This review was written with the help of Mrs. Julien’s romance review template ™.
When the Duke was Wicked is a romance of the “friends to lovers” variety. The hero and heroine have known each other since they were young, as their families are very close. The heroine and the hero’s younger sisters are BFFs. The hero grieves for his dead wife and had determined that he will never love another. The heroine believes she can get the hero to re-join polite society by asking for his advice to avoid fortune hunters. Hijinks ensue. The couple move forward together, secure in their love and commitment.
A historical romance set in Victorian London, When the Duke was Wicked is the thirteenth book I’ve read by Lorraine Heath. I generally find Ms. Heath’s work to be entertaining, if only occasionally really good, but this was not one of her more memorable books. It was, however, acquired in an e-book sale for not very much money and allowed me to see how Grace, the best friend of Miranda from Falling Into Bed with a Duke and Lovingdon, Miranda’s half-brother actually got together. As they are frequently occurring supporting characters in that book, I wanted to see how they arrived at their HEA. I found When the Duke was Wicked rather uninspiring, but while it was a bit of a dud, I will no doubt continue reading Ms. Heath’s books (especially if I find them on sale) because every so often she produces a real gem. I would not recommend you start with this particular effort, however.
As I said above, the plot is a variety of the friends to lovers trope. Henry Stanford, the Duke of Lovingdon was everything that was dutiful and respectable until his wife and young daughter died. Blaming himself for the illness they contracted, and for the lie he told his wife on his deathbed (that he would keep them safe), he became consumed with grief and threw himself into debauchery and becoming a rake of the first order in an attempt to forget his formerly happy family life. He is handsome (of course), stubborn and rather single-minded. I found Lovingdon the biggest detriment to my enjoyment of this book, as he frustrated me immensely with his continued wallowing and his vow never to love another. There are many ways to love, dude! You can love your relatives, friends and spouse in different ways. Also, she died years ago. Get over yourself!
Lady Grace Mabry is lucky enough to have a huge dowry, but is worried that only cads and fortune hunters will be interested in her. She is clever, rather sneaky and convinced she can save Lovingdon from himself. Not entirely sure what she sees in him. She gets points for showing up at Lovingdon’s town house and not blinking an eye when he opens the door while in the nude. She forces him to review all her suitors to give her advice on who’s trying to dupe her. To do this, he has to show up at a number of society functions. She tells herself she is completely over her childhood crush on him (she was heartbroken when he married, even though she was a teen and he was a fair few years older than her), which is clearly not true. He doesn’t think any of the men vying for her hand are good enough (he’s not wrong) and gets crazy jealous at the thought of any of them touching her. If only his heart wasn’t dead and buried along with his poor wife. Le sigh.
MINOR SPOILER! Once Grace is kidnapped by one of her suitors, Lovingdon comes to his senses and realises his true feelings for her. Will he be able to tell her before it’s too late?
I forget if there are any significant subplots in the book. Some time is spent with the character Drake Darling, Grace’s foster brother, who runs a gambling club. He’s the hero of Once More, My Darling Rogue, a book which I refuse to read because Victorian Overboard is not a thing I will put myself through. You can read Mrs. Julien’s review here, though.
While this book should have had Grace ending up with someone more awesome, I don’t regret buying it for the price I paid. Anyone looking for really good Heath novels can check out Lord of Wicked Intentions, The Duke and the Lady in Red or her most recent release, Falling Into Bed with a Duke.
Crossposted on my blog.