Hugh Brinsley-Norton, the Duke of Kingsland, is in need of a duchess. However, restoring the dukedom—left in ruins by his father—to its former glory demands all his time, with little room for sentiment. He places an advert encouraging the single ladies of the ton to write why they should be the one chosen, and leaves it to his efficient secretary to select his future wife.
If there exists a more unpleasant task in the world than deciding who is to marry the man you love, Penelope Pettypeace certainly can’t imagine what it might be. Still, she is determined to find the perfect bride for her clueless, yet ruthlessly charming employer.
But when an anonymous note threatens to reveal truths best hidden, Kingsland has no choice but to confront the danger with Penelope at his side. Beguiled by the strong-willed, courageous beauty, he realizes he’s willing to risk everything, including his heart, to keep her safe within his arms. Could it be the duchess he’s hunting for has been in front of him all along?
Is there anything better than when a romance hero finally opens both his eyes and his heart to the fact that what he needs - and wants - has been standing in front of him all along? It is a delicious moment and one that Lorraine Heath does so well. In Kingsland's case, it's a slow awakening that is so much fun to watch, especially as it seems King is the very last one among his family and friends to figure out how he feels.
I was intrigued by Kingsland in the first book of this series, Scoundrel of my Heart, and eager to read his story, especially when I figured out who his heroine would be. I loved Penelope Pettypeace. She's intelligent, efficient, pragmatic, indispensable, and secretly in love with her boss. But that's a professional line she will not cross. She's also harboring a devastating secret that could see their association come to a swift end if revealed. King, on the other hand, is determined to enter a loveless union with a woman - any woman - who will give him an heir and spare then leave him alone. There are reasons, of course, for this attitude that are gradually hinted at, then revealed, over the course of the book. In true Heath fashion, both King's and Penelope's secrets are deep, dark, and potentially devastating. They also could be triggering to some readers so please check the content warnings at the end of this review.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. King and Penn are a well-matched pair that totally worked for me. The writing kept me engaged. Their banter was crisp and witty. And watching their hearts unfurl and open totally to one another was a true delight. I was totally clueless as to each of their secrets until revealed. And, boy howdy, was I ever shocked to learn King's. I did not see that coming! There was more foreshadowing for Penn's which made it less of a shock for me but no less heartbreaking. One frustration for me was King's reaction, especially when compared to Penn's response to his own secret. After everything they had been through together, it felt "off." He does manage to redeem himself in a lovely way, and I finished the book secure in their future happiness, but it did take a bit of the shine off their story for me. Even with a bit less shine though, The Duchess Hunt is still a darn good read and one that I enthusiastically recommend.
CW: child abuse, child pornography