Redemption of the Duke
Having thoroughly enjoyed the previous two books in this trilogy (Return of the Viscount and Surrender to the Earl), I was very much looking to reading this, the final of Ms Callen’s stories about three soldiers who return from army service in India determined to help the relatives of men in their regiment who were killed in a tragedy for which the three feel they are responsible.
Unfortunately, Redemption of the Duke turned out to be rather a disappointment and I’m not sure completely why. The writing was good, the chemistry between the leads was strong and Adam has all the requisite qualities listed in “Romance Heroes 101”. He is stunningly handsome, rich and titled, had a crappy childhood and is still coming to terms with a trauma for which he blames himself. Yet all those pieces of the puzzle fail to add up as they should, because the main thing I remember about him is the way he manipulates the heroine at every turn “for her own good.”
Adam returns to England having unexpectedly become the Duke of Rothford upon the death of his father and two half-brothers. As the third son, Adam had absolutely no expectations that he would ever inherit, and given his brothers’ intense dislike and threats to cut him off without a penny as soon as their father died, Adam determined to make his own way in the world and joined the army.
His youth had been rather a wild one, mostly because his brothers had so poisoned their father’s mind against him that notoriety was the only way in which he could count on receiving the late duke’s attention. But he has changed and is now a much more sober and mature man, intent on fulfilling his responsibilities to the dukedom and his family. The problem is that all his estates are managed so well by his staff that he finds himself at rather a loose end; and this leaves him time to concentrate instead on his mission to find and offer his aid to the sister of one of the men whose death weighs on his conscience.
Faith Cooper is working as a lady’s companion and drudge to a young woman who is making her entrée into society. After her brother was killed in India, she and her mother managed to support themselves by selling off their belongings, but that money lasted only a few months and Faith had to turn to other means to make ends meet.
Adam accosts her in the park one day, completely out of the blue, and informs her of his intention to help her in some way. Realising immediately that he is merely trying to assuage his own sense of guilt, she dismisses him angrily and hopes that is the last she will see of him.
But she has reckoned without Adam’s persistence. In spite of her admonishments about the damage being seen with him could do to her reputation, and in spite of her refusal of his offer of assistance, he won’t take no for an answer, and eventually enlists some outside help in the form of his aunt, Lady Duncan. She and Faith hit it off straight away, and it’s a matter of hours before Faith is being taken to her new place of work…only to be dismayed upon being taken to Rothford House.
By this time, Adam is well aware that he is more than a little infatuated with Miss Cooper and his interest in her does not go unnoticed; something he realises when he begins to receive anonymous notes which hint at the fact that she has some sort of murky secret in her past.
Knowing Faith well enough by this point to know that, should she get wind of the fact that the family is being threatened with scandal on her account, she would insist on leaving, he chooses not to tell her anything. He continues blithely to do what he thinks is best without reference to anyone else, and eventually forces Faith into an difficult situation which leaves her only one recourse.
It’s easy to understand Adam’s motives. He wants to do the right thing, but the trouble is that he goes about it in completely the wrong way. He believes that his unconsidered actions in India led to the death of Faith’s brother thus depriving her and her mother of their only means of support. Even though he offers to help Faith partly to salve his own conscience, he genuinely wants to make her life easier; he wants to keep her safe and he wants to keep her with him, and he truly believes his actions are for the best, but in doing the things he does, he makes one huge mistake: He takes away Faith’s right to choose for herself.
That’s not to say that the hero’s actions are solely responsible for the problems I experienced reading the book. Faith, too, is rather a difficult character to warm to. She rebuffs Adam quite cruelly to start with and refuses to admit that perhaps she does need help.
On the positive side, there was a good deal of chemistry between the principals, and I liked the way Ms Callen brought them to the realisation that despite everything, despite the potential scandal and their mistakes, they were two people who really needed each other. And Adam does finally come to see the error of his ways and make more of an effort to include others in his decision-making, although I can’t help wondering how long that will last.
Yet neither Faith nor Adam really came to life for me. The pacing was fairly slow throughout, and the mystery as to who is sending the anonymous notes wasn’t especially suspenseful or tense. There are some interesting secondary characters – principally Adam’s unconventional aunt – and it was nice to see Blackthorne and Knightsbridge and their wives, but overall Redemption of the Duke was a let-down, and rather a weak ending to what had been a very enjoyable series.