Suspected of his brother’s murder, Lancelot Hemingford, Duke of Aylesbury, was forced to give up his hell-raising habits in London for the anonymity of quiet country living. So, when an opportunity arises to clear his name in exchange for proposing to the niece of a neighbor, he sees no choice but to accept. Plus, seducing the reluctant maiden will be a most intriguing challenge…
As Marianne Radley is dependent on her uncle, she must accept the Duke’s marriage proposal at her family’s request, despite her belief he is irredeemably wicked. But along with marrying him, she intends to sniff out the duke’s unsavory secrets and expose them to the world: a plan that would be flawless were it not for one minor detail—even she, with all her determination, is not immune to the charms of a rakish duke…
Publisher and Release Date: Jove, June 2016
Time and Setting: England, 1811
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Wendy
The Wicked Duke completes Madeline Hunter’s Wicked trilogy neatly. Each book can be read as a stand-alone as the author has supplied enough background information in each one to enable the reader new to the series to be able to understand what is going on.
As this story begins, Lancelot Hemingford, Duke of Aylesbury is living under a cloud of doubt and suspicion following the sudden and unexplained death of his elder brother, Percy. His brothers, Gareth (His Wicked Reputation) and Ives (Tall, Dark and Wicked) have decided that it would be better if he keeps a low profile and lives an exemplary life in the depths of the country on his Gloucestershire estate whilst awaiting a verdict. The late Duke was a less than pleasant man, and is not missed by anyone much, especially not his brothers. Percy’s and Lance’s animosity towards one another was widely known, and this, together with the fact that Lance is known to have been in the house on the night his brother died has made him number one on the suspect list.
With no final decision having been made by the coroner regarding Percy’s death, Lance is fit to burst after nine months of inactivity and can’t resist flirting with any attractive female who happens along. Sir Horace Radley, a sycophantic, smarmy social climber, decides to use his dubious powers as the local magistrate to increase his consequence by ensnaring a duke into the family. He tells Lance he will instruct the coroner to give a verdict of death by natural causes if Lance is prepared to marry his niece, Marianne. Marianne has reasons to mistrust Lance but even so, is not immune to his considerable charm. Reluctantly, Lance proposes marriage and Marianne is pressured into accepting by both her uncle and her mother, although she is completely unaware that Lance has proposed under duress. Their marriage starts off reasonably well as they are at least physically attracted to each other and Lance uses his considerable skill and experience to initiate Marianne into the joys of the bedchamber. Meanwhile behind the scenes, the brothers are attempting to discover the truth behind Percy’s untimely death; and in the process discover facts about his past life that would certainly give more than one person a reason to have wished him dead.
I liked Lance’s, cocky, outrageous character and also Marianne’s cool, dignified persona. Certainly their lovemaking is steamy but I didn’t really feel any deep romantic attraction between them until well into the second half of the book. The relationship between the three brothers, however, comes across as close and loving; all for-one-and-one-for-all, if you like, and there is also a lot of witty, good natured banter between them which Ms. Hunter does well.
There is a slightly modern overall feel to the story with a few Americanisms slipping in and one huge faux pas which I sincerely hope is a typo and not inaccurate historical research – we only had one English King who lost his head and it was NOT Charles II. Nevertheless, The Wicked Duke is a well written, witty story with a plot twist which I did not guess. It’s a nice end to an enjoyable series.