Last Night with the Duke : The Rakes of St. James #1, by Amelia Grey

Last Night with the Duke : The Rakes of St. James #1, by Amelia Grey

Amelia Grey returns to the blog today with the first in her new historic series, The Rakes of St. James.  Redemption and Rakes – who could go wrong? Please read on for my review of and an excerpt from

Last Night with the Duke

So, I have to begin by saying that this is not an action-packed, jump from one moment to the next story. In fact, it actually is a slow meander to the sprint at the end, and this did make for some interesting, and not so, moments in the overall impression of the story.  But, there are good moments,  and those were enough to keep me reading on, interested to see just where the story would go.

Griffin is a Duke, more than mildly obsessed with keeping the family reputation free from scandal and seeing his twin sister’s off on a successful debut.  As is not uncommon, he was tagged with the reputation of Rake as a younger man, and was privy to some scandalous behavior with his friends, but on the whole does regret those indiscretions.  Now, with his Aunt ill, the need for a chaperone to guide Sara and Vera through their debut, he needs to hire a companion.

Esmerelda is the granddaughter of a Viscount, unrecognized as her mother was disowned after marrying her father, an Irish Poet.  Now without support or protection, and a young sister to care for, she has parlayed her skills and social knowledge into a business that provides governesses and chaperones to the tonne. She’s a wonderfully drawn character, with a gentle yet firm demeanor and a solid sense of ‘managing one’s charges”.  Sight unseen, Griffin happens to hear her dispensing this advice to one of her employees, and is determined she should work for him.

And here is where things got muddled: there was a general push and prod from Griffin, despite Esmerelda’s knowing of the secret he’d prefer not surface before his sisters’ debuts, he makes no secret of the fact that he finds her attractive, and he is not above throwing money at her to gain acquiescence. And he does.  Now, the story is setting up, so the interplay between these two would be reasonable, if there weren’t such a sense of insta-love on Esmerelda’s part, and the lack of convention that would be properly (and rightly) expected for the time.

Then just at the point of believing that nothing will happen, the sisters are introduced, and the interactions between them and with Griffin show humor and genuine fondness, as well as a touch of Griffin’s more honorable and protective side as the old scandal threatens to rear its ugly head. But still, the back and forth with our couple, combined with a rather slow development of a real regard that seemed to overtake any action or movement forward with anything: growth, the mystery, or even the events of a debut.  Contrast this rather slow pacing with the rapid increase in the rush to tie up all of the ends, some better than others, and the story was uneven, even for the setup of a new series and world.  I missed the whole ‘feel’ of a historical that Grey has done so well in stories I’ve read before, and while the humor and heart of the characters did come through, the secondary players were a bit thinly drawn, and no one seemed to really be ‘of their time’. Esmerelda was a bit too modern in outlook and approach while Griffin, while sweet, reminded me of the “when I was younger, this was how we did things”, sort of person.  Neither quite fit into the Regency era for behavior or custom, and I was hoping for more.  A decent start for readers who prefer the sweeter and less steamy historicals, particularly if they don’t mind taking the long way round to the end.

Last Night with the Duke : The Rakes of St. James #1, by Amelia Grey

Title: Last Night with the Duke
Author: Amelia Grey
Series: The Rakes of St. James #1
Genre: British, Historical Romance, Regency
Published by: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 1250102499
Published on: 7 March 2017
Format:eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 304
Audio Length: 9 Hours: 37 minutes
Rated: three-stars
Heat: Half a Flame

Get Your Copy: Amazon Barnes&Noble iTunes Kobo IndieBound Book Depository GoogleAudibleTantor Audio
See this Title on Goodreads


Could finding love be his greatest scandal of all?

The Duke of Griffin has never lived down his reputation as one of the Rakes of St. James. Now rumors are swirling that his twin sisters may bear the brunt of his past follies. Hiring a competent chaperone is the only thing Griffin has on his mind--until he meets the lovely and intriguing Miss Esmeralda Swift. In ways he could never have expected, she arouses more than just his curiosity.

Esmeralda Swift considered herself too sensible to ever fall for a scoundrel, but that was before she met the irresistibly seductive Duke of Griffin. His employment offer proves too tempting for her to resist. She can’t afford to be distracted by his devilish charms because the stakes are so high for his sisters’ debut Season. . .unless one of London’s most notorious rakes has had a change of heart and is ready to make Esmeralda his bride?

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.

Read an Excerpt

 

Don’t say in private what you don’t want to hear repeated in public.

