Genevieve Eversea, of Pennyroyal Green, has been in love with Lord Harry Osborne for three years. Harry is all that Genevieve wants in a man — he’s funny, handsome, shares her knowledge and love of Italian art, and makes her smile every time she sees him. She is certain they make the perfect couple and that he’s just waiting for the right moment to ask her to be his bride. So it comes as a horrible, heartbreaking shock when he tells her he intends to propose to her best friend Millicent at an upcoming Everseas’ house party.
Alexander Moncrieffe, the sixth Duke of Falconbridge, is, at forty, a chilly, ruthless, formidable man. He’s rumored to have poisoned his first wife and is known for never ever losing. Alex is a man most fear and avoid, although his title and wealth allow him to go wherever he chooses. He has chosen to come to the aforementioned house party where he intends to debauch Genevieve whom he’s never met. Earlier in the month, he caught her scapegrace brother Ian naked in bed with Alex’s now ex-fiancée. Alex has never let anyone cheat or wrong him without exacting revenge and, to him, the seduction of Ian’s innocent sister is fair retribution for Ian’s transgression.
Neither Genevieve nor Alex is what they first seem. The ton believes Genevieve is a shy, quiet girl who is fond of art and calmer than her wild siblings – her suitors (and Harry) always present her with bouquets of pale and delicate flowers. In truth, Genevieve is complicated, passionate and extraordinarily clever. She chafes at the perception society — and her family — have of her. Her control over herself is thoughtful rather than guarded. She’s very witty and her insights into others — especially Alex — are dead on. She’s the sort of heroine one longs to actually know. Alex is a cold and often cruel man —it’s clear he deserves his terrifying reputation. He is also fiercely intelligent and very lonely. Even as he works to “compromise, ruin and abandon” Genevieve, he begins to care for her. His callous demeanor softens and, surprising even himself, he comes to value Genevieve’s wellbeing more than his own. Together they are lovely — full of intelligence, passion, and humor.
Ms. Long is a first-rate writer and her use of language is superb. Her descriptive powers are formidable; she has a knack for imagery and dialogue. She’s also very funny. I loved this scene where Alex and Genevieve first chat on a walk to see the Eversea folly:
“What are your pleasures and pursuits, Lord Moncrieffe?” Miss Eversea asked too brightly, when the silence had gone on for more than was strictly comfortable or polite…. “Well, I’m partial to whores….” “Whor… whores…?”
She choked out the word as if she’d just inhaled it like bad cigar smoke. He widened his own eyes with alarm, recoiling slightly. “I…I beg your pardon — Horses. Honestly, Miss Eversea,” he stammered. “I do wonder what you think of me if that’s what you heard.” He shook his head ruefully. “Horses. Those hooved beasts a man can race, wager upon, plow a field with, harness to a phaeton and drive at deliciously reckless speeds.”
She stared at him now as he walked…. “And one cannot do any of that with whores?” she asked softly….
His heart picked up a beat or two. “It’s a frustrating truism,” he allowed resignedly, “but it’s a rare whore who’ll consent to be harnessed to a plow.”
As Alex and Genevieve move from witty wordplay to passionate foreplay, the relationship between them shifts and what began as a story about a young maiden and an older rake becomes something much more nuanced. At the end of the novel, when Alex takes a risk that would have been unthinkable for him prior to falling in love with Genevieve, her reaction and the story’s denouement are beautifully and satisfyingly done.
I’ve enjoyed all the Pennyroyal Green books, and What I Did for a Duke is my favorite thus far. Ms. Long’s novel, the fifth in the series, deftly continues the tale of two captivating families – the Everseas and the Redmonds -and intriguingly deepens the mysteries wending through the books. Now, I am really wondering what happened between Lyon Redmond and Olivia Eversea and why the relationship between the Eversea parents — Jacob and Isolde — is so strained. I want to know what the slave trade means to the finances of both families and who Colin Eversea’s father actually is. This book provides clues to these (and other) questions and gives just enough information to make one long for the next book.
I can’t wait to read next Pennyroyal Green book — and I really hope it is Olivia’s and Lyon’s tale!
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