A Duke Like No Other
By Valerie Bowman
Playful Brides - Book 9
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Reviewed by PJ
General Mark Grimaldi, spymaster extraordinaire, is in line to be the next Home Secretary, the golden ring for which he's spent his entire career striving. Things are going swimmingly until his superior drops a news bomb: the Home Secretary must be settled. Married. With a wife. Of course, those in charge don't see any problem with this directive. Plenty of women in London would be delighted to marry the man. If only it were that easy.
Nicole Huntington Grimaldi was deeply in love when she married her husband and certain her feelings were returned. But she miscalculated the depth of his enmity toward the ton and his estranged family in particular. Mere months into their marriage, a misunderstanding tore them apart and Nicole moved to France where she has lived for the past ten years. She's content, with good friends surrounding her, but even though anger with her estranged husband lives in her heart, there's also love for the man she thought she would be with forever. And loneliness. She wants more than a solitary existence.
When Mark arrives on Nicole's doorstep and asks her to pretend to be happily married to him, she seizes the opportunity to have what her heart most desires and agrees to accompany him back to London temporarily if he will grant her request in return. It should be easy. Swan about London acting like they're in love, secure Mark's appointment, and return to France, hopefully, with her deepest wish realized. But unexpected news throws Mark's life into chaos and both Mark and Nicole into the middle of a murder investigation. Will they find the killer before one of them becomes the next victim? Will Mark finally mend fences with the family he's spent his life resenting? Will pretending to be in love give Mark and Nicole the second chance they both want, even if one of them won't admit it?
I've enjoyed all of the books in Valerie Bowman's Playful Brides series but A Duke Like No Other is one of my favorites and, in my opinion, one of Bowman's best. Nicole and Mark are both compelling, complex characters who have allowed pride and stubbornness to keep them apart for ten years. Young when they married, they had desire and love but, for Mark, there was an absence of trust and, for Nicole, it was easier to walk away than stay and fight for her marriage. Both they and their relationship are compelling and complex, with obstacles that must be overcome and emotional wounds that must be healed before a happy ending can be realized. Bowman takes readers on their shared journey from past to present, allowing us to delve more deeply into their thoughts and emotions, and the events that separated them. The pace never lags and the investigation of the murder moves their relationship forward while also bringing resolution to familial events that Mark has allowed to define his life. The secondary cast is vibrantly portrayed and includes two characters who surely will have a story of their own - at least, I hope they will!
With mystery, sensual romance, witty banter, and a depth of emotion that will have you yearning for a happy ending as Mark and Nicole yearn for one another, A Duke Like No Other is a welcome addition to Valerie Bowman's Playful Brides series and a historical romance not to be missed.
Are you reading the Playful Brides books? Do you have a favorite book or couple in the series?
One randomly chosen person who leaves a comment on today's post before 11:00 PM, May 6 will receive a print copy of A Duke Like No Other. (U.S. addresses only)
Valerie Bowman grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she's number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her mini-schnauzer, Huckleberry (and the newest addition, Violet). When she's not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS. She is the author of the Secret Brides and Playful Brides series.