turn down the Duke’s wager, and yet, she’s unable to do so. Over the past several months, she has slowly and painstakingly used her great talent for card playing to build herself a small nest egg, and the lure of five thousand pounds is something she simply cannot resist. She consoles herself with the belief that the Duke can’t possibly win, so no harm will really be done, but of course, things don’t turn out as Sophie hopes they will.
What follows is a truly delightful story about two people from vastly different backgrounds who want the one thing they seemingly cannot have. Sophie knows the affair she and Jack embark upon can’t last, but she’s powerless against his charm and good looks. For his part, Jack loves every stolen moment he shares with Sophie, but he’s had it drummed into him from a very early age that duty to his title comes first, and that he must make a suitable match and produce an heir sooner rather than later. He longs to keep Sophie in his life, but how can he go against the rules of society to do so?
Jack and Sophie are wonderful, both together and separately. Jack initially struck me as overly stodgy and arrogant, but, once he and Sophie begin spending time together, I was able to see him as the warm-hearted, loving man he really is. Sophie’s sharp wit and independent nature make her more than a match for Jack, and, once she overcomes her initial mistrust of his motives, their relationship, both in and out of the bedroom, really sparkles.
I was a little troubled by the misunderstanding Ms. Linden throws in near the end of the book, which serves no purpose other than to add some extra angst to the story. Plus, I hate when characters fly off the handle without first talking to one another, and I especially hated to see Sophie behaving this way toward Jack. Fortunately, things are resolved relatively quickly, so this is only a minor quibble.
My Once and Future Duke was my first foray into Caroline Linden’s writing, but I can assure you it won’t be my last. I’ve already purchased several titles from her back list, and I’ll definitely be keeping an out for the next book in this series, which features Eliza, a close childhood friend of Sophie’s.