To Love a Duchess
by Karen Ranney
Series: All For Love Series
Genre: Adult Historical Romance
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: July 30, 2018
From New York Times Bestselling Author Karen Ranney comes the first book in a royally romantic and deeply emotional new series about taking risks and allowing the power to love satisfy the questions of the heart . . .
Undercover as a majordomo, spy Adam Drummond has infiltrated Marsley House with one purpose only—to plunder its mysteries and gather proof that the late Duke of Marsley was an unforgivable traitor to his country. At the same time, Adam is drawn to a more beguiling puzzle: the young and still-grieving duchess—a beauty with impenetrable secrets of her own. For Drummond, uncovering them without exposing his masquerade will require the most challenging and tender moves of his career.
That a servant can arouse such passion in her is too shocking for Suzanne Whitcomb, Duchess of Marsley, to consider. Yet nothing quickens her pulse like Drummond’s touch. It’s been two years since the duke lost his life in a tragic accident—and even longer since she’s been treated like a woman. But when Drummond’s real mission is revealed, and the truth behind Suzanne’s grief comes to light, every secret conspired to tear them apart is nothing compared to the love that can hold them together.
He felt the duke’s stare on him the minute he walked into the room. Adam Drummond closed the double doors behind him quietly so as not to alert the men at the front door. Tonight Thomas was training one of the young lads new to the house. If they were alerted to his presence in the library they would investigate. He had a story prepared for that eventuality. He couldn’t sleep, which wasn’t far from the truth. Nightmares often kept him from resting more than a few hours at a time. A good thing he had years of practice getting by with little sleep. He’d left his suite attired only in a collarless white shirt and black trousers. Another fact for which he’d have to find an explanation. As the majordomo of Marsley House he was expected to wear the full uniform of his position at all times, even in the middle of the night. Perhaps not donning the white waistcoat, cravat, and coat was an act of rebellion. Strange, since he’d never been a rebel before. It was this place, this house, this assignment that was affecting him. For the first time in seven years he hadn’t borrowed a name or a history carefully concocted by the War Office. He’d taken the position as himself, Adam Drummond, Scot and former soldier with Her Majesty’s army. The staff knew his real name. Some even knew parts of his true history. The housekeeper called him Adam, knew he was a widower, was even aware of his birthdate. He felt exposed, an uncomfortable position for a man who’d worked in the shadows for years. He lit one of the lamps hanging from a chain fixed to the ceiling. The oil was perfumed, the scent reminiscent of jasmine. The world of the Whitcombs was unique, separated from the proletariat by two things: the peerage and wealth. The pale yellow light revealed only the area near the desk. The rest of the huge room was in shadow.
The library was ostentatious, a word he’d heard one of the maids try to pronounce. “And what does it mean, I’m asking you?” She’d been talking to one of the cook’s helpers, but he’d interjected. “It means fancy.” She’d made a face before saying, “Well, why couldn’t they just say fancy, then?”
Because everything about Marsley House was ostentatious. This library certainly qualified. The room had three floors connected by a circular black iron staircase. The third floor was slightly larger than the second, making it possible for a dozen lamps to hang from chains affixed to each level at different heights.
If he’d lit them all it would have been bright as day in here, illuminating thousands of books.
He didn’t think the Whitcomb family had read every one of the volumes. Some of them looked as if they were new, the dark green leather and gold spines no doubt as shiny as when they’d arrived from the booksellers. Others were so well worn that he couldn’t tell what the titles were until he pulled them from the shelves and opened them. There were a great many books on military history and he suspected that was the late duke’s doing. He turned to look at the portrait over the mantel. George Whitcomb, Tenth Duke of Marsley, was wearing his full military uniform, the scarlet jacket so bright a shade that Adam’s eyes almost watered. The duke’s medals gleamed as if the sun had come out from behind the artist’s window to shine directly on such an exalted personage. He wore a sword tied at his waist and his head was turned slightly to the right, his gaze one that Adam remembered. Contempt shone in his eyes, as if everything the duke witnessed was beneath him, be it people, circumstances, or the scenery of India. Adam was surprised that the man had allowed himself to be painted with graying hair. Even his mutton chop whiskers were gray and brown. In India, Whitcomb had three native servants whose sole duties were to ensure the duke’s sartorial perfection at all times. He was clipped and coiffed and brushed and shined so that he could parade before his men as the ultimate authority of British might.
His eyes burned out from the portrait, so dark brown that they appeared almost black, narrowed and penetrating. “Damn fine soldiers, every single one of them. All mongrels, of course, but fighting men.”
