Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Way to a Duke's Heart: The Truth About the Duke (Truth About the Duke 3) by Caroline Linden

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Charles Cedric Spencer Fitzhenry de Lacey, Earl of Gersham, was born and bred to be the next Duke of Durham. He was groomed for the role from birth and did his best to make his father proud. No matter what he did, however, it never seemed to be good enough for his father. His father would boast about his younger sons, but Charles just never seemed to measure up to the Duke's high standards. But he didn't take it personally. He knew his position as heir was secure. Then one day he fell in love and brought his intended home to meet his father. Once again he was met with the Duke's disapproval. He forbid the marriage and promised to cut off all funds to his son if one was to take place. Quickly it became apparent that if there was no money the girl's family likewise wouldn't have him. His heart broken and his spirit dampened, he left home never to return. Since he couldn't measure up to his father's expectations, he decided he'd stop trying. He never forgave his father.

Years later, after learning of his father's demise, he found out he and his father weren't so different after all. The Duke apparently had kept a scandalous secret from his sons. He had married another woman, a commoner, prior to their mother and had never divorced her. If she was still alive when his parents married, then he and his brothers would lose all their claims to the Dukedom and be declared illegitimate. To make matters worse, the year before the Duke's death, someone had found out about the Duke's first marriage and had started blackmailing him.They could have perhaps kept the information from the ton had his brother not confessed all to his fiance who, in turn, revealed all to the world after breaking off their engagement. Now the only way to find out for certain if he truly is his father's rightful heir is to follow clues left by the blackmailer. For they could find no trace of the mysterious woman their father supposedly married. The clues led them to a place, Bath, which led them to a name, Hiram Scott, which led then to a connection--Tessa Neville. Whether or not the chit had anything to do with Scott's scandalous endeavors, Charles was determined to get to the bottom of it and, if necessary, use her to gain access to Scott.

When the two are actually introduced, Charles realizes she'll be a challenge to win over. Of course he never could resist a challenge, and the prospect of sticking close to Ms. Tessa Neville is far from a hardship.

This is the third book of The Truth About the Duke series. I didn't read the first two books, but I didn't feel lost. The previous two books dealt with Charles' younger brothers, Edward and Gerard, respectively. The whole series centers around three brother who suddenly discover their upstanding father had a skeleton in the closet that could take them from nobility to shunned illegitimate sons. Each has his own story, and in this book we finally find out the truth of it all.

Charles has the reputation of being a first class rake. When he left his father's house he threw himself heartily at every vice ever invented. Wine, woman, cards, you name it, and he was an active participant. He did it partly to hurt his father and partly to numb his own pain. Upon his father's death, he was forced to finally deal with things. His brothers had decidedly washed their hands of the quest to substantiate themselves as legitimate heirs, and that had finally forced Charles to take responsibility for his own future. That was perhaps the best thing that anyone could have done for him. I enjoyed seeing this self absorbed lost soul finally find himself and grow into the man he was born to be.

Tessa is a smart and independent woman. Being as smart as she is, has earned her a reputation of being odd, a trait not appreciated by most men. Her brother, however, uses her intelligence to his advantage, and she has come to Bath to meet with Hiram Scott about a business proposal. Her brother William, Viscount Marchmont, is thinking of investing in the Somerset Coal Canal. He's entrusted Tessa to evaluate whether the investment seems sound, as Tessa has a head for business, and he has a hard time making up his mind about such things.

When Lord Gersham takes an avid interest in Tessa and her cousin Eugene, Tessa can't help but be suspicious. He is a handsome man and Tessa learned long ago that handsome men aren't to be trusted. Combine that with the fact the man has a title and he's doubly untrustworthy in Tessa's eyes. While her first impression of Charles was probably correct, as the story progresses, we see a marked change in him and the two gain a mutual respect for one another as well as an ever increasing attraction.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. A nice blend of romance and mystery. I loved how Charles and Tessa gained each other's trust and opened up to one another. I liked how they ended up working together to piece together the details of what happened all those years ago and discovered whether or not Charles was the rightful heir to the dukedom. I enjoyed the twist at the end and learning Hiram Scott's role in the whole scheme. I'll definitely be reading more books by this author. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, his one gets a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

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