One Night in London: The Truth about the Duke
Reading One Night in London was for me, rather like a date with a really great guy I just couldn’t muster up any enthusiasm for. There’s nothing wrong with the book. It just didn’t stir my reading passions.
In this serviceable Regency romance, the heroine Lady Francesca Gordon needs a good lawyer. She’s convinced her young orphaned niece, Georgina, is being held against the child’s will by her stepmother for financial gain. Francesca has been turned down by solicitor after solicitor — her case is iffy and she’s a woman — but she finally convinces the best lawyer in London, a Mr. Wittiers, to take her case. However, minutes after he agrees to help her, one of his flunkies tells her he’s changed his mind. Wittiers has been called to work on what might be “the case of the decade” for a titled client and her case no longer interests him.
The titled client is Edward de Lacey, the second son of the recently dead Duke of Durham. Edward has a big problem. Moments after his father passed away, the family solicitor informed Edward and his younger brother Gerard that they, and their dissolute elder brother Charlie, may all be illegitimate with no claim to their family’s wealth and property. The departed Duke married someone other than their mother in his youth, neglected to get divorced, and the fate of the first wife is unknown. If she was living when the Duke married their mother, the second marriage would be invalid and his three sons would be, legally, bastards.
Edward is his family’s rock, the son who manages both the Durham money and the Durham name. He’s a calm, smart, proper man who cherishes order. When he discovers his possible paucity of proper parentage, he’s flummoxed and fearful. After his family’s secret hits the nastiest of London’s tabloids, his fears are realized in the worst way: The woman he loves breaks off their engagement, his older brother sinks further into debauchery, and his younger brother, a military hero, begins muttering about murder. So when the tempestuous, flame-haired Francesca arrives at his house and upbraids him for stealing her counsel, he makes a pact with her. She’ll use her influence with the publisher of the news rag to have the story pulled and Edward will help her find a decent lawyer.
I’m not sure why this book left me so unmoved. Francesca is a flawed heroine, but in a good way. She has a wayward temper, iffy judgment, and uses her beauty to manipulate those around her. She’s a good foil for Edward who, out of the boudoir, is an uptight guy. The two have good chemistry together and, with the exception of a brief plot faux pas at the end of the novel, make a reasonable pair. Their feelings for each other are remarkably unrestrained by worries about class differences — a nice change from most Regency romances. The resolution of the fate of Georgina is pleasingly surprising and the character development of the secondary characters, particularly Edward’s brothers, is commendable.
Perhaps it’s just me. For starters, I am so tired of heroines with gorgeous red hair. Redheads make up about ten percent of Britain’s population and, presuming half of those are men, only five percent of British women have auburn locks. And yet, in romance novel realm, many a heroine is Titian-tressed. In One Night in London, Francesca, like so many other redheaded heroines, is fiery, buxom, and oozing pheromones. Additionally, I dislike series in which each book ends with a heavy handed cliff-hanger. I detest feeling manipulated; in this book, the ending screams “BUY THE NEXT BOOK AND FIND OUT WHAT THAT MYSTERIOUS LETTER SAID.” Lastly, I found the mystery undergirding the tale — what happened to the Duke’s first wife — to be uninteresting. It wouldn’t bother me a whit to never learn the truth about the Duke.
And yet, when I think about the novel, my criticisms seem small. Ms. Linden writes well and her book hasn’t any major flaws. It just didn’t work for me. So I return to my mythical date analogy. That great guy might not make my heart flutter but I’m sure there are women who would find him wildly attractive. So it is with One Night in London. It didn’t delight me, but I suspect others may find it a pleasurable read.