Desert Isle Keeper
Never Deceive a Duke
For those who think “meaty” and “historical romance” have become mutually exclusive, I offer up Never Deceive a Duke.
Liz Carlyle returns to form here in what to my mind is her best book in several years. The story is a simple one, but her characters are so very complex and multi-layered that I think her latest will satisfy even the most demanding readers. It’s been quite some time since an historical romance really grabbed me, but this one certainly did.
Hero Gareth Lloyd appeared initially in Never Lie to a Lady, the first in Carlyle’s new series (and, for the record, I didn’t find that book nearly as compelling as this one) as the partner and unsuccessful suitor of the first book’s heroine. As this second entry opens, Gareth finds himself in possession of a ducal title he doesn’t want following the death of an older cousin he had good reason to despise. Though he wants nothing to do with his title or the family, Gareth travels to the estate in question to deal with any immediate issues requiring his attention. His plan is to put matters in order, then to go back to the life he knows as a successful businessman.
Antonia, the widowed Duchess of Warnheman, puts an unexpected wrench in the works. Gareth is startled to discover upon his arrival that the beautiful young woman in residence isn’t the hated duchess he remembers, but is instead the late duke’s fourth wife. It seems the previous unlamented Warnheman never gave up on his intent to sire an heir – any heir – other than Gareth.
Gareth is almost immediately drawn to Antonia, and she to him. But both are wounded souls, and by that I mean really wounded and not in the my-mother-was-a-trollop-and-I-will-thus-treat-all-women-as-sluts kind of way. I truly do not want to give up here exactly why Gareth and Antonia are so damaged because it would definitely constitute spoiler territory, but both of them have rich and complicated histories that led them to be the people they are. And, dare I say it? Their histories are somewhat unique for conventional romance these days and that, in itself, is more than a little refreshing.
To make the book even more intriguing, the author peels away the layers of both characters so skillfully that the reader only fully knows and understands Gareth and Antonia toward the end of the book. I was so caught up in their passion – and the love scenes here are very powerful – that by the time I fully comprehended their pain, the HEA they find is all the more rewarding.
For Liz Carlyle fans, the book also features extensive appearances by George Kemble, the gay antiques dealer and perennial Carlyle character who clearly knows how to get a secret job done. He features in the suspense subplot in this book, that, to be honest, was only interesting for the chance it gave the author to give Mr. Kemble his well-deserved time in the spotlight.
As for quibbles, along with that less than compelling suspense subplot, it has to be said that the second half of the book doesn’t have quite the momentum of the first, mainly due, I think, to that suspense problem again. But, to be honest, the main attraction here is the relationship between Gareth and Antonia and that is more than reason enough to come to this party.
When Liz Carlyle is on her game, she is one of the top tier romance writers. And, rest assured, fellow historical romance readers, Never Deceive a Duke represents the author at her very, very best. If, like me, ennui best describes your feelings lately regarding European Historical Romances, I hope you’ll considering giving this one a try. It just might cleanse your palate. It certainly did mine.