Jilting the Duke: The Muses’ Salon #1 by Rachael Miles with Excerpt and Giveaway

Jilting the Duke: The Muses’ Salon #1 by Rachael Miles with Excerpt and Giveaway

Today I have another historical romance, this one with a twist.  The first in The Muse’s Salon series, the debut offering from author Rachael Miles.  Please read on for my review and an excerpt, be sure to check the tour stops to see what other readers thought, and don’t forget to enter the tour-wide giveaway where you could win one of Three (3) Paperback Copies of JILTING THE DUKE. But first, my review of

Jilting the Duke

It’s always interesting to me to ‘meet’ a new author, several of my go to authors are those who are ‘newer’ in the industry, and it is always fun to be in early and see the growth.  With her debut series being a mix of mystery and historic romance, Rachael Miles has created a series that I had to check out.

Jilting the Duke is less a story of pure romance with twists about the spy game and a heroine who must find her ‘feet’ again after he loss of her husband, and a confirmed rake, also her first love from childhood.

Sophia had truly come to love her husband Tom, even with the feelings she had for his best friend Aidan.  Now widowed and moved into a house Tom purchased before his death in London, Sophia has returned with her young son and is now trying to make a life.

As a child Aidan was the second son with no plans to hold his father’s title. After Sophia married his best friend with no explanations, he went out into the world, having been a soldier and a spy, his reputation is solidified as a rake, and with circumstances changing, he is the Duke. With the guardianship of Sophia and Tom’s son on his mind, he needs to interact with Sophia, and finds her as intriguing as ever.

While the story is consistently following Sophia’s moving forward through her grief, the conflict between she and Aidan with the unresolved feelings and questions, and the new stirrings, the story quickly becomes one of transformation and growth between these two. Additionally Aidan’s work for the crown and coded messages going awry pulls the story in another direction that often conflicts with the romance.

As a debut offering, the story is solid with characters that are well developed and empathetic. I did find that some of the moments dragged with a bit of over-telling or moments that felt repeated, where the conflicts and spats between the couple that brought drama and a sense of their frustrations with the situation and one another didn’t quite go far enough to break up the expected polite discourse of the time with some true hearty feelings.  This story shows promise for the series and the author, and is a solid start for a new series and author to watch.

 

Jilting the Duke: The Muses’ Salon #1 by Rachael Miles with Excerpt and Giveaway

Title: Jilting the Duke
Author: Rachael Miles
Series: The Muses' Salon #1
Also in this series: Chasing the Heiress
Genre: Historical Romance
Published by: Zebra
ISBN: 1420140868
Published on: 26 January 2016
Format:eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 352
Rated: four-stars
Heat: One FlameOne Flame

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BROKEN PROMISE, BROKEN HEART

Aidan Somerville, Duke of Forster, is a rake, a spy, and a soldier, richer than sin and twice as handsome. Now he is also guardian to his deceased best friend’s young son. The choice makes perfect sense—except that the child’s mother is the lovely Sophia Gardiner, to whom Aidan was engaged before he went off to war. When the news reached him that she had married another, his ship had not yet even left the dock.

Sophia does not expect Aidan to understand or forgive her. But she cannot allow him to stay her enemy. She’s prepared for coldness, even vengeance—but not for the return of the heedless lust she and Aidan tumbled into ten years ago. She knows the risks of succumbing to this dangerous desire. Still, with Aidan so near, it’s impossible not to dream about a second chance…

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

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Barlow was right: this man was no creditor. Inked at the fingers, but meticulous in his clothing, Aldine held himself with a grace that belied his sturdy frame. A man to have beside you in a fight, Aidan realized. He reconsidered Aldine’s fingers: a man who wished to be underestimated. How, he wondered, would Aldine respond to a frog in his portfolio?

“Well, Mr. Aldine, what business is so urgent that you must come without warning?” Aidan used the brisk tone he found most effective at limiting unwanted interactions.

