Constance Danbury is desperate to escape an arranged marriage to a man nearly twice her age. Her only hope is to board a merchantman bound for Spain to enlist her aunt’s help. Her plans go awry when she’s captured by pirates. Even more alarming, her traitorous body longs for the man who’s returning her to England! Pushed into a marriage of convenience, she’s caught between two men—one owns her heart, the other is bent on stealing it.
Percival Avery is a member of Nelson’s Tea, an elite group assigned to protect England’s shores at any cost. On a mission to avenge his sister’s death, Percy infiltrates the gang of cutthroats responsible. When his vessel attacks a merchantman, Percy must choose between vengeance and saving the life of his commander’s niece. His only choice is to mutiny, but mutiny obliterates his well-laid plans. Forced on a new course that leads straight back to Constance Danbury, Percy has to make a decision—chase revenge or allow himself to love again.
Publisher and Release Date: esKape Press, March 2014
Time and Setting: London, 1804
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
This is an impressively written début, chock full of adventure and intrigue, lust, wit, and deception, the first in the Nelson Tea Trilogy by Katherine Bone. The series features the stories of brave men, all first sons of the peerage, who work undercover with Admiral Horatio Nelson to thwart and defeat Napoleon’s advances.
Percival (Percy) Avery is a duke’s son, in disguise as Thomas Sexton, a pirate. He works with an elite espionage group, known as Nelson’s Tea, as he also seeks vengeance for the ruthless violation and ruin of his beloved sister, Celeste, when Lady Constance Danbury gets in his way. She’s en route to Spain (on a ship he helps capture) to plead for help from her estranged aunt to save her family’s fortunes so that she won’t be forced to marry the brutal and truly terrifying Baron Burton. This story’s drama and characters teeter on caricature at times, but the writing is so strong, I could suspend my occasional disbelief. It has shades of Ann Radcliff’s The Mysteries of Udolfo, with its victimized heroine and cruel oppressor; Constance is willful, strong, and a survivor, determined to do anything to save her family.
Percy is an ambivalent hero, yet he’s also a smooth-talking dandy, the son of the Duke of Blendingham — an odd name; I kept thinking of blenders – whose over-the-top manners and dress create some wonderfully comical moments, especially in the ballroom scene where he first presents himself to Constance in his aristocratic guise. The dialogue between hero and heroine in this scene is very witty, sexy, and well-paced, rivaling that of Darcy and Elizabeth from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
On board ship, Percy (as Thomas Sexton) struggles valiantly to be a gentleman as he protects Constance, the niece of his commander, her Uncle Simon, but then he seduces her — multiple times — whenever she gives him the slightest encouragement. Upon their return to London, he abandons her to her father and, thus, her fate to marry the Baron. He is torn between protecting her and continuing his work to avenge his sister’s murder. For her part, Constance never tells Percy why she was on a ship bound for Spain in the first place; if she had, he might have helped her. As it turns out, his reluctant honor demands he help and protect her eventually.
Constance fears Percy when she first meets him at the same time she is attracted to him. This facet of the story feels a little rushed and unbelievable to me. One moment she is afraid of him, then he pulls her into his arms and she’s lost. Granted, he doesn’t rape her; she gives her consent. It just would have been nicer for them to get to know each other better, especially since she was already running from a man who had manhandled her. Once again, however, the writing is very strong and I found myself turning the pages to find out what would happen next. I was pleasantly surprised at every turn.
Because it sometimes borders on the farcical, there is also a lot of humor, especially in the flirting banter between Constance and Percy, and melodrama, too. I love Percy’s dandy imitation with his favorite expression, “Odd’s fish!” and his quizzing glass, humorously reminiscent of Mary Balogh’s Tresham in More Than a Mistress.
There is a nice sense of time and place in history here, with vivid descriptions of the sea, a pirate attack, and the seafaring life, mention of exclusive French chocolatier Debauve and Gallais, the provocative language of a fan, and Boccherini being played at a ball.
The secondary characters in the story are strong and well characterised. Constance’s beloved Uncle Simon and her father treat her in a way characteristic of the men of the time – as their property, fit to be maneuvered, used as collateral, bargained off, and traded to the highest bidder; the villain, Captain Frink, is a ruthless man from the darkest side of British Naval history; Morty, Constance’s devoted maid, is like a mother to her; and Lieutenant Guffald, a kind man in love with Constance who will be the hero in the second book in the series.
Duke by Day, Rogue by Night is an entertaining and exciting début. Fans of Shana Galen’s historical adventures will find much to enjoy here. I look forward to reading more from this author.