MISS MAMIE FORTESCUE’S DO’S AND DON’TS FOR CHAPERONES, GOVERNESSES, TUTORS, AND NURSES

♦   ♦  ♦  ♦

Benedict Mercer’s impatience was beginning to grow, and it didn’t appear that the fourth Duke of Griffin’s disposition would improve, judging by the fact that there was no one in the front office when he stepped into Miss Mamie Fortescue’s Employment Agency. He removed his damp hat while noting the room was sparsely furnished with an old, inexpensive desk and a couple of chairs, but little else.

“Not even a bed of warm coals in the fireplace to take the chill off the wet day,” he grumbled to himself, holding his hat under his arm while he took off his leather gloves. Even the walls were bare of adornment, though they were littered with nails and the holes where paintings, mirrors, sconces, or something else had once hung.

That no one was in attendance at the front shouldn’t have surprised him, considering the way his luck had been running. It was bad enough hearing yesterday that rumors were swirling there might be retaliation against his sisters because of his past misdeeds, but then this morning he’d received word his aunt had taken to her sick bed and couldn’t accompany the twins for the Season. He would keep watch on them as much as possible in the evenings and make certain they didn’t fall victim to a prankster or any bachelor seeking to get even with him, but he couldn’t go to every afternoon gathering those two would want to attend.

The last thing he wanted to do for the better part of six weeks was follow his sisters around to shopping adventures, card and tea parties, and daily walks in the park. Their constant chattering, high-pitched giggles, and occasional arguments would drive him insane. He needed a chaperone for them. Preferably a strong, commanding one for those duties.

But apparently he wasn’t going to find anyone to help him with that today in this establishment.

Griffin started to turn around and walk out when he heard a woman’s voice from an inside door that was open. Someone was present after all. Good, he thought impatiently. He wanted to get this annoying business settled as quickly as possible and get on with other things he had to do. He walked toward the doorway and listened while he waited for a break in the conversation so he could announce himself.

“Clearly that’s not acceptable, Miss Pennywaite. You are a well-trained, fully capable governess and have been for the better part of a year. You should know how to handle ill-behaved children by now. What is the problem?”

Judging by the woman’s words and authoritative tone, Griffin would say she wasn’t happy with whomever she was speaking to.

“But what am I to do?” This question came from a woman who sounded on the verge of tears. “I’ve tried. He won’t obey me.”

“Then you haven’t taken control of your charge.”

“I’ve tried,” replied the timorous voice. “He refuses to listen to me and do what I say.”

“You must try harder,” came the firm answer.

Griffin eased a little closer to the doorway. The woman was not backing down. Showing no mercy to the poor soul on the receiving end of the effective lecture.

“You cannot allow a seven-year-old boy to master you, Miss Pennywaite, even if he is by all accounts the master of the house and will be an earl one day. You must take him in hand; show him you are the adult, you are the teacher. Let him know without hesitancy that he is the pupil and he will behave himself and act as a proper young man should while he is in your care or you will tie him to a chair if you must and then put him to bed without so much as a crumb of bread to eat.”

Griffin blinked at that last statement.

He heard the timid voice gasp and then sniffle before asking. “Have you done that?”

“Oh, for the love of heaven, Miss Pennywaite,” came the stronger, frustrated voice. “Of course not! Don’t look so stricken.”

Intrigued, he moved closer to the door again. Now she sounded like just the kind of woman he was looking for. He needed a passionate-talking chaperone with an eagle eye that could spot a mischief-maker a mile away. All the better if she was tall, big-boned, and wore a perpetual scowl that could scorch a man with a glance from twenty feet.

“I’ve never had to be so unkind and neither will you. You won’t actually tie him to a chair or starve him to the point of fainting, but he must believe you will by the stern look in your eyes and the unyielding tone in your voice.”

If this woman was Miss Fortescue, Griffin had come to the right place. It would take someone of this fortitude to handle his two spoiled sisters and keep them in line as well as being on the watch for gentlemen who were only out to get even with him for a wager that had left all of Polite Society and the rest of London stunned and in no mood to forgive or, it seemed, to forget.

Griffin eased to the center of the doorway and caught sight of a tall and, from what he could tell, supplely built young woman with finely molded features standing behind a desk. At first he thought she was the one getting dressed down to her unmentionables, but then she spoke and Griffin was surprised to discover she was the confident one.

“Now lift your chin and square your shoulders, Miss Pennywaite. There will be no handwringing or tears from anyone associated with this agency. You will not lose this assignment over an unruly child. You have outstanding credentials and excellent references. You are quite able for this post. I have all faith you can handle this youngster with firm diligence. But you must believe in yourself first.”

