Review – Blame It On the Duke by Lenora Bell

 Have you heard?
The future Duke of Barrington has just been gambled away by his father. To an heiress!
The delicious details thus far…

Nicolas, Lord Hatherly, never intended to marry—nor add to the “mad” Hatherly line—but now he must honor his father’s debt to a social-climbing merchant or lose the family estate.

A notoriously wild marquess, won by her father at a game of cards, is the very last thing Miss Alice Tombs wants. She’s spent the last three seasons repelling suitors in spectacular fashion so she’d be at liberty to explore the world. She’ll just have to drive this one away as well.

Until Nick proposes an utterly tempting arrangement: one summer together to prove the legitimacy of their union, then Alice is free to travel while Nick revels in the time he has left before the Hatherly Madness takes hold.

It will be easy to walk away after a few months of make-believe wedded bliss—won’t it? Alice and Nick are about to find out…one sultry night at a time.

This ought to be fun . . .

 Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:
Blame It on the Duke: The Disgraceful Dukes

 My Review:

I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review.

Heiress Alice Tombs has perfected the art of getting rid of unwanted suitors and fortune hunters.  Her dreams for the future don’t include marriage, but rather traveling to India with her brother and returning an historic manuscript which she has translated.  (Interestingly enough, this manuscript is part of the Kama Sutra, which has led to some hot imaginings on Alice’s part.)  Alice has just dispatched another unwanted earl, when she is summoned by her father and is advised that she is to marry a future duke, and that her brother will not be traveling back to India, thus putting an end to her lifelong dream.

Nicolas Hatherly comes from a family with a long history of madness.  His father, the duke of Barrington has succumbed, and Nick knows it’s now only a matter of time before the insanity takes him.  He has decided never to marry, and takes great care never to father a child.  He wants to live his life to the fullest, and let the tainted bloodline end with him.  His extravagances and his debauchery are getting harder to maintain, and quite frankly, have lost some of their appeal.  His world is turned upside down when his father, who had been taken to a gaming hell by his caretaker, informs Nick that he has lost his hand in marriage in a card game.

Nick never had his father officially declared insane, or had him institutionalized.  The duke is harmless, and loves his home, so Nick just provided someone to keep an eye on him.  While Nick’s lawyer is researching the legality of his father’s agreement, Nick goes to visit his would-be fianceé’s father to see if he is willing to accept some property to settle the debt.  Alice’s father is not interested in anything but Nick marrying his daughter.  When Nick is left alone with Alice to discuss their upcoming marriage, he is astonished to find a woman who is unwilling to marry him, though it’s obvious to a man of his experience that she’s very attracted to him.  Finally, she confesses her dream of traveling to him, and Nick comes up with a compromise.  They will marry, live together and explore their sexuality for a month, then Alice can begin her travels.  Nick will never hinder her, and after the month, they will live separate lives.  Nick makes it clear that he will never father a child, and if that is one of her dreams, he won’t fulfill it.  Alice, thrilled at the chance to achieve her dream, and to explore her sensual nature without any strings, accepts, and they marry.

I love Nick, and my heart broke for the pain and grief he hides underneath his charming and rakish exterior.  Imagine facing such a future and being helpless to prevent it.  Still, all his time has not been spent on frivolous debauchery, as we learn that he has many noble and heroic characteristics.  He treats Alice with the utmost respect and affection, and their sexual chemistry is explosive.  During their month together, they come to see and love each other, yet they are determined to adhere to the bargain they made.  Nick longs for a real home and wife, but won’t ask Alice to give up her dream, while Alice longs to stay, but is determined to leave, thinking Nick wants her gone.

BLAME IT ON THE DUKE is a fantastic book on so many levels.  The threat of insanity is real, and author Lenora Bell doesn’t wave a magic wand to make it disappear, though she does give hope, as not all members of the family were afflicted.  She also shows us how the duke maintained a somewhat normal life, and how little things like diet and surroundings can be positive influences.  Nick and Alice are wonderful protagonists, and their developing love was romantic and steamy.  The secondary characters like Nick’s father, and the offbeat servants also were prominent parts of the story, and contributed subtle humor and some heart touching moments.  I’m very impressed with my first read by Lenora Bell, and I highly recommend BLAME IT ON THE DUKE, which was exceptionally enjoyable.

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