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A Most Unlikely Duke: Diamonds in the Rough #1 by Sophie Barnes

A Most Unlikely Duke: Diamonds in the Rough #1 by Sophie Barnes

Sophie Barnes is on the blog today with the first in her new Diamonds in the Rough historic romance series. Please read on for my review and excerpt, check out the tour stops to see what others thought of the story, and don’t forget to enter the tour-wide giveaway where you could win a print copy of A MOST UNLIKELY DUKE (U.S. Only).

A Most Unlikely Duke

Each new book I read from Sophie Barnes just gets better and better, when you take an impoverished heir to a dukedom who has struggled to provide for himself and his sister, and avoid the tonne at all costs. Ralphe took his sisters’ welfare into his own hands after his parent’s death. He’s been fighting as a bare-knuckle boxer and while he doesn’t love the life, he’s able to keep a roof over their heads, feed them and keep them reasonably safe. He’s been managing to care for everyone since the age of eight – and while his life has been hard, the tragedy of losing one of his sisters eats at him daily – spurring him onward. Now he’s been sought out and handed the title that was due him – although he wants little to do with it. Fortunately, although the money is tight, the title does come with a home, and one that they move right into.

Gabriella is the sister who must make a match to quiet the gossips after her sister absconded with “the wrong sort of man”. Browbeaten into encouraging the ‘proper’ sort of man, her first introduction to Ralphe is when he and his sister are mistaken for the help entering a Duke’s home improperly. While Gabriella notes the sister’s sweetness and Ralphe’s obvious protective nature toward them, her companion (and her mother’s choice for her husband) is aggressively rude, and directly contrasts with her quieter nature. When her mother insists that they pay a call on the “new” Duke, Gabriella is intrigued by the story behind the sudden inheritance, and finds his sisters will need her help to avoid the worst of society’s censure.

So perfectly lovely –as Gabriella quietly and secretly helps Ralphe’s sisters, giving them ‘lessons in being a lady”, she learns of Ralphe’s story: his protective nature, his willingness to do everything for his sisters to kep them safe and she is drawn to his nature, despite her mother’s wishes. And for Ralphe: not wanting the title, not being comfortable in society, and having committed to a situation that could, now with the title, bring down the world on their heads: a situation he’s willing to endure. Together the two of them show just how perfectly suited and matched they are: with Gabriella’s belief in him he is willing to take on all comers to grasp for a dream he never thought possible. Wonderful characters, great development and solid situations that range from tragic to merely difficult, the story is a wonderful introduction to this couple and a new series.

A Most Unlikely Duke: Diamonds in the Rough #1 by Sophie Barnes

Title: A Most Unlikely Duke
Author: Sophie Barnes
Series: Diamonds in the Rough #1
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency, Setting: Britain
Published by: Avon
ISBN: 0062566814
Published on: 27 June, 2017
Format:eARC
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Pages: 384
Rated: four-stars
Heat: One FlameOne FlameOne Flame

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About the Book:


He never thought he'd become a duke, or that the secrets of his past would cost him his greatest love...

 

Raphe Matthews hasn’t stepped foot in polite circles since a tragedy left his once-noble family impoverished and in debt. The bare-knuckle boxer has spent the last fifteen years eking out an existence for himself and his two sisters. But when a stunning reversal of fortune lands Raphe the title of Duke of Huntley, he’s determined to make a go of becoming a proper lord, but he’ll need a little help, and his captivating neighbor might be just the woman for the job…

 

After her sister’s scandalous match, Lady Gabriella knows the ton’s eyes are on her. Agreeing to tutor the brutish new duke can only lead to ruin. Although she tries to control her irresistible attraction to Raphe, every day she spends with him only deepens her realization that this may be the one man she cannot do without. And as scandal threatens to envelop them both, she must decide if she can risk everything for love with a most unlikely duke.

 

“Ye fought well today, lad,” a man’s voice suddenly spoke from directly behind him.

Bristling, Raphe set down his beer on the counter and turned to face his handler, whose attire—a purple velvet jacket and matching top hat—lent an air of flamboyance unmatched by anyone else. And yet, in spite of the fine attire, there was nothing cultured about this man, a scoundrel who’d gained his wealth through illicit deals and by taking advantage of others. His origins were questionable, but rumor had it he’d killed more than once in pursuit of power.

Raphe didn’t know what to believe. All he knew was that in spite of his own prejudices, crime in St. Giles had decreased since Carlton Guthrie’s arrival eighteen years earlier. Or so he’d been told.

“Mr. Guthrie. Good to see ye.” A blatant lie, if ever there was one.

Guthrie’s moustache twitched. “Likewise.” He sounded jovial, but only a fool would mistake that for kindness. Least of all when his henchman, a scarred boulder of a Scotsman by the name of MacNeil, stood at his right shoulder. Guthrie nodded toward Ben, who returned the salutation.

“Come. Share a drink with me,” Guthrie said, addressing Raphe. “We’ve much to discuss, you ‘n I.”

“And Thompson?” Raphe asked, not wanting to abandon his friend.

“I’m sure he’ll be willin’ to wait for ye till ye get back.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a gold coin and dropped it in front of Ben. “For yer trouble. What I ‘ave to say to Matthews ‘ere doesn’t concern ye. Understand?”