The solicitor looked from Aidan to his study. Aidan watched with interested satisfaction, knowing the room revealed little. The furniture was well-appointed, the objets d’art fine, but not extravagant. The pieces revealed no particular preference as to period or style: an ancient Grecian urn on a carved mahogany pedestal stood before a contemporary painting by a little-known artist. Aidan wondered whether Aldine saw a rake, unkempt from a night of carousing, or the former officer known for his ruthless detachment. The men’s eyes met, both having taken the other’s measure.

The solicitor folded his hands behind his back. “I come on behalf of Thomas Gardiner, the late Lord Wilmot. I’m to deliver a letter his lordship wrote you shortly before his death. If you agree to the proposition he outlines, I have brought papers for your signature.”

At Tom’s name, Aidan stiffened with complicated emotions: fondness, regret, anger, betrayal. “Wilmot has been dead a year, yet the delivery of these papers is urgent?”

“Lord Wilmot was very specific. Your letter—and one to his widow—were to be delivered within a day of the first anniversary of his death.”

“Then it is convenient I am in town.” Aidan leaned against the edge of his desk.

Aldine held out a letter, its seal unbroken. “His lordship instructed I am to remain while you read.”

Aidan nodded acquiescence, and Aldine began laying out papers on the desk.

Tom’s handwriting, though still legible, had grown less controlled.

           

My dear old friend,

      Knowing one is dying gives a perspective to the past. Besides time and distance, only one thing stands between us, an act I cannot regret, except that it separated us. Had I lived, we would have talked and embraced again as brothers, but that conversation and the sight of your dear face has been denied me. These lines—poor substitutes— must stand in their stead.

      Look beyond our present silence to our years of brotherhood when your father took a fatherless boy into his home and reared him as his own. His sons I cherished as brothers, but none more than you. Since I must leave my son fatherless, I ask you to serve as his guardian. Take him into your home and heart. Shelter him and guide him into manhood, for the sake of our old friendship.

      In this guardianship, I give you a partner: his devoted mother. Do not separate the mother from her child. Ian would adapt, as children must do, but Sophia would suffer immeasurably. Find some way to live near one another, forgetting the past, for my dear

child’s sake.

      Love my son, protect him, rear him as your own.

 

                  Yours ever most affectionately and sincerely, Tom

 

Had Aidan been alone, he would have cursed out loud. Tom’s letter was unwelcome, as unwelcome as Aidan’s father’s summons five years ago to return from the wars to care for the ducal estates.

Aidan turned to the guardianship papers, noting several contradictions between them and Tom’s letter. “Let me make sure that I understand. Wilmot’s son is to live with me part of the year?”

“If you wish. My firm disperses funds for the boy’s maintenance, supported by the approval of both guardians, or one guardian and our firm.”

Aidan raised one eyebrow. “What is the rationale there?”

“If one guardian is unavailable or if you and Lady Wilmot cannot agree, the firm adjudicates on the child’s behalf.” Aldine offered a long pause. “It is a right we prefer not to exercise.”

“Ah, money is tied up in this arrangement.” Aidan leaned forward toward Aldine. “Did Wilmot believe his wife would run through the funds?”

“No. His lordship valued his wife’s judgment. She’s an able manager.”

“He valued her judgment, but removed the boy’s estate from her control?” Aidan let his voice convey disbelief.

“No, the estate remains under her ladyship’s control until the boy’s majority. This guardianship administers a trust for the boy’s maintenance. Wilmot wished to provide the boy with a male mentor, but you can refuse the guardianship.”Aldine pulled another document from his portfolio. “Your signature on this makes Lady Wilmot sole guardian.”

“So it’s me or no male guardian.” Suddenly, Aidan remembered Tom as a boy, playing King Arthur and his knights with Aidan and his brothers. He cursed inwardly: Tom had known honor would not allow Aidan to refuse. “Then I will accept.”

Aldine returned the refusal to his portfolio. “My clerk can witness your signature, unless you prefer someone of your household.”

Aidan rang the bell. “I always prefer someone of my household.”

