I was anxious to read the second book in Sabrina Jeffries’s latest series, The Duke’s Men–but came away with mixed feelings…
Victor Cale never imagined that his sweet, shy bride, Isabella, would use her talents for creating exquisite imitation jewels criminally. But there’s no denying that her handiwork was used in the theft of the Dutch royal diamonds– right after Isa disappeared into the night.
Ten years later, Victor is sent to Edinburgh to investigate a wealthy baron’s mysterious bride-to-be… who turns out to be Isa, masquerading as an alluring widow. No longer the meek girl he once knew, Isa boldly asserts that it was Victor who abandoned her, after he helped steal the royal diamonds!
Piecing together the truth of the past reawakens their volatile passions, which burns hotter than ever. But with a decade of secrets between them, Victor and Isa must trust each other to bring the real thieves to justice– without getting burned themselves.
A good story, but definitely not my favorite from this author. The two main characters took way too long to be honest with each other–their initial hesitation made sense, but after a while it got to be ridiculous, especially since they both got hugely upset when they found out the other one was hiding something from them. (Hello? Pot? Kettle? You’re equal in your blackness, so get over it already!) Other than that, Victor and Isa/Sofie were likable characters overall.
Ultimately, the last third or so redeemed the book for me. At one point I was afraid they were reverting back to their old ways, but they proved me wrong so nothing got tossed across the room (I was listening on audio, so book tossing would have involved earbuds being ripped out of my ears. I was very glad to have my fears proven wrong, believe me!) The ending is immensely satisfying, and helped me to get over much of my frustration with the book.
Some of the secondary characters’ immense likability helps matters as well–Amalie, their daughter, is charming; Rupert and Mary Grace’s secondary romance is adorable; and Sofie’s business partner Mr. Gordon is an all-around great guy. Tristan and Dominick, the brothers who run Manton Investigations, are as entertaining as ever, and I cannot wait until they have their own books.
The science too was interesting, both of Sofie’s artificial gems and Rupert’s studies. I didn’t quite “get” it all, but it sounded impressive. 😉 Ms. Jeffries’s afterword showed that she had clearly done her research in that arena.
Part of my dissatisfaction with this novel stemmed from the audio performance–I couldn’t stand the voice the narrator used for Isa/Sofie. It always sounded as if she had a mouthful of marbles when she spoke, and it was distracting. Perhaps if I’d have read it instead of listening, I would have rated it higher.
So far the first book in the series is still my favorite. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this one was a disappointment, it just didn’t quite live up to the standards of book one. Hopefully the next offering from The Duke’s Men will be more consistent in its execution.