Even though Paul Barstowe was the villain of The Bad Luck Bride, book one of Janna MacGregor's Cavensham Heiresses series, I still found him intriguing, though definitely unlikable. In book two, The Bride Who Got Lucky, he showed a glimmer of goodness - a remote possibility that he just might be redeemable. In MacGregor's upcoming novel, The Good, the Bad, and the Duke, we discover just what made Paul, now the Duke of Southart, the man he was and has now become. Is he deserving of a second chance? Is he worthy of Daphne's heart? I've read an advance copy of the novel and, for me, the answer to that question is an enthusiastic YES!
The Good, the Bad, and the Duke
By Janna MacGregor
The Cavensham Heiresses - Book 4
Publisher: St. Martin's
Release Date: November 27, 2018
Lady Daphne Hallworth is ready to celebrate the holidays with her family. But when they accidentally leave her home alone, Daphne uses the time to work on her dream—opening a home for unwed mothers. But her quest isn’t problem-free: She’s in a battle to win the property for the home against her brother’s best friend-turned-enemy, Paul Barstowe, Duke of Southart. And that’s not all: someone has stolen her personal diary, which holds secrets that could devastate her family. Daphne has always harbored private feelings for the man her family scorns…though perhaps striking a bargain with the handsome Duke will solve both their problems?
Paul, long considered good for nothing, aims to open a hospital to honor his brother and restore his reputation. So when a conflict over the land brings him straight into Daphne’s life, they make a deal: He will help her find her diary if Daphne can change her family’s opinion of him. But before he can win her family’s affection, he has to win hers first. Maybe love was the answer to their family feud all along?
“Paul,” Daphne said a little bit more loudly. “Are you all right?”
No, he wasn’t all right. He’d lost his mind several London street blocks ago. “Yes, I’m fine.”
“You seem out of sorts. You have ever since we left Pembrooke House.” The soft words held enough of a lilt that they carried across the coach. It had to be his imagination, but they seemed to kiss his cheek.
He could only reach one conclusion—he was a bloody fool.
“I apologize for my earlier behavior.” He’d said the words hoping they’d relieve his guilt and restore his confidence as a proper duke. Instead, he felt as if he were a sniveling child, one who apologized without any real remorse.
He wasn’t really sorry for teasing and playing with Daphne at Pembrooke House. Her entire face had been alight with sheer delight, then it slowly softened to an exquisite emotion that would only be described as arousal when he drew her dress down her arms.
He was surely going to hell for seducing an innocent.
Biting one lip, she tried to hide her smile. It made her even more beautiful. “You seem to apologize frequently around me. Am I a bad influence?”
The silver-pewter of her eyes flashed with laughter and a little something that made the distance between them spark with sexual tension. Whatever this was between them electrified him. Every particle of his body throbbed with an acute need to gather her in his arms and kiss her until she begged for more. He tightened both hands around the edge of the seat to keep from reaching for her. The more he squeezed, the more the leather squealed in protest.
What was it about her that made her so irresistible? He’d been with other beautiful women who were definitely more accomplished as seductresses. But her innate innocence captivated him. Naturally, a rake such as himself would be drawn to someone as pure as her. Isn’t that what rakes did? Despoil perfect flowers. He ran his hand over his face again hoping to clear every lascivious thought. He’d not allow his own dirty hands to touch her, not after what he’d done tonight.
This evening he would be her protector. He’d be her friend. They’d find her journal, then she’d help ease the distance between Pembrooke and him. His job would be finished. He’d have no other reason to be in her company alone. After he returned her home this evening, he’d check on her tomorrow, wish her a happy Christmas, and then wait for her brother to return to town that evening. He’d call on Pembrooke the next day and explain what had happened. Pembrooke would thank him and extend an invitation for a drink where they’d mend their disagreements. Perhaps they’d even drink coffee and read the papers at White’s again. Paul would even invite Alex and Claire to dine with him. He’d invite Somerton and Emma also. Once Somerton saw that Alex had given up his grievances, Somerton would follow suit.
By helping her, the three of them would be friends again. That’s all he had to remember.
He couldn’t think of the gentle swell of her perfect breasts ever again.
She tilted her head and regarded him. “Paul, what are we doing? We’ve been sitting here for several minutes.” She raised her hand to rap her knuckles against the coach roof signaling she was ready to depart.
“Before we exit, I have something for you.” He cleared his throat in a poor attempt to purge his thoughts. She lowered her hand when he handed her a half mask that would conceal her eyes and nose. One half was painted black, and the other white. Clear crystals and silver foil neatly lined the edges and the openings for the eyes. The mask was elaborate, but the ties that would secure it around her head were simple black ribbons. With her dark hair, it would be difficult to see the ribbons, thus giving the allusion she was a Venetian temptress looking for a lover during Carnival.
“It’s beautiful,” she whispered. Her fingers tenderly skated over every inch of the mask. “What is it?”
He let out an unsteady breath. She caressed the mask like a lover. “It’s a Columbina mask. My mother brought it home from Venice the last time she visited. I want you to wear it tonight. It’ll disguise you. No one will dare approach you with me by your side.”
“Thank you. That’s clever thinking,” she offered. “Will you help me put it on?”
Holding the mask to her face, she turned away from him until she was barely seated on the bench cushion. He reached to tie the ribbon, and their fingers entangled. The urge to pull her against him while he inhaled her sweet scent almost overpowered him. Suddenly, her fingers tightened against his, and he hissed.
“You’ll need to take off your gloves to tie the ribbons I’m afraid.”
She should be afraid, as he was very afraid. Afraid he’d kiss her in this very carriage and never stop until they were both lost in each other’s arms.
“Of course.” Passion threatened to explode inside him. His own words sounded guttural.
He made quick work of removing his gloves. As he raised his hands to tie the ribbons, his fingers shook. He took a deep breath and commanded himself to relax. In seconds, the mask was secure.
When she twisted around to face him, he felt as if he’d been punched in the gut. Once again, she refuted his claim that he could manage anything.
Describing her as an ethereal creature was like describing the moon as a circle in the sky. Her loveliness was heavenly. Her skin seemed to shimmer in the faint glow of the carriage lantern. The mask did indeed disguise her, but he knew the hidden depths of her beauty. Her expressive eyes and the familiar tilt of her lips spoke a language that only he could understand.
With a shake of his head, Paul tried to dismiss such fanciful thoughts. “Are you ready?”
“In a moment.” She scooted close to him. “About this morning, I meant what I said about fighting to win the bid for the estate. But I want you to know that I’ll do everything in my power to help you with my brother. It’s reassuring that you’re here with me.” The smile on her lips was radiant.
“Of course,” he said. “There’s no place I’d rather be than with you here tonight, my dear friend.”
If possible, her smile became brighter. It reminded him of sunshine peeking around a cloud. “Whatever happened today won’t impact how we deal with each other tonight.”
With a deep breath, he tapped the window with his knuckles. Immediately, the door opened, and he jumped out. As soon as Daphne placed her slim hand in his, Paul came to a realization that gave him some, but not nearly enough, relief from his complete befuddlement.
All of his discomfort with Daphne could be attributed to his agreement to be friends.
What a ludicrous bargain.
How could they be friends if all he could think about was seducing her?
Have you been reading Janna MacGregor's Cavensham Heiresses series?
How do you feel about former bad boys/villains as redeemed heroes?
The Good, the Bad, and the Duke pays homage to the theme used in the movie Home Alone, an annual favorite. What Christmas movies do you enjoy watching every year?
One person who leaves a comment before 11:00 PM, October 25 will receive a print advance review copy (ARC) of The Good, the Bad, and the Duke. (U.S. only)
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