Book #1 of The Devil's Duke
Lady Constance Read is independent, beautiful, and in need of a husband—now. The last man on earth she wants is the rogue who broke her heart six years ago, never mind that his kisses are scorching hot . . .
Evan Saint-André Sterling is rich, scarred, and finished with women—forever. He's not about to lose his head over the bewitching beauty who once turned his life upside down.
But Constance needs a warrior, and Saint is the perfect man for the job. Only as a married woman can she penetrate Scotland's most notorious secret society and bring a diabolical duke to justice. When Constance and Saint become allies—and passionate lovers—he'll risk everything to protect the only woman he has ever loved.
Ashe's launch of the Devil's Duke series smolders with early 19th-century swordplay, a secret society practicing dark arts, and long-suffering lovers. A tastefully provocative prologue has Lady Constance Read, a lonely 18-year-old, and Frederick Evan "Saint" Sterling, untitled and therefore unsuitable, brazenly flirting in a darkened corridor of an English estate. Six years pass before they reunite in Scotland, when Saint is hired to tutor Constance in swordsmanship; older, wiser, and still smitten, they pick up right where they left off, but life has scarred them both, leading to complications and trust issues. Meanwhile, a mystery involving missing girls, ostensibly at the hands of a demented duke, has captivated all of society, and Constance, as an agent of the Falcon Club (the mystery-solving group from Ashe's Falcon Club series), enlists Saint to help spy on the aristocracy. A dramatic ending involving kidnappings, torture, and ritualistic elements is gripping and leaves readers something to ponder for sequels.
you just know that these two are destined for together
I have to preface by stating that I’ve never met a book from Katharine Ashe that I didn’t like, and while some took longer for me to lose myself in her world, I’ve also never found it difficult to grasp the basics in the backstory that gives depth to her characters. As this is the first in a new, yet contains characters from another series, this ability to use the information Ashe provides to sort everyone on their shelves was useful.
I enjoyed both Saint and Constance, for very different reasons. Saint was that solidly male, chivalrous and honorable to a fault protective of all things in his purview character: complex, layered and just stubborn enough to not realize that his happiness is there – waiting. A man of few words, he’s not broody in that emo way that makes you want to reach out and smack him, but the moments hide a brain in which ALL the wheels are turning, as he fights with his demons, mostly self-created. On the other hand, Constance is bold and daring, her confidence is often undermined by the position she must take in society. Using her looks and brains to full effect, this member of The Falcon Club is also far more complex than anyone would initially expect.
With a mystery surrounding a secret society and some missing young women, the plot tension is off the charts: Constance’s focus is split between her concern for the mystery and her increasing desire for Saint, still, and her inability to ignore it or the reasons that have her hesitating. She feels deeply, and as old wounds poke their tendrils of insecurities and doubt into her head and heart, the tension from the will they or won’t they felt brittle and ready to shatter. Saint is not immune to Constance or his desire for her, six years have passed and neither one has truly forgotten, or recovered, from the feelings and desires awakened then. Every look, every interaction between them sparkles and sparks with the tension between them – and when they FINALLY take a chance to quench the thirst…. Grab a cold drink. You’ll need it. Steamy and seductive, the words they don’t say are written ALL over their moments together. Chemistry that is atomic in intensity, you just know that these two are destined for together. Well, if they can get over their own stumbling blocks.
A wonderful story that did, in fact, fill in many of the holes I had from not reading earlier titles in the Falcon’s Club series, although I will be rushing out to get that series onto my shelf. Another finely written story from Ashe, providing a mystery that could stand as a story alone, but heightens and fuels Saint’s protective nature, pushing him and Constance together until they both realize the inevitable.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.