The Illegitimate Duke
by Sophie Barnes
Series: Diamonds in the Rough
Genre: Adult Historical Romance
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: August 28, 2018
United in a common cause…
Lady Juliette Matthews longs to be much more than just another pretty ornament in society. But using her recently acquired fortune to do some good is more complicated than she anticipated. Young ladies are not expected to risk their safety in helping the less fortunate. And the one gentleman who could help in her mission is stubborn, infernally handsome—and far too honorable to act on their mutual attraction.
And in a desire impossible to deny…
Florian Lowell has suddenly been made heir to the Duke of Redding—a far cry from his status as a dedicated physician. Yet even with his new role as the country’s most eligible bachelor, the beautiful, fearless Juliette is utterly beyond his reach. The scandalous circumstances of his birth would destroy both their reputations if they became known. But when a more urgent danger threatens Juliette’s life, Florian must gamble everything…including the heart only one woman can tame.
“—I mean, to think we could be so lucky is almost too much,” one of the women on the other side of the screen was saying. “Our debuts looked positively dismal with no chance to snatch up a duke.”
“Until now, that is,” the other woman said in a dreamy voice that made Juliette roll her eyes. She glanced at Vivien and had to force down a laugh.
“Can you believe our good fortune?” the first woman said.
“Well, he’s not a duke yet. Is he?”
Juliette straightened and tilted her head. They were obviously talking about Florian Lowell, the physician Raphe had sent for when she’d been sick with the measles the previous year. News of his recent change in status had been the subject of great discussion at Huntley House the previous evening when Raphe had returned home with the announcement.
Juliette still wasn’t sure she understood how the title or the inheritance had come about, but it did look as though Florian would one day outrank his older brother, Mr. Lowell, who was set to become Viscount Armswell one day.
“Either way, I could easily get used to the idea of marrying Florian,” one of the women was saying. “He’s ever so handsome.”
Both women burst into giggles. Muted whispers followed and then the sound of the door opening and closing plunged the room into silence. Juliette looked at Vivien and grinned. “Well, I wish them luck. In truth I don’t believe I’ve ever met a man more unapproachable than Florian.”
“He does look rather starched,” Vivien muttered. She stood and adjusted her gown. “Mind you, I’ve only seen him once or twice, so I could be wrong.”
“No. I don’t believe you are. In fact, my impression of him is not much different. He’s an excellent physician who seems to take his work very seriously. One cannot fault him for that, though I do wonder what it might be like to see him smile.”
“Do you now?” Vivien asked with a smirk as the two returned to the hallway and started making their way back toward the ballroom.
Juliette nudged her friend with her shoulder. “Oh, you know what I mean, Viv!”
“All I know is that you wondering what it might be like to see him smile will likely pester you until you find a way to make it happen.” They entered the ballroom. “Of all the people I have ever known, none are as determined as you when you set your mind to something.”
“Well I—” A wave of chatter cut Juliette’s thought process short. She glanced around, aware of the agitation rolling through the ballroom like tremors threatening to toss all the guests up into the air. “What on earth is going on?”
“Look,” someone said as Juliette pushed her way between a few people, pulling Vivien along by her hand.
“There he is,” another voice muttered.
Shouldering her way past a cluster of women who craned their heads and stared toward the ballroom entrance, Juliette caught a sudden and very unexpected glimpse of the man she and Vivien had just been discussing.
Her breath caught and her heart slammed hard against her chest. Because there he was and dear God if he didn’t look superb! Dressed in evening black, his copper streaked hair was neatly combed, though a single stray lock slashed roguishly across his brow. She’d never seen him like this before. The last time they’d met at a ball he’d been wearing an unremarkable suit cut from brown wool, if memory served. Now, however, he looked like the dukely title would fit him as well as the perfectly tailored jacket and trousers he wore. They seemed to accentuate his masculine physique in a way she’d never considered. It was almost as if his shoulders were broader, his build a little taller and . . .
Juliette blinked. No. She would not be like all the other silly girls swarming toward him and vying for his attention. He was just a man, after all, even if he was capable of saving the sick and putting a broken body back together again, which was admittedly something to be admired. But that didn’t mean she would ever be able to look past his stern demeanor or want anything from him besides medical advice and possibly friendship.
And yet, while she thought of all this, Florian’s head turned in her direction and his gaze locked with hers. The moment was fleeting, no more than a second perhaps, but it was exactly the right length of time required for Juliette’s pulse to leap and for an unfamiliar flutter to fill her stomach.
She sucked in a breath and deliberately turned away. Fresh air was what she needed, that was all. The stuffy heat in the ballroom had obviously affected her senses. So with this in mind, she maneuvered her way toward the French doors and slipped out onto the terrace, breathing a sigh of relief as the cool night air cleared her head.
The Diamonds in the Rough series continues! (And it will go on, even though Julie is the last Matthews sibling–Florian’s brother’s story is next! Yay!)
The Illegitimate Duke is another slow burn romance, much like the two series books that came before it. Juliette isn’t at all sure she even likes Florian, though she has a lot of respect for his capabilities as a doctor and his dedication to his patients. Since she was sickly as a child (and especially after their youngest sibling died from illness) she’s always been very conscious of the help that those less fortunate need, especially medically. A bout with the measles and her desire to make a difference throw her right into Florian’s path, and at first neither of them is too sure they appreciate the encounter. (Which of course made them that much more fun!)
But Florian has his own secrets–and the biggest is related to the suspense plot from the previous book ( The Duke of Her Desire ; yep, he’s back)–which again felt a bit extra. I don’t know that we needed to see the scenes from the villain’s POV–it really didn’t make him feel like a more fleshed out character; he still seemed to be of the mustache-twirling variety–honestly there was enough going on with the typhus outbreak and all, the danger to London as a whole and Julie’s best friend in particular.
But still…I enjoyed seeing who Julie ended up with and how, what was going on with the first two books’ characters, and the sneak peak into the next book. The Illegitimate Duke is the third book in the series, though other than not knowing the relationships going in (who Julie’s siblings are and whom they’re married to, mostly–they do get explained early on) you should do just fine if you pick this one up first. I can’t guarantee you won’t want more details about how a destitute eight-year-old responsible for the welfare of his three younger sisters came to be a duke later in life, though–be ready for your TBR pile to grow!
Rating: 4 stars / B
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
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. But, most impressive of all, she’s been married to the same man three times-in three different countries and in three different dresses. 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. Visit Sophie Barnes at www.SophieBarnes.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter (@BarnesSophie).
Tour Wide Giveaway!
To celebrate the release of THE ILLEGITIMATE DUKE by Sophie Barnes, we’re giving away a paperback bundle of The Most Unlikely Duke & The Duke of Her Desire!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback bundle of A Most Unlikely Duke and The Duke of Her Desire by Sophie Barnes. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 9/7/2018 @ 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!