The Wicked Ways of a Duke
Laura Lee Guhrke is definitely onto something with her Girl Bachelor series. Still, even though I very much enjoyed The Wicked Ways of a Duke, it didn’t manage to reach the heights of And Then He Kissed Her, the first entry in the series.
So, just what took some of the edge off my fun? Rhys de Winter, Duke of St. Cyres, cynically and deliberately leads heroine Prudence Bosworth to believe he’s falling in love with her when, in fact, his goal is getting his hands on her very large fortune. Since Prudence buys his entire performance hook, line, and sinker, this is one of those books in which the big blow-up is inevitable hundreds of pages before it occurs – something that, quite honestly, isn’t my favorite plot device. Still, there is much to like here, chiefly the author’s likable and resourceful heroine.
Raised by her middle class and disapproving aunt and uncle following the death of her unwed mother, Prudence makes a modest living working as a seamstress in London while living in a boarding house with other late Victorian-era working women. Supplementing her income one evening by working at a ball mending the torn hems of the ladies in attendance, Prudence meets the Duke and immediately thinks he’s the most beautiful man she’s ever seen. The Duke – in a casual way – is also attracted to Prudence. When Prudence sees him rescuing a young woman from her attacker later that very same evening, our heroine comes to the erroneous conclusion that the Duke is a noble hero who selflessly assists damsels in distress with no thought of “payment”.
Soon after their first meeting, Prudence’s life undergoes a massive change when she learns she has inherited a large fortune from her father, a man she never knew. With her suddenly “loving” aunt and uncle pushing her along, Prudence begins to take part in the London social whirl as the season’s number one heiress. Of course, the richest heiress and a Duke in desperate need of one are bound to cross paths and, when they do, the Duke leads Prudence to believe he doesn’t know about her newly found fortune – a deception the reader knows will devastate Prudence when she discovers the truth.
Let me be clear about one thing: Rhys is cynical in his pursuit of Prudence and that doesn’t really change until late in the book, making our hero closer to an anti-hero for a good chunk of the story. Still, change he does and when he declares his love for Prudence, I believed him. Prudence, though, falls in love with all the gusto and naïvete of the young and innocent, making the inevitable fall-out something I dreaded even more than I might have otherwise. As I said, I’m not a big of fan of inescapable gloom and doom and that’s definitely a factor in play here.
But then again there is a real charm to the world that Ms. Guhrke has created and this book is far, far superior to what usually passes for historical romance these days. I trust that the author will be following other residents of the boarding house on Little Russell Street in future books and, unlike my reaction to so many interminable other series, I have to admit, this is one I’m really looking forward to following.