The one woman he will never forget…
Malcolm Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, has lived the last three years in
self-imposed solitude, paying the price for a mistake he can never reverse and
a love he lost forever. The dukedom does not wait, however, and Haven requires
an heir, which means he must find himself a wife by summer’s end. There is only
one problem—he already has one.
The one man she will never forgive…
After years in exile, Seraphina, Duchess of Haven, returns to London with a
single goal—to reclaim the life she left and find happiness, unencumbered by
the man who broke her heart. Haven offers her a deal; Sera can have her
freedom, just as soon as she finds her replacement…which requires her to spend
the summer in close quarters with the husband she does not want, but somehow
A love that neither can deny…
The duke has a single summer to woo his wife and convince her that, despite their
broken past, he can give her forever, making every day…
Today bestseller Sarah MacLean is the
author of historical romance novels that have been translated into more than
twenty languages, and winner of back-to-back RITA Awards for best historical
romance from the Romance Writers of America.Sarah is a leading advocate for the romance genre, speaking widely on its place
at the nexus of gender and cultural studies. She is the author of a monthly
column celebrating the best of the genre for the Washington Post. Her work in
support of romance and the women who read it earned her a place on
Jezebel.com’s Sheroes list of 2014 and led Entertainment Weekly to
call her “gracefully furious.” A graduate of Smith College &
Harvard University, Sarah now lives in New York City with her husband and
Read an Excerpt
DESERTED DUKE DISAVOWED!
August 19, 1836
House of Lords, Parliament
She’d left him two years, seven months ago, exactly.
Malcolm Marcus Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven looked to the tiny wooden calendar wheels inlaid into the blotter on his desk in his private office above the House of Lords.
August the nineteenth, 1836. The last day of the parliamentary session, filled with pomp and idle. And lingering memory. He spun the wheel with the six embossed upon it. Five. Four. He took a deep breath.
Get out. He heard his own words, cold and angry with betrayal, echoing with quiet menace. Don’t ever return.
He touched the wheel again. August became July. May. March.
January the nineteenth, 1834. The day she left.
His fingers moved without thought, finding comfort in the familiar click of the wheels.
April the seventeenth, 1833.
The way I feel about you . . . Her words now—soft and full of temptation. I’ve never felt anything like this.
He hadn’t, either. As though light and breath and hope had flooded the room, filling all the dark spaces. Filling his lungs and heart. And all because of her.
Until he’d discovered the truth. The truth, which had mattered so much until it hadn’t mattered at all.
Where had she gone?
The clock in the corner of the room ticked and tocked, counting the seconds until Haven was due in his seat in the hallowed main chamber of the House of Lords, where men of higher purpose and passion had sat before him for generations. His fingers played the little calendar like a virtuoso, as though they’d done this dance a hundred times before. A thousand.
And they had.
March the first, 1833. The day they met.
So, they let simply anyone become a duke, do they? No deference. Teasing and charm and pure, unadulterated beauty.
If you think dukes are bad, imagine what they accept from duchesses?
That smile. As though she’d never met another man. As though she’d never wanted to. He’d been hers the moment he’d seen that smile. Before that. Imagine, indeed.
And then it had fallen apart. He’d lost everything, and then lost her. Or perhaps it had been the reverse. Or perhaps it was all the same.
Would there ever be a time when he stopped thinking of her? Ever a date that did not remind him of her? Of the time that had stretched like an eternity since she’d left?
Where had she gone?
The clock struck eleven, heavy chimes sounding in the room, echoed by a dozen others sounding down the long, oaken corridor beyond, summoning men of longstanding name to the duty that had been theirs before they drew breath.
Haven spun the calendar wheels with force, leaving them as they lay. November the thirty-seventh, 3842. A fine date—one on which he had absolutely no chance of thinking of her.
This is probably the most difficult review I’ve ever written, and it’s because I’m feeling very conflicted. First of all, I love this book. Second of all, I hate this book. Before I delve into that, this story opens with a shocking scene. Seraphina, the Duchess of Haven, bursts into Parliament on the last day before a two month recess, and requests a divorce. This is especially scandalous, because the duchess has been missing for over two years. No one knew her whereabouts or whether she was even alive, including her estranged husband, Malcolm, who witnessed this spectacle along with the rest of Parliament. Malcolm (Mal) has been searching for Seraphina (Sera) since she left him right after their infant daughter died during the birth process.
The reader learns, through flashbacks, how the cynical duke and the young lady from the scandalous family met, and how they fell in love almost instantaneously. Mal is charmed by the way Sera stands up to him and doesn’t fawn over his title. They begin spending time together, and soon are the subject of gossip because no marriage proposal has been made. At the urging of her mother, Sera sets into motion a plan to force Mal’s hand, not knowing that he is ready to propose on his own. The love Mal feels is so strong, and so foreign to him, that he just want to keep it private and savor it for as long as he can. When he realizes that his entrapment was due to Sera’s machinations, he becomes enraged, thus continuing what is to become this couple’s pattern of hurts and betrayals.
Despite all that has happened, somehow Mal and Sera still love each other. Mal is now determined that he will win Sera back, and show that he has changed, while Sera is convinced that she will never be happy until she has her freedom. Both Sera and Mal are guilty of what I would consider unforgivable actions. Yet, each knows that they were wrong, and they wish they had done things differently. While I agree that redemption can be earned, there are certain triggers that are just too wrong for me in a romance. In order to avoid spoilers here, I will label them and include them in the final paragraph to view, or not, at your choice.
In conclusion, I have to say that Sarah MacLean has written a brilliant novel that I will not forget. I am convinced of this couple’s love and their remorse, but I’m not convinced that the pattern of hurt won’t happen again. The grand gesture at the end did feel theatrical and unrealistic to me, almost fairytale-like. Normally I can enjoy that, but because of my doubts for their future, I didn’t. Because of the powerful emotional impact of the story, it would rate 5, yet because of the elements I don’t think belong in a genuine romance I’m rating a conflicted 4, but each reader will have to make their own judgment.
The following paragraph contains spoilers – please don’t read if you don’t want much of the plot revealed.
First, Sera arranged with her mother to trap Mal into marriage. She went off alone with him, and they were intimate, only to be “found” by both their mothers.
Second, Mal’s anger leads him to cheat on Sera. It was one occasion, and was done blatantly and for revenge and humiliation.
Third, Sera doesn’t let Mal know she’s pregnant. He finds out by seeing her expanding tummy at a social event.
Fourth, Mal throws Sera out. He orders her to leave his house and not come back.
Fifth, Sera disappears for over two years, not letting Mal know where she is. This is a huge issue for a duke who will need an heir.