Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Duke by Gaelen Foley

5+ Stars!! The Duke has earned a place of honor on my keepers bookshelf!
     This was my first read of author Gaelen Foley and I was more than pleasantly surprised, I was WOW’ed and am finding myself, once again, indebted to my Goodreads friends who encouraged me to read this book.

     The Duke is not merely a romance novel, it’s a truly wonderful love story, rich in detail and emotionally compelling characters. We’re given a closer look than we usually get in historical romance novels, at English society’s rules and class structure. We see more clearly what life was like for this those who have and those have naught, and what that means to the people of both ranks. In fact, this book could have been called A Tale of Two Classes.

     As the story opens, we meet our hero, Robert Knight, Duke of Hawkscliffe, a man grief stricken over the death of his lady love – who, at the time of her passing, was married to another man. Lucy was young, vibrant and everything he had ever hoped for in a wife, but instead of marrying him, she wedded James Breckenridge, the earl of Coldfell, a man well past being old enough to be her father. Robert has been given some information that would indicate that Lucy didn’t accidentally drown as they had at first believed, but was murdered. Finding the person responsible has become his life’s mission – however long it takes, he’ll find her killer and make them pay, no matter what.

     Belinda Hamilton is being pursued by Dolph Breckenridge, a spoiled young man with an exaggerated and entirely unfounded sense of his own self importance. He’s set on marrying Belinda, but her heart belongs to another, and so she repeatedly refuses his advances. As a male of high ranking societal status, with too much power and influence, but lacking the integrity to use them responsibly, Dolph sets out to destroy Belinda. By taking away everything and everyone dear to her, he believes that in the end, she’ll be left with nothing and have no choice but to agree to marry him. Using underhanded tactics, Dolph has her father thrown into debtor’s prison, and makes sure Belinda loses her teaching position at a prestigious girl’s school. Having lost their family home, she’s forced to sell oranges on the streets and take in mending and other odd jobs to earn enough to keep herself fed, and to ensure better living conditions for her father within his prison cell. She’s a woman of great integrity, and although she’s found her life in ruins, she will not to allow herself to be ruined. Sadly, in one tragic turn of events, however, she finds that sometimes, our choices are taken away from us and we have to make to make do with what fate has handed us.

     Thanks to an interesting chain of events and revelations, Hawkscliffe and Bel find themselves working together to reach their goals, in a story that runs the gamut of emotions. I laughed, I cried, I cheered, I sighed… in short, I was captivated by both the story and the players and never once gave up hoping that against all odds, in each other they’d find their happily ever after.

     In my opinion, Gaelen Foley’s writing is the perfect blend of the refined diction we would expect from early 1800’s England, without affecting the flow of dialog by using words and phrases that, while historically accurate, would only serve to confuse. Her style reminds me of that of Loretta Chase and Anna Campbell, whose books I truly love, and The Duke has a storyline that simply draws the reader in and hold their attention from the first page to the last… so needless to say, this was a great read and I’m looking forward to continuing the Knights Miscellany series.

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