The handsome but incognito Richard Hawlester, Duke of Roderick, weary of toad-eating house guests, engages in a serious flirtation with young Elisabeth Barrows, who is primed for an exciting adventure. Mistaking the fat squire for the duke, she holds her secret relationship with a man known only as Richard, Nobel Rescuer, close to a tender heart while discovering love for the first time.
Elisabeth’s trust seems irrevocably lost when the duke’s actual identity is revealed. Realizing his mistake, Roderick begins an earnest, dangerous, and often hilarious campaign to convince her of his love. Elisabeth ponders whether true love can overcome the loss of trust between two people, even as danger presents in the guise of a vile, undesirable suitor, while a wicked assassin makes an attempt on the life of the duke. Trust broken can never be regained, or can it?
Publisher and Release Date: The Wild Rose Press, Inc. March, 2016)
Time and Setting: Regency London
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3 Stars
Review by Sara
Readers looking for a story full of charm along with a sweet May-December romance may enjoy Tutored by a Duke. What begins as a case of mistaken identity unfolds into a gentle love story of two people who need one another to find themselves.
Richard, the Duke of Roderick feels that the time has finally come to move onto the next stage of his life and marry to secure the family line. To do this end, Richard opens his house to several eligible young ladies and their mothers in the hopes of finding a suitable duchess. Keeping a low profile at his own house party, Richard accidentally overhears Elizabeth Barrows, the younger sister of one of his potential candidates, asking for a kiss from a family friend. Intrigued by the girl’s spirit Richard finds ways to meet up with Elizabeth, coming to her rescue a when her own enthusiasm gets her in trouble, and never revealing that he’s the duke everyone has come to meet.
Richard finds his emotions for Elizabeth are stronger than for any other woman he’s been introduced to; however their age difference is a concern to him. With Elizabeth only eighteen, Richard feels that his flirting and their passionate kisses might be nothing more to her than a diversion. He waivers over whether to tell her the truth or to allow their secret meetings to remain in the realm of fantasy for them both. The decision to pursue or not pursue Elizabeth is taken out of Richard’s hands when he is called back into service by the King and abruptly leaves the party, never telling her the truth about himself.
Two years pass and Elizabeth takes the lessons learned at the duke’s house-party to heart and transforms herself into a model young débutante. Having felt the first stirrings of love towards the man she knew simply as Richard, her Noble Rescuer, she was devastated to learn he was in truth His Grace of Roderick and had left her without even a good-bye. Committed to finding a husband completely different from the roguish duke, Elizabeth is shocked when her first love returns to town and seems intent on rekindling the relationship that started years ago. Unfortunately Elizabeth is not ready to trust Richard again and unknowingly encourages the suit of a gentleman whose intentions are far from honorable.
There is sweetness in the early courtship between Richard and Elizabeth. Being a gentleman in possibly his mid-to-late-thirties, Richard appreciates the liveliness that Elizabeth brings whenever they are together and it speaks to a long buried part of him. They are instantly smitten with one another and it’s cute to see how far he goes to encourage her romantic side and create perfect moments for them to be together. It is difficult to watch Elizabeth retreat into the mold of a simpering young maiden when she lost that innocence and wonder because of Richard’s betrayal. Her heart is so hardened against him that it takes her a long time to realize just how special their connection is.
I was happy that the road to reunion wasn’t easy for Richard and he had to understand first how much he had affected Elizabeth in her youth and the path he put her on. When they agree to a sham engagement to protect Elizabeth from her errant suitor, it allows Richard to show her how true his love and admiration is. He becomes her Noble Rescuer again but in a more mature way that allows Elizabeth to pull down the walls she had erected to protect herself. Her underlying spirit, her ability to love and trust unconditionally finds its way back so a real relationship without false pretenses can begin.
The pacing of Tutored by a Duke is perhaps its one flaw. The opening chapters of the story are quite engaging and drew me into Richard and Elizabeth’s thoughts and emotions quickly. Unfortunately when we jump forward and the plot focuses on the couple’s reunion and the dangers posed by Elizabeth’s suitor the pace slowed down to almost a crawl. Emotional breakthroughs for either character are long in coming, with many chapters simply recalling events of a previous one with little or no forward motion toward the climax of the story. Fortunately, I had enough good will saved from the earlier chapters to push me to finish the story and get satisfaction from the ending.