An artist stumbles upon a naked duke and an unlikely love story begins in this captivating Victorian historical romance.
When Royal Academy painting student Lucy Coover trips over a naked man passed out in an East End alley, she does the decent thing. She covers him up and fetches help. Trouble is, she can’t banish his muscular form from her dreams as easily. She finds herself compelled to put every detail down on canvas. What she doesn’t know is that she’s painting the infamous Duke of Weston, and that her life will never be the same.
A second son, Anthony Philby thought he could flee his brutal family legacy and become his own man. Forced back to London by his brother’s death, he inherits a fortune… with strings attached. One scandal will sink his bid for independence. It’s in his best interest to burn Lucy Coover’s shocking painting and pretend he never met the bewitching young artist. Instead, he finds himself offering a devil’s bargain. He’ll save her aunt’s dressmaking shop from ruin, if she’ll seek out his missing sister, Effie.
As they work together, an unexpected passion ignites between them. But the hunt for Effie leads to unexpected danger, and soon they find themselves risking everything… for a love that might destroy them both.
Lucy Coover has to travel through some dodgy areas to get to her painting class at the Royal Academy of Arts. She’s seem some strange and unsavory things, but this is the first time she’s come across a corpse, and a naked one, at that. Believing that the man was robbed and stripped, Lucy uses her shawl to cover a certain part of his anatomy, hoping to afford him some dignity, when she discovers that he’s still breathing. Then she discovers that he reeks of alcohol, and is sleeping off a drunken binge. Still, he is the most perfect specimen she’s ever seen, and since female students are not allowed to view nudes to paint, she studies every perfect detail of his body and commits it to memory. Later, she is compelled to paint him, little knowing that her portrait will set off a chain of events which will change the course of her life.
Due to his older brother’s death, Anthony Philby is now the Duke of Weston. Because of his difficulty reading and in school, his father considered him an idiot, and placed the entirety of the ducal holdings in trust, in the hands of his lifelong friend, Yardley, until Anthony turns thirty. There are other conditions – Anthony must stay away from all alcohol, and lead an exemplary life. Anthony chafes at his restrictions, feeling like a schoolboy with an allowance. His thirtieth birthday is rapidly approaching, and he anticipates the day he’ll finally be free of his father. Meanwhile, he does his drinking in secret, and in places he won’t be recognized. When Lucy’s scandalous nude portrait comes to his attention, he is determined to find the artist, and ensure that all preliminary drawings are destroyed.
When Lucy encounters her beautiful corpse come to life, she is all but speechless. When she learns that he’s a duke, she’s dismayed that his status is so out of her league. Still, she tries to hide the fact the she’s the artist, but Anthony, contrary to his father’s belief, is no fool, and soon puts the pieces together. Their initial, somewhat hostile meeting is fraught with undercurrents of mutual attraction, and when Lucy finds her home in danger, she doesn’t hesitate to seek the duke’s help, willing to make a bargain.
Lucy and Anthony are definitely from different worlds, as well as having problems and issues. Despite their flaws and imperfections, I couldn’t help but love both these characters. They make mistakes, and let each other down, and I still wanted so badly for them to be together. So many things are against them as a couple, that it truly seems impossible, especially when a new twist in Anthony’s father’s will comes to light. My heart was broken as it seemed that Anthony’s spirit was finally broken. THE DUKE UNDONE is brilliantly written, but not what I would call an easy read. Such things as women’s rights, institutionalization, and alcoholism play significant roles. I am always leery of reading a new, or new-to-me author, but this time I struck gold. I loved this story, which is intense, romantic, steamy, and all encompassing. I recommend it for readers who are looking to lose themselves in a complicated and well developed story with unique characters and situations.