Raphe glared at Guthrie for a moment before

looking at Ben. “I’m sorry. I—”

“No worries,” Ben said, pocketing the coin that would keep his family fed for the next few days. “I’ll see ye tomorrow at work, aye?”

Nodding, Raphe watched him go.

“Well?” Guthrie’s voice drew Raphe’s attention back to him. “ ‘Ow about that drink then?” Eyeing first Guthrie and then MacNeil, Raphe gave a curt nod. “By all means.”

Guthrie’s eyes sparkled. “Excellent.” His lips stretched into a smile. “Follow me.” Turning away, he led Raphe through the taproom, where tobacco smoke mingled with the smell of roasting meat and beer. Dice rolled across one table in a game of hazard. A hand touched his thigh, inappropriately stroking upward until he pushed it away.

“No’ in the mood, luv?” the woman to whom it belonged asked. She was sitting down, her legs spread across the lap of a man who was busily burying his face between her half-exposed breasts. Pitying the life she’d been dealt, he told her gently,

“I’ve not the time.”

“La’er then?” she called as he strode away, not answering her question. Blessedly, his sisters had managed to avoid such a fate.

“ ‘Ave a seat,” Guthrie said moments later as they stepped inside a private room at the end of a hallway. It was sparsely furnished, with just a plain wooden table and four chairs. On top of the table stood a pitcher and a couple of mugs. “Some ale for me champion?” Guthrie asked, indicating the pitcher. Grabbing a chair, Raphe dropped down onto it and poured himself a drink, while Guthrie claimed the other chair with more finesse. “Will ye ‘ave some?” Raphe asked, indicating the same pitcher. Guthrie beamed. “Don’t mind if I do.” He waited for Raphe to pour before reaching for the mug and raising it. “To yer victory today.”

“To me victory,” Raphe muttered, downing the bitter resentment he felt with a brew to match.

“I’ve ‘igh ‘opes for ye,” Guthrie said, tapping a finger against his nose. “Unbeaten for the fifteenth time. That’s unprecedented, tha’ is.” Raphe saw the spark that lit his eyes, like the

promise of treasure or some such thing. “Wha’ do ye want, Guthrie?”

“So cynical, Matthews.” Guthrie’s upper lip drew back, revealing his teeth. “Must a man always want some’in? Can’t ‘e simply enjoy a drink wi’ an old friend?”

Old friend?

Hardly.

“Not when ‘e’s got ’im by the bollocks.” Guthrie’s mouth tightened, his eyes darkening just enough to offer a glimpse of his true nature. “Is tha’ ‘ow ye see our relationship, laddy?”

His demeaning tone made Raphe’s muscles flex. He glanced at MacNeil, who stood by the door, running his thumb along the edge of a wicked blade, and was instantly reminded of the punishment he’d suffered the one time when he’d been foolish enough to try and thwart Guthrie’s wishes. Shoulders tensing, Raphe returned his gaze to the man who owned him.

“ ‘Ow else should I see it? I’m yer puppet, ain’t I?” Guthrie nodded. “Aye, but ye’re me favorite one. Which is why I’d like to offer ye a deal.”

Raphe stiffened. “What sor’ of deal?”

“The sor’ that could set ye free, laddy.” A tempting notion, but surely too good to be true.

Still, he couldn’t help but ask. “What do ye have in mind?”

Leaning forward, Guthrie placed his elbows on the table, the fingers of his right hand reaching up to stroke his chin. “Ye see, there’s goin’ to be an opportunity soon—a grand one, at that.”

Raphe crossed his arms. “Ye don’t say.”

The corner of Guthrie’s eye flinched. “No need to get cocky, now.” Snapping his fingers, he drew MacNeil closer. “Give the laddy ‘is earnin’s.” There was a pause, and then a pouch dropped onto the table with a jangling thump. “Naturally, we’ve kept our share.”

A fat 90 percent.

“Naturally,” Raphe echoed. He didn’t bother to hide his displeasure.

“But . . .” Guthrie took another sip of his ale.

“Word ‘as it, the Bull will be comin’ to town in a month or so.” Raphe straightened in his chair, while Guthrie wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, removing a line of foam. “If ye figh’ ’im and ye win, ye’ll be debt-free. The winnings are gonna be that huge.”

Raphe didn’t doubt it. The Bull was, after all, the bare-knuckle boxing world champion—undefeated since beating Tobias Flannigan several years earlier.

Since then, he’d crippled several of his opponents. The man was a legend. “I’ll do it,” Raphe said without blinking.

“But if ye lose . . .”

“I won’t,” Raphe assured him.

“But if ye do . . .”

Grabbing the pouch that still sat on the table, Raphe pocketed his money. “I know the risk, Guthrie, an’ I’m willin’ to take it.”

 

About Sophie Barnes

Born in Denmark, Sophie Barnes spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She’s lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish and Romanian.

She has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor’s degree from Parson’s School of design, but most impressive of all – she’s been married to the same man three times, in three different countries and in three different dresses.

While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion – writing.

When she’s not busy, dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading. She currently lives on the East Coast.

 

 

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Sophie Barnes
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Thank you for hosting!

Allisia with Tasty Book Tours
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Thank you so much for hosting your review!

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