This is the first book in a new series by Madeline Hunter, the Decadent Dukes Society, and it’s definitely a slow burn romance. It took me awhile to get into the story, but once I did I began to enjoy the relationship building that was a change from insta-lust that so often occurs. There’s also some drama of long standing family rivalries to deal with, and the mystery of the hero’s father’s death to be resolved.
Adam Penrose, Duke of Stratton, is recently returned from France where he and his mother exiled themselves after his father’s death. While in France, he became involved in a few duels over his father’s honor and earned the “Dangerous Duke” nickname. Now he hopes to uncover the truth of what happened to his father, and suspects that the also recently deceased Earl of Marwood may have had a hand in it. There had been bad blood between two families for some time, so he’s rather taken aback when the Dowager Countess of Marwood, grandmother to the current Earl, invites him for a visit. It turns out that she is scheming to marry her youngest grandchild to Stratton to bury the hatchet, and protect the current Earl from any revenge Stratton may be plotting. Emilia Cheswick is only 16, and while very pretty and sweet, isn’t the kind of woman Stratton is looking for.
Clara Cheswick, half-sister to Emilia, is 24 and firmly on the shelf, where she is quite content. Her father left her a sizeable inheritance, and she doesn’t want to marry and give up any of her estate or independence. She publishes a magazine written for and by women, and intends to continue on with her life alone. The rest of her family consider her rather odd and unmarriageable anyway, so they’re surprised when Stratton begins to pay more attention to Clara than Emilia. He admires the very personality traits they find strange, and sets out to court her despite her initial refusal.
Still, the sparks fly between the two of them, and their relationship slowly begins to evolve. They are well matched in their intelligence and wit, clearly enjoying their time together despite her feeling that he can’t be serious about wedding her. The intimacy between them is genuine, but things still move along slowly as their feelings grow along with the unravelling of what happened to his father. This is not to say there’s no steaminess, because there is!
Stratton’s two friends, Brentworth and Langford, are both enjoyable in this book as well. Their friendship was well written, and the two men will have their own stories in subsequent books that I’m looking forward to. Overall, I enjoyed the romance and the suspense, the sensual tension and the believable actions of both Clara and Stratton.