Six years ago, when Lady Amarantha Vale was an innocent in a foreign land and Gabriel Hume was a young naval officer, they met . . . and played with fire.
Now Gabriel is the dark lord known to society as the Devil’s Duke, a notorious recluse hidden away in a castle in the Highlands. Only Amarantha knows the truth about him, and she won’t be intimidated. He is the one man who can give her the answers she needs.
But Gabriel cannot let her learn his darkest secret. So begins a game of wit and desire that proves seduction is more satisfying—and much more wicked—the second time around…
Time and Setting: Jamaica and Scotland, 1817/1823
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Em
If you follow my reviews you already know I’m a big fan of Katharine Ashe. The Falcon Club series is one of my favorites, and I’ve enjoyed each of the books in her spin-off Devil’s Duke series. The Duke is yet another great addition to her catalog and I enjoyed most of it. Unfortunately, Ms. Ashe tries to do a bit too much within the framework of her story – touching on abuse and slavery before the novel concludes – and seems to lose sight of the central plot, a second chance love affair between her very compelling principals. But I liked it anyway! The principal characters have great chemistry, their love affair spans years and oceans, and it’s another memorable addition to this marvelous series.
Lady Amarantha Vale grew up knowing exactly what kind of man she would one day fall in love with. As a young girl, discussing love and marriage with her sister Emily, she didn’t worry about her father’s plans for her future; Amarantha was certain she would eventually meet and marry her true love. At seventeen, she thought she’d found him – the Reverend Paul Garland, a young missionary bound for Jamaica. Unfortunately for Amarantha, shortly after traveling across the ocean to marry Paul and begin their life together, she meets the true love of her life – naval officer Gabriel Hume, after she’s forced to shelter with him during a horrific hurricane.
When Lt. Gabriel Hume disembarked in Jamaica, he never expected to find himself alone in a cellar with a beautiful, unmarried woman. Handsome and charming, Gabriel is immediately attracted to Amarantha, but recognizing how frightened she is, sets out to calm her. The pair end up passing a companionable evening getting to know each other and keeping their fear at bay. By the time the night ends, Gabriel knows he’s fallen in love with the lovely – engaged – Amarantha, and decides to do whatever he can to win her.
Emerging from the cellar, Gabriel and Amarantha discover an island ravaged by the effects of the hurricane. Gabriel returns to his ship and Amarantha to Paul – only to discover him busy with plans to repair his damaged church. She finds work volunteering at a hospital for the island’s poor, and it’s there that Gabriel locates her. He sets out to woo her away from her fiancé – visiting her every day, lending her a hand whenever he can, and slowly but surely charming the lovely Aramantha.
It’s clear from the moment they meet that these two are destined for each other, but it takes time and patience for Gabriel to convince her to leave her fiancé. She’s finally decided to break off the engagement when Gabriel receives orders to depart Jamaica. Amarantha promises to wait for him, but shortly after he sets sail, she learns he’s lost at sea. Devastated, Amarantha privately mourns Gabriel… until his cousin informs her that he’s alive and living with another woman. Furious, heartbroken and alone, she marries Paul and vows to forget Gabriel.
This first (and best) part of The Duke is fabulous. From the first moments in the cellar to their last moments together – when they can barely keep their hands to themselves and Amarantha promises to wait for Gabriel, I smiled and sighed and swooned as these two fell in love. Gabriel is naughty, patient, kind and sweet, and he works hard to charm Amarantha and win her affections. Amarantha knows she’s fallen for the handsome captain, but fights her feelings – she’s betrothed to Paul and plans to honor her commitment to him regardless of the love she feels for Gabriel. When she finally decides to break her engagement and Gabriel begs her to wait for him… Oh reader! It’s been such a delicious tease hoping for these two to get together… until Ms. Ashe dashes our hopes with the disappointing news that Gabriel has taken up with another woman. Along with Aramantha, I WAS DEVASTATED.
Five years later, the widowed Amarantha is determined to find her friend Penny, who departed Jamaica for Scotland and hasn’t been heard from since. She follows Penny’s trail to Leith, where she finds her friend and learns of the Devil’s Duke, a man rumored to kidnap vulnerable women and hold them captive in his remote castle. Suspicious, Amarantha sets out to discover the truth about the Devil’s Duke and discovers… Well, reader, you know who it is, don’t you? It’s Gabriel – the man she loved so long ago – but he’s not the man she once knew.
I’m not going to tell you what happens once Amarantha discovers that Gabriel is the Devil’s Duke – or even why and how he’s earned the nickname, because from the moment she discovers why Penny sought out Gabriel, Ms. Ashe’s story goes a bit sideways. It’s convoluted and messy and difficult to explain without spoiling the plot. Suffice it to say that while I do think the author makes it work, if the relationship between Gabriel and Amarantha weren’t so delicious, my feelings about this novel might be decidedly different.
But Gabriel and Amarantha are a dynamic and fiery pair. She thinks he abandoned her; he thinks she gave up on him. But shh…THEY STILL LOVE EACH OTHER ANYWAY! From the very beginning, Amarantha demonstrated a willingness to follow her heart – even when it led her to mad, impetuous decisions. She’s frustrating and difficult to like – because even though she’s loving and loyal to her friends (and her former husband), she’s blind to the hurt she caused Gabriel, and unwilling to accept the blame for their long separation. She steadfastly followed Paul to Jamaica, only to realize she loved another man. But then she gave up on Gabriel – with so little evidence of his guilt, and married Paul anyway… Yowsers. I sympathized – she was young, alone and it looked like Gabriel had played her false, but she gave up so easily! And Gabriel… when he courts Amarantha in Jamaica and then just patiently lets her burn out all that stubborn anger in Scotland. Sigh. I loved him. I never felt like her let her get away with her selfish shenanigans – reader, he knew she was trying to fight through her feelings for him. He did! He took it and took it and then set her straight. And once he sensed she was relenting, he didn’t let up. Though I didn’t personally love Amarantha, Gabriel did – and through his eyes, I liked her anyway. I loved this pair and their sexy love/hate relationship.
Once Amarantha arrives in Scotland and we begin to discover the secrets the Devil’s Duke is keeping, Ms. Ashe moves the plot forward at a furious pace. It’s compelling reading, and though Ms. Ashe masterfully incorporates elements of slavery and domestic abuse into the narrative, the novel length prohibits her from fully exploring some of the more tantalizing storylines introduced via her secondary characters. It’s a missed opportunity.
The Duke is sweeping, romantic… and sets the stage for the next book (and couple) to come. It’s not my favorite in the series, but it’s a worthy addition, and as per usual with Ms. Ashe, I can’t wait to see what’s next.