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Love takes the stage . . .
Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.
Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He’s managed to avoid any complications or entanglements-that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there’s more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity-and her true feelings for him-the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.
“You’re not going to die on me, are you?” The voice came from lower, almost directly in front of her this time, and Elise opened her eyes, staring up at a collection of clouds scudding across the blue sky.
“Not yet, I think.” She struggled to sit, her tired muscles still refusing to obey.
A warm hand caught hers and pulled her forward, and Elise was suddenly presented with the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen.
They were smoky green, the color of pine wreathed in mist, the color of still waters that hid great depths. They were ringed with blond lashes, set in a strong, rugged face that spoke of hours spent outdoors. Pale blond hair fell around his ears in careless waves, the ends damp where they brushed his bare shoulders. Incredible shoulders, wide and powerful, droplets of water sliding over the ridges of muscle to disappear down the front of his chest.
Her mouth went dry, and whatever breath she thought she had caught deserted her once again.
He was crouched before her, a look of concern tempered with a half-smile stamped across his striking features.
“Hmmm. Well, if you die, can I have your horse?” he asked. “As fine an animal as I’ve seen in a long time.”
“My horse?” she repeated. Good Lord. Her wits had completely scattered under that smoky gaze.
He glanced over her head up in the direction of the road. “One of the boys brought it off the bridge for you.”
Elise struggled to draw a normal breath and formulate a thought. The man was trying to put her at ease. It wasn’t his fault that he looked as he did. It wasn’t his fault her body was threatening to make an utter fool of her because of it.
But clearly, it had been too long since she had invited a man to share her bed because she was shamelessly staring at the way his body moved as he shifted. Subtle shadows carved their way across his torso, created by lean muscle rippling under golden skin. A scattering of dark blond hair covered his chest and trailed down past his navel. Her eyes dropped further south, and she let her gaze wander over the sharp ridges of muscle that formed a V over his hips before disappearing into the front of his breeches. His free hand rested on a powerful thigh, long, capable-looking fingers spread out over the top of his knee. She imagined what those fingers would feel like against her bare skin. Because she already knew what his arms had felt like beneath her, the hard strength of his body against hers.
When he was pulling you from the water like a drowned river rat, you fool, not drawing you into a lover’s embrace.
A terrible realization struck her with the completion of that thought. Without needing to check, she knew her cap was gone. Her braid had come unpinned, and she could feel the heavy weight of her sodden hair on her back. A glance at her water-logged clothes plastered to her body confirmed her worst suspicions. When she’d bound her breasts tightly beneath her loose, baggy shirt, they were unnoticeable, but there was nothing unnoticeable about them now. The bindings had come loose and slid down to bunch at her waist. Worse, the threadbare fabric of her worn shirt was almost transparent, and stuck to her skin as it was, she may as well have been wearing nothing. The curves of her breasts were clearly visible, as were the dark areolas of her peaked nipples.
The man’s eyes were still on her face and not on her chest, which Elise was choosing to interpret as a testament to his chivalry, but no one in their right mind would mistake her for anything other than what she truly was. A woman dressed as a boy.
“No, you can’t have my horse,” she muttered, attempting to peel her shirt away from her breasts with her free hand.
“I need it to flee a lot of awkward questions.”
The man was watching her again. “They are going to want to know who you are,” he said quietly, jerking his chin in the direction of the voices beyond them. The understanding she saw in those incredible eyes made her blink.
She managed a weak smile. “Do you suppose anyone will notice if I just swim back to where I came from?” She was trying to make her mind work, but like her muscles, it seemed lethargic, her usual ingenuity depleted. “You can tell them that I was a mermaid.”
Publisher and Release Date: Forever (July 26, 2016)
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 4 stars
Review by Sara
A Duke to Remember is the second book of Kelly Bowen’s Season for Scandal series which follows the exploits of the employees of Chegarre & Associates. To say that the women and men of this firm have a unique set of skills would be an understatement. Readers briefly met Elise deVries in the previous book Duke of My Heart as a celebrated actress and chameleon who could impersonate anyone. When she is contracted to find the missing Duke of Ashland, Elise has to slip into the role she is possibly most uncomfortable with; being herself.
Most of London society believes that Noah Ellery, heir to the Ashland dukedom, has been dead for fifteen years and his parents have never denied the rumors. When the old duke dies, his nephew Francis is ready to take on the title and all the wealth that comes with it, but the duke’s daughter Lady Abigail insists that her brother is alive. Desperate to protect the title from her cousin and save her mother – who has been committed to Bedlam against her will – Lady Abigail hires Chegarre & Associates to find her lost brother and return him to London before the House of Lords can decide who will become the next Duke of Ashland.
Elise has only a general idea of where to start her search for the missing heir and even less of a plan on how to convince him to return with her. The only lead she has puts her on the road to Nottingham in search of a blacksmith who may have met Noah Ellery sometime in the past. Elise has no time for distractions as Francis has hired men to track down and kill his cousin, but her trip is interrupted when she witnesses a small boy fall off a bridge into a fast moving river and she is the only one around to save him. Jumping in and grabbing the boy, Elise is then pulled out of the water herself by a strong pair of arms attached to one of the most handsome men she’s ever encountered. Her noble savior seems kind and chivalrous, unlike many of the men she’s known before, and it isn’t long before she finds herself agreeing to his offer of a warm place to dry off and stay for the night.
As they travel together Elise begins to notice small things about her knight errant that seem too similar to what she knows of the lost heir. The man who introduced himself as Noah Lawson has physical features that match the boy who “died” years ago and his manner of speaking reveals a careful consideration of his words. When he mentions that he had a sister named Abby, Elise puts the whole thing together and is shocked that she has accidentally stumbled upon her quarry. Unfortunately once Elise explains to him her reason for seeking him out Noah is adamant that he will never return to London or take his place as the Duke of Ashland. With very little time left to save the Duchess and prevent Francis from taking the title Elise must convince a reluctant lord that the tragedies of his past cannot affect the possibilities of his future.
A Duke to Remember folds a lot of emotion into a lighthearted historical romance. Noah’s backstory is heartbreaking and it impacts every scene he’s in. The abuse he suffered at the hands of his father or the struggles he’s had to survive on his own made him stronger; however being sheltered and never revealing himself kept him from knowing that power was inside. I love how confident Noah is about his growing affection for Elise and how he could separate the woman he cared for from the job she was sent to do. He and Elise are perfect companions for each other in that they always try to be clear about what is on their minds or how they are feeling. Their conversations can be flirty, serious or even angry but they always have an understanding of what the other person is really saying in that moment.
There are just as many fun and funny moments in the story to offset the heavier character driven scenes. Noah and Elise are not dreary people for all the pain in their pasts but are in fact rather amusing with their shared dry wit and the small ways they compete with each other. The time spent together in Nottingham is all the more important when everything shifts to London and Noah and Elise find themselves having to play new roles in order to restore his name around town. Their romance, while perhaps a bit too insta-love to warrant a 5-star rating, grows through their talks or by the little gestures they make to show just how much they care.
Kelly Bowen is an auto-buy author for me and has a knack for creating very strong and capable heroines who challenge convention in amazing ways. A Duke to Remember is another winner from this great storyteller and I’m eager to see the next case for Chegarre & Associates.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
But it was Kelly’s infatuation with history and a weakness for a good love story that led her down the path of historical romance. When she is not writing, she seizes every opportunity to explore ruins and battlefields.
Currently, Kelly lives in Winnipeg with her husband and two boys, all of whom are wonderfully patient with the writing process. Except, that is, when they need a goalie for street hockey.