Friday, May 14, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: Undercover Duke by Sabrina Jeffries

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

I enjoyed book three in the Duke Dynasty series by Sabrina Jeffries, Who Wants to Marry a Duke, despite not having read the first two books. The series includes a murder mystery (at least three murders) that remained unsolved, but hinted at, at the end of book three. It left me intrigued enough to want to learn whodunnit.

Book Four, Undercover Duke, solves the mystery satisfactorily, but the romance fell flat.

The basis for the series is that Lydia Fletcher married three dukes in succession, all of whom died under mysterious circumstances. Her sons, by different fathers, have teamed up to solve the case. Previous novels have matched up two of the sons with feisty brides. The remaining son, Sheridan Wolfe, Duke of Armitage, has no wish to marry. When he was young, he had fallen in love with a woman who died of consumption before they could wed. He never wants to feel that pain again.

However, he is drawn to Vanessa Pryde, a distant cousin, who he first met about a year and a half earlier. She has an awful mother who is trying to marry her off. But Vanessa has carried a torch for Sheridan ever since they first met and is uninterested in anyone her mother pushes at her.

The hero and heroine refuse to admit that they are interested in one another. Vanessa pretends to be chasing after a playwright (who happens to be a close friend of her cousin, one of Sheridan’s step-brothers.) She is hoping to make Sheridan see that she is no longer a child and to make him jealous.

For his part, Sheridan is jealous. But he gets assigned the task of investigating Vanessa’s awful mother, who is one of the suspects in the murder investigation. So he pretends to court Vanessa to get close to her mother, while pretending to Vanessa that he is helping her make the playwright jealous. (This is NOT the most convoluted part of the plot; that would be the relationships between the brothers. I hadn’t found it hard to follow book three without having read the others, but this one suffers from the lack of detailed backstory. It would probably be best to read the whole series in order.)

Vanessa is a pleasant, intelligent heroine, who is far too forgiving of Sheridan’s lies and far too guilty about her own rather minor deception. Much of the book is overwrought worrying that could be readily dispelled by a simple conversation. Instead, she tries to win him over with sex.

Sheridan refuses to fall in love, but has no qualms about lusting after Vanessa. The novel relies too much on sex to drive the relationship and fill pages. His primary emotions seem to be jealousy and uncontrollable desire. He just isn’t likeable as a protagonist.

There is some entertaining banter, but also some clunky conversation. And the dialogues during sex were awkwardly corny/strained.

Overall, I think this book would have been more enjoyable had I been more invested in the series. I shouldn’t have started mid-series.

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