About the Book:
Despite having humble origins and a criminal past, Ned Wentworth has learned to dress, waltz, and express himself as elegantly as any lordling. When Lady Rosalind Kinwood’s maid goes missing, her ladyship turns to Ned, precisely because he still has friends in low places and skills no titled dandy would ever acquire, much less admit he possesses.
Rosalind is too opinionated and too intelligent, and has frequently suffered judgment at polite society’s hands. In the quietly observant Ned Wentworth, she finds a man who actually listens to her and who respects her for her outspokenness. As the search for the missing maids grow more perilous, Rosalind and Ned will have to risk everything—including their hearts—if they are to share the happily ever after that Mayfair’s matchmakers have begrudged them both.
Ned Wentworth is now a well-to-do bank manager for a duke, though he is a former street child who was actually imprisoned for theft. A favor that Ned did for the duke earned him a home, an adopted family, an education, and a career. Ned is mostly content, but not happy. He still carries guilt for believing himself responsible for the death of his brother. When Ned receives a mysterious summons to meet a lady in need of a favor, he is initially intrigued, until he learns the identity of his petitioner.
Lady Rosalind Kinwood is an earl’s daughter who has a reputation of being a direct speaker, and one who won’t tolerate any nonsense. Two of her maids have recently gone missing, both young and pretty, and both quite happy in their positions. Rosalind knows that neither would just have left on their own, and fears foul play. She believes that Ned’s former street connections will allow him to make inquiries in places she could never go. Ned agrees to help, but refuses any compensation. Rosalind decides to pay him by passing along tidbits of gossip about which society ladies are willing to be courted by him, despite his questionable past. Though Ned isn’t actively looking for a bride, he listens to her information, knowing full well that those ladies are interested in his bank balance, not himself.
Ned’s inquiries eventually lead to a treacherous plot, enacted by someone in high places, one involving many more young ladies. The investigation has also thrown Ned and Rosalind into each other’s company, something they both are finding quite enjoyable. Though Ned is no true gentleman, he treats her with dignity and respect, something sadly lacking in the usual society men Rosalind encounters. He listens to her, and even seems to value her opinions, a trait that is far more valuable to Rosalind than a toplofty title. Ned is equally entranced, and soon, kisses and shared secrets ensue. Their attraction grows serious enough to lead to a proposal, only to find Ned being insultingly and unequivocally refused by Rosalind’s loathsome father.
I love these two characters, as both are so vulnerable beneath their outward placid demeanors. While Ned deals with his misplaced guilt, Rosalind endures the snide comments made about her. NEVER A DUKE is a book that I sat down with and just became enveloped in. I love the romance, which was genuine and warm. The mystery had a different twist than what I was expecting, with the villain(s) and their plot hitting close to home. There was also an additional happy surprise which I felt added so much to the HEA. I enjoyed visiting with the extended Wentworth family, and having read all their stories previously made NEVER A DUKE that much more enjoyable, though it can easily be read as a standalone. Grace Burrowes continues to be a favorite author, whose writing creates lovely stories, warm family connections, and characters I know will love each other forever. ~Rose