At least the voice—surprisingly higher in pitch than Adam had expected—was silent now. He didn’t have to hear himself being called a mongrel again. Whitcomb had been talking about the British regiments
assigned to guard the East India Company settlements. He could well imagine the man’s comments about native soldiers. What a damned shame Whitcomb had been killed in a carriage accident. He deserved a firing squad at the very least. He wished the duke to Hell as he had ever since learning of the man’s death. The approaching storm with its growling thunder seemed to approve of the sentiment. As if to further remind him of India, his shoulder began to throb. Every time it rained the scar announced its presence, the bullet wound just one more memory to be expunged. It was this house. It brought to mind everything he’d tried to forget for years. Adam turned away from the portrait, his attention on the massive, heavily tooled mahogany desk. This, too, was larger than it needed to be, raised on a dais, more a throne than a place a man might work. A perfect reflection of the Duke of Marsley’s arrogance. The maids assigned this room had left the curtains open. If he had been a proper majordomo he would no doubt chastise them for their oversight. But because he’d been a leader of men, not of maids, he decided not to mention it.
Lightning flashed nearby, the strike followed by another shot of thunder. The glass shivered in the mullioned panes. Maybe the duke’s ghost was annoyed that he was here in the library again.
The careening of the wind around this portion of Marsley House sounded almost like a warning.
Adam disregarded it as he glanced up to the third floor. He would have to be looking for a journal. That was tantamount to searching for a piece of coal in a mine or a grain of sand on the beach.
This assignment had been difficult from the beginning. He’d been tasked to find evidence of the duke’s treason. While he believed the man to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people, finding the proof had been time consuming and unsuccessful to this point. He wasn’t going to give up, however. This was more than an assignment for him. It was personal. One of the double doors opened, startling him.
“Sir?” Daniel, the newest footman, stood there. The lad was tall, as were all of the young men hired at Marsley House. His shock of red hair was accompanied by a splattering of freckles across his face, almost as if God had wielded a can of paint and tripped when approaching Daniel. His eyes were a clear blue and direct as only the innocent could look. Adam always felt old and damaged in Daniel’s presence.
“Is there anything I can do for you, sir?” the young footman asked.
“I’ve come to find something to read.” There, as an excuse it should bear scrutiny. He could always claim that he was about to examine the Marsley House ledgers, even though he normally performed that task
in his own suite. “Yes, sir.”
“I think we had a prowler the other night,” Adam said, improvising. “One of the maids mentioned her concern.”
Daniel was a good lad, the kind who wouldn’t question a direct order. “I’d like you to watch the outer door to the Tudor garden.”
“Yes, sir,” Daniel said, nodding.
“Tell Thomas that I need you there.”
“Yes, sir,” the young man said again, still nodding. Once he, too, had been new to a position. In his case, Her Majesty’s army. Yet he’d never been as innocent as Daniel. Still, he remembered feeling uncertain and worried in those first few months, concerned that he wasn’t as competent at his tasks as he should be. For that reason he stopped the young man before he left the library.
“I’ve heard good reports about you, Daniel.”
The young man’s face reddened. “Thank you, sir.”
“I think you’ll fit in well at Marsley House.”
“Thank you, Mr. Drummond.”
A moment later Daniel was gone, the door closed once again. Adam watched for a minute before turning and staring up at the third floor. The assignment he’d been given was to find one particular journal. Unfortunately, that was proving to be more difficult than originally thought. The Duke of Marsley had written in a journal since he was a boy. The result was that there were hundreds of books Adam needed to read.
After climbing the circular stairs, he grabbed the next two journals to be examined and brought them back to the first floor. He doubted if the duke would approve of him sitting at his desk, which was why Adam did so, opening the cover of one of the journals and forcing himself to concentrate on the duke’s overly ornate handwriting. He didn’t look over at the portrait again, but it still seemed as if the duke watched as he read. At first Adam thought it was the sound of the storm before realizing that thunder didn’t speak in a female voice. He stood and extinguished the lamp, but the darkness wasn’t absolute. The lightning sent bright flashes of light into the library.
A new series from Karen Ranney–woot!
I loved Suzanne and Adam’s story. It went in many directions I wasn’t really expecting, which made reading it feel anything but ordinary. I spent a lot of the book not knowing things–why was Suzanne so sad? What was that tonic she was drinking, and who wanted her to drink it (and why)? Was Adam going after the right culprit as he searched for evidence of a traitor? Was he truly working for the good guys? Were there good guys?
Overall. the story had a much darker feel than I was expecting, and for much of the book I wasn’t sure what to make of that. But the characters of Suzanne and Adam drew me in to their lives, and before I knew it I was 100% invested. I don’t know a thing yet about the next book in the series other than the title ( To Wed an Heiress ), but you’d better believe it was on my TBR as soon as I knew it existed!
Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
About Karen Ranney:
KAREN RANNEY began writing when she was five. Her first published work was The Maple Leaf, read over the school intercom when she was in the first grade. In addition to wanting to be a violinist (her parents had a special violin crafted for her when she was seven), she wanted to be a lawyer, a teacher, and most of all, a writer. Though the violin was discarded early, she still admits to a fascination with the law, and she volunteers as a teacher whenever needed. Writing, however, has remained an overwhelming love of her life.
Tour Wide Giveaway!
To celebrate the release of TO LOVE A DUCHESS by Karen Ranney, we’re giving away two paperback copies of THE TEXAN DUKE!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. Two winners will each receive a paperback copy of the The Texan Duke by Karen Ranney. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 8/11/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!