Aldine moved Aidan’s copy of the legal papers to the side and produced the official contract, a large piece of vellum, carefully lettered, with six signatures and seals already in place. Three signatures dated from shortly after Wilmot’s marriage: Wilmot’s own, large, flourished, and confident, and those of two witnesses. Wilmot’s seal—a dragon’s head—drew Aidan’s attention. Something tugged at his memory, but wouldn’t come clear. Lady Wilmot’s hand was f irm, but restrained; her witness, an Italian with a neat Continental script. Aidan read over the official document to ensure it was consistent with his copy.

When Barlow arrived, Aidan signed in his best, most official hand, adding flourishes to the tail of the S in Somerville, the curve of the D in Duke, and the F in Forster to mirror those in the ducal seal. An expansive signature to suggest full and willing consent. Barlow signed in a competent school hand, then slipped from the room.

“While the ink dries, have you any questions?” Aldine offered.

“I would like a sense of Wilmot’s intentions beyond this.” Aidan waved his hand over the documents. “I leave London in three weeks. May I take the boy with me to my estate?”

“The guardianship papers stipulate you may, but it might be wise to delay exercising that provision. Though his lordship established the guardianship a decade ago, her ladyship appeared surprised it had been called into effect.”

“What you do mean?” Aidan knew Tom never kept secrets without a reason.

“Lord Wilmot sent the instructions related to the guardianship in three letters, to me, to you, and to her ladyship. All were folded together in a cover addressed to my firm, signed and sealed by Lord Wilmot and carried to England by her ladyship.” Aldine tested the edge of the ink for dryness. “It seemed rather like the scene in Hamlet where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern act as couriers of the papers that lead to their executions.”

“An interest in drama, Aldine?” Aidan quizzed.

“A student of human nature, your grace.” Aldine folded the contract until it formed a tall narrow book with a title already carefully lettered on its spine.

“Why do you think her ladyship was unaware of the guardianship?” Aidan asked, interested in Aldine’s observations.

“Her Ladyship rarely shows emotion. But her shoulders stiffened when she read the letter.”

“Then her ladyship is unhappy with this ‘partnership’?” Aidan replied, pleased at the news. The solicitor returned the documents to his portfolio. “I simply report her response to the letter.” Aldine withdrew a slip of paper and held it out. “Lord Wilmot purchased a house for her ladyship quite close to your own. If you do not wish to meet at her ladyship’s, my office is also available.”

Aidan looked at the address—Queen Anne Street, just around the corner. Near the park. The implications settled slowly. Aidan could likely look out his bedroom window and see her yard. “No, I will call on her.”

“Those copies are yours.” Aldine indicated the papers remaining on Aidan’s desk.

Aidan extended his hand in parting. The solicitor’s handshake was firm and confident.

Aidan waited until the solicitor reached the door. “Wilmot’s letter claims that her ladyship is devoted to the

boy. Is that correct? Women in the ton often find children merely an obligation to be fulfilled.” Aldine paused. “Then her ladyship is unusual. Observe the mother and the son together to determine the depth of her ladyship’s affection for her child.”

“Why do you say that?”

“You will charge me once more with a fondness for drama.” Aldine placed his hand on the doorknob.

“I’ll refrain.”

“Then I’ll answer. Only with her son does Lady Wilmot seem to be a woman, rather than a beautiful statue carved in marble.” With those words, Aldine, ignoring the requirements of rank, wished Aidan a good day and left.

 

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About Rachael Miles

Rachael Miles has always loved a good romance, especially one with a bit of suspense and preferably a ghost. She is also a professor of book history and nineteenth-century literature whose students frequently find themselves reading the novels of Ann Radcliffe and other gothic tales. Rachael lives in her home state of Texas with her indulgent husband, three rescued dogs, and an ancient cat.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

4 responses to “Jilting the Duke: The Muses’ Salon #1 by Rachael Miles with Excerpt and Giveaway

  1. Thank you for a great review! –and for hosting a spot on the blog tour. As a debut author, your support means so much. I appreciate it a great deal.