Unable to take his gaze off her, Griffin studied the woman with determined concentration. Her face was lovely. She would easily be the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, if not for her appearance. Her golden-blonde hair had been severely swept into a tight chignon at her nape and covered with a square of white lace. She wore a simple, long-sleeved high-waist dress in a dull and unbecoming shade of gray velvet. A brown woolen shawl hung loosely across her slim shoulders. He guessed her age to be near thirty yet she talked with the air and authority of one much older and wiser.

Perhaps he made a movement, a sound, or maybe she simply sensed his intense scrutiny, because he caught her attention. Something warm curled deep inside him when his gaze met hers from across the room. A flicker of shock in the depths of her eyes wasn’t lost on him. Though she hid her surprise quickly behind the bold lift of her chin, a flush of pink lightly stained her cheeks, giving proof of guilt. She was unmistakably rattled for an instant to see him standing there watching her, listening to what could only be called a strong motivational speech.

She remained silent for a moment, taking in his unflinching scrutiny as intensely as he had hers. He knew she was trying to decide if he could have possibly overheard her conversation with the other woman, and if so, how much of it.

For now he’d let her wonder. He wanted to see how or if she tried to defend her rather hard perspective on what she considered the delicate woman’s shortcomings.

Griffin watched as she inhaled a deep breath and drew on that confident strength she’d been displaying since he’d first heard her speak. She cleared her throat and in a quieter voice said, “We will continue this discussion at a later time, Miss Pennywaite. I suggest you return to your post now feeling resilient and more committed than when you left. I’m sure you’ll do just fine.”

The woman then adjusted the shawl higher on her shoulders and came around from behind her desk and walked toward him with a slow, assured stroll that allowed him time to peruse her lovely face. Her complexion was delicate and parchment pale. Her wide, golden-brown eyes were framed by fan-shaped brows and long dark lashes. She held a steady, uncensored gaze on him too.

There was a full, sensuous quality to her sweetly shaped lips. Her nose was small and nicely shaped. For the life of him, he didn’t know why, but he had a sudden desire to reach down, kiss the tip of it, and say to her, “Well done.” The corners of her beautifully formed mouth lifted slightly with a perfunctory smile, letting him know that whatever he may or may not have heard her say was not going to alter her appropriate response to him.

Her quick change in demeanor amused him, but impressed him too. He had a feeling she had no idea how much of herself she’d revealed to him in such a short time. For now, he wanted to keep that bit of information to himself.

As he watched her, he realized he was drawn to her in a way he hadn’t been attracted to a woman in a long time. A very long time. He couldn’t put his finger on what it was yet, but there was something more than just her understated beauty that beckoned him.

Griffin didn’t know who she was, but she couldn’t be Miss Mamie Fortescue. She was much too young. The employment agency had been a mainstay on the street for as long as he could remember. Perhaps she was a relative of the owner. One other thing he was certain of as she stopped a respectable distance from him and stared directly into his eyes as boldly as any man ever had—Griffin was already more than a little intrigued by her.

“May I help you, sir?” she asked as the other young woman hurried past with her head bent low and rushed out the main door without so much as a backward glance.

Oh, yes, he thought. But he said, “Possibly. I was looking for Miss Mamie Fortescue.”

She clasped her hands together in front of her and answered, “I regret having to tell you she is no longer with this agency though it still bears her name. I’m Miss Esmeralda Swift, the administrator. Perhaps I can help you, Mr.—?”

He was silent for a moment as he pushed his cloak aside and stuffed his leather gloves into the pocket of his coat. Then he answered softly, “I am Griffin.”

A flash of knowledge sparkled in her eyes and she quickly curtsied. “Your Grace, pardon me for not recognizing you. It’s not every day a duke walks into the agency.”

He’d wager on that statement.

 

About Amelia Grey

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Amelia Grey read her first romance book when she was thirteen. She’s been a devoted reader of love stories ever since.

Amelia has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over thirty-five years and she lives on the beautiful gulf coast of Northwest Florida.

She is a two-time winner of the prestigious Booksellers Best Award, and she has also won the Aspen Gold, and Golden Quill awards. Writing as Gloria Dale Skinner, she won the coveted Romantic Times Award for Love and Laughter and the Maggie Award. Amelia’s books have been published in Europe, Indonesia, Turkey, Russia, and Japan. Several of her books have been featured in Doubleday and Rhapsody Book Clubs.

The Duke In My Bed and The Earl Claims A Bride were Amelia’s first two books in the widely acclaimed “The Heirs’ Club of Scoundrels” trilogy. The third book Wedding Night With the Earl is coming in March 2016.

You can email Amelia at AmeliaGrey@comcast.net.

 

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge