Adelaide Longford is London’s most overlooked bluestocking wallflower and that is fine by her. Being ignored gives her the perfect opportunity to sneak out and secretly take on the persona of the most celebrated actress of the day, Lydia Ford. The thrill of walking the boards and hearing the applause of those who watch her is the most exciting experience of her life.
Until Graham Everly, Duke of Northfield comes into her life. He is broken after the humiliating loss of his longtime fiancé to his supposed best friend and they enter into a lusty affair which sets her body on fire. Graham has no idea why he’s so attracted to both the bespectacled, prickly Adelaide and the passionate Lydia, but soon he is caught in a dance with them both and torn between which future he wants to pursue.
When Graham finds out Adelaide’s secret identity will he be able to accept both parts of her? And will he be able to save her from a lurking danger that neither of them could have ever foreseen?
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The Broken Duke (The 1797 Club Book 3)
THE BROKEN DUKE is Book 3 of the 1797 Club series, which is about a group of close friends who are all dukes or heirs to dukedoms. In previous books, we learned that James, Simon, and Graham, (three club members) were as close as brothers. In an effort to protect his sister, Margaret, in the event of his death, James arranged an engagement between her and Graham. The problem is, Margaret and Simon have been in love forever, while Graham and Margaret are, at best, courteous friends. After years of this engagement, Simon and Margaret finally find the courage to break free and declare their love. While Graham admittedly had no love for Margaret, he feels the betrayal of Simon deeply, and he breaks his friendship with James and Simon. The public humiliation of being jilted, and what Graham perceives as betrayal have sent him into a tailspin of drinking and avoiding society.
After months of watching Graham living this way, two of his other friends from the club finally convince him to attend a play. While there, Graham feels everyone’s stares and hears their whispers about him. Even through his discomfort, his attention is captured by the lead actress, Lydia Ford. Graham’s reaction is so unusual for him, that he goes to her dressing room after the play to meet her. Even though the actress appears to find him equally appealing, she’s not ready to jump into a quick sexual encounter, despite what their heated kisses might indicate. Graham leaves, but he knows he’ll be back – this is the most alive he’s felt in forever.
Lydia Ford has a very large secret. The actress is really Lady Adelaide Longford, daughter of an earl, and in real life, a wallflower. A strange set of circumstances led to her “acting” career, and she finds herself passionately loving her life on stage. She has a natural talent, and has become a favorite to the audience. Her escapes from her strict home life a few times a week are the highlights of her dull life.
Now that Graham has ventured to the theatre, he’s going to take the next step toward coming back to society by attending a ball. When, unexpectedly, newlyweds Simon and Margaret enter, Graham panics and escapes to the dance floor with the only wallflower he sees available, none other than his actress-in-disguise. Adelaide is shocked to be approached by Graham, and initially thinks he’s seen through her camouflage. As a society wallflower, she scrapes her hair back into an unbecoming bun, wears unflattering clothes, and dons spectacles that hide her eyes. When Adelaide realizes Graham’s real reason for dancing with her, she allows a bit of her witty personality to come through, and Graham finds himself liking her. Graham has not given up his pursuit of Lydia, and they begin a steamy affair. Meanwhile, he finds himself charmed by Adelaide, and begins to find himself going a bit bonkers over his strong attraction to two very different women.
While there is so much I loved about this book, I had to suspend disbelief regarding two things. First, Adelaide has an extremely strict guardian, who watched her like a hawk. I find it hard to believe that she could regularly sneak out of her house three evenings a week and not get caught. Second, Graham is having an intimate affair with a woman – how can a different hairstyle and glasses keep him from recognizing her? Well, THE BROKEN DUKE is so interesting and compelling, that I pushed those doubts aside, and decided to just enjoy the ride. Graham and Adelaide are complex, yet likable characters, who have had to endure a lot in their pasts. In particular, Adelaide is forced to live a very sad existence now. Graham’s reaction when he learns his two loves are one person is priceless – I loved it! I couldn’t put THE BROKEN DUKE down once I started reading. There are some twists and surprises I didn’t see coming, and I enjoyed every bit of the passionate and emotional journey.