Thursday, July 16, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Who Wants to Marry a Duke by Sabrina Jeffries

I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review. 

Who Wants to Marry a Duke by Sabrina Jeffries is the third book in the Duke Dynasty series. I haven’t read the first two, which is not my usual practice, but it’s easy to jump into this series in the middle. These Regency Romances are based on the adult children of the thrice-married Lydia Fletcher, a duchess. It seems she married three dukes in succession, all of whom died under mysterious circumstances. Her sons have decided to investigate. The murder mystery is an interesting subplot and, unusual for Romance/Mysteries, the case is not solved over the course of the book. This provides quite a hook for subsequent books in the series.

In book 3, Marlow Drake, the Duke of Thornstock, known as “Thorn” (because all Regency Romance heroes have names like this) has been reared mainly in Berlin, but returns to take up his responsibilities after the death of his father. At a ball, part of the marriage mart, he meets a strange young woman, Miss Olivia Norley, under “cute” circumstances. They crash into one another and he spills his drink on himself. She offers to help clean it with sodium bicarbonate, which she happens to have in her reticule, and champagne. They retire to a private room, he takes off his jacket and vest, and she gets out the spot. Olivia is an aspiring chemist. She’s also young, beautiful, and naive. So he attempts to take advantage of her. She is innocent enough to go along with it, apparently not realizing that young gentlewomen don’t make out with strange half-dressed dukes at balls. Her stepmother catches them at it and demands that Thorn appear in the morning with an offer of marriage. He is furious, believing it a trap, and blames Olivia.

Nevertheless, he appears in the morning and makes the offer. She realizes that he doesn’t actually want to marry her, so she says no, angering her stepmother and infuriating Thorn even more.

So, the setup didn’t leave me very favorably impressed with the hero.

The story picks up eight years later. Thorn, having been pegged by the step-mother to be a rakehell, decides to live down to the reputation. He’s a duke. He can get away with it. Olivia, meanwhile, has gone on to pursue her interest in chemistry. (Her uncle is a chemist.) And she’s pretty content. But their paths cross again when Thorn’s stepbrother hires Olivia to test his father’s remains for arsenic poisoning.

Although Thorn still holds a grudge and mistrusts Olivia, she is excited by the chance to prove her skills as a chemist. She doesn’t understand why Thorn is so mean to her. She’s still attracted to him and confused by his behavior, which includes continuing to try to seduce her. She’s pretty much game for it, as long as it doesn’t interfere with her investigations. She understands the principles of chemical behavior better than people.

Olivia is a wonderful person, open and honest since she doesn’t really know how to be otherwise. Thorn eventually comes around to seeing it. There is also danger and mystery to move the story along, because whoever murdered the dukes is not going to hesitate to murder the woman who can prove the crime.

My description of the plot and characters doesn’t quite do the story justice. It is an entertaining read and the developing romance is fun to follow. Thorn’s internal monologue explains his behavior. He’s not a particularly admirable Romance hero, but he’s not awful.

I am drawn in by the unsolved murders and will likely look for the next book in the series to see how the case unfolds.