The Devil's Own Duke
The Devil’s Own Duke is the second book in Lenora Bell’s Wallflowers vs. Rogues series. It features Lady Henrietta Prince, a woman determined to save her family’s vineyards, and Ash Ellis, a man claiming to be next-in-line to her father’s title. When the two are forced to marry, a battle of wills begins. While this is an easy read and I truly loved the heroine, some very obvious contrivances and historical inaccuracies pulled this reader right out of the story.
Lady Henrietta is desperately trying to play matchmaker for her father as the heirs to his dukedom – her uncle and cousin – have suddenly passed away. Hetty’s father, a man fond of drink since her mother died, is not interested in remarrying to beget a new heir. When Ash interrupts the ball meant to find Hetty’s father a new wife – and is later caught kissing Hetty – he reveals he is the long-lost heir, something her father is thrilled about as it means he no longer needs to remarry. Ash explains that he is from a branch of the family that split off long ago and that he is the lost baby resulting from a secret marriage.
Ash is actually a gaming hell owner and he and his partner, Jax, have set out to claim a dukedom that doesn’t actually belong to him. Hetty arrives to bribe Ash to quietly go away, and he of course refuses. Not accepting defeat, Hetty sneaks into Ash’s home in an attempt to find proof he is lying. After she lets his cat out accidentally, she helps him find it before they have a heated encounter. Hetty discovers that Ash plans to destroy her beloved vineyard in order to begin breeding horses on the land. She is furious and vows to rid herself of him once and for all until he provides proof the dukedom should fall to him. It is then that her friends convince her that her best course of action will be to marry Ash – and she agrees.
Since Hetty and Ash share their first kiss before the twenty percent mark, I was really afraid this would turn out to be another romance where the hero and heroine are instantly attracted to each other and outside influences are the only thing keeping them apart. That isn’t the case, though. While they are definitely attracted to each other as soon as they meet, Hetty is a feisty heroine determined to ignore her attraction so that she can keep her vineyard. Ash is not as set on fighting his attraction to Hetty, but is determined to guard his heart against falling in love, thanks to his rough childhood.
I always enjoy a romance that features a wedding before the hero and heroine actually fall in love. The give and take between Hetty and Ash as they learn about each other and begin to compromise and accept each other’s needs and wants is great.
There’s a subplot about Coakley, the crime lord who basically raised Ash and Jax, which, while interesting, sometimes seems as though it’s been added just for the sake of giving Ash something to do (other than plotting against Hetty and lusting after her). But the element of danger it brings to the story also helps balance out the sweetness of Ash and Hetty’s love story.
This book might have received a higher grade if not for a few issues. Ash is another one of those ‘I can’t love because of my horrible childhood heroes, and the reveal regarding his past is just too convenient and coincidental to be anything less than cringeworthy. And then there’s the fact that titles don’t just pass to someone who conveniently appears to claim them; it would certainly have needed more proof than is given here in order to for Ash to be named the heir – plus it wouldn’t have been up to Hetty to verify or disprove his claims.
The Devil’s Own Duke is a nice, fun read with a slight element of danger to keep things interesting. The heroine is fabulous and the hero holds his own against her. But the issues I’ve mentioned, such as a ridiculous coincidence and equally ridiculous inheritance plotline, keep this from being a better read.