Say No to the Duke: The Wildes of Lindow Castle
“Eloisa James’ romances are always a delight, and this one is the best yet.”
Lady Boadicea Wilde is the eldest of the Duke of Lindow’s daughters. Betsy has spent her entire life living down her mother’s reputation. The second wife of the duke ran off with a Prussian, leaving their daughter behind, a child her deserted husband very graciously raised with his own offspring. As a result, everyone expects Betsey to be like her mother—passionate and unfaithful.
Betsey proves them wrong, becoming a paragon, the epitome of a future nobleman’s wife.
“Her mother had left a duke and her own children behind. She, Betsy, would be a good duchess. And a good mother, too. She would be everything her mother hadn’t been. Her Grace, Betsy the Duchess. It sounded good.”
She’s now had dozens of offers of marriage and turned away each one. Betsy fears revealing the passionate nature inherited from her mother. She thinks if she falls in love, she should never let her husband know, because it would ruin their marriage.
Soon, however, she’ll be rethinking that idea.
Betsy has received a proposal she may have to accept. Thaddeus is the future Duke of Eversley, and Betsy can’t find a single flaw.
“Viscount Greywick was tall a and very handsome, with hazel eyes and cheekbones coming straight from some noble ancestor. Her father liked him. Her brothers liked him, and so did her aunt.”
In other words, he’s perfect.
“Betsy tried to make herself feel excited about that and failed.”
She also finds herself with another, more reluctant suitor.
Jeremy Roden will be the Marquess of Thurrock, lower than Thaddeus as a peer but definitely tempting. He’s brother North’s best friend, fought by him in the colonies but returned haunted by the memory of losing his entire battalion because of the cowardice of a fellow officer.
Jeremy can’t forget, so he now plays the role of drunkard so people will leave him alone, but Betsy keep intruding into his life.
“War burns the gentleman out of a man.”
Betsy scowled. “I don’t believe that.
Oh, sweetheart, he thought. That was why men went to fight on battlefields so far from home. No one wanted a woman to see what happened there. What it cost a man to survive, let alone what happened to those who didn’t. The feeling he had for Betsy was as awkward and conflicted as the shame and guilt he felt for surviving the war.”
They trade insults, enjoying the barbs they throw at each other, but soon the insults soften until Jeremy teaches Betsy that a woman can be perfect in public but also passionate in private.
Now Betsy has to make a decision: Will she say “no” to the duke and “yes” to the marquess? or “no” to the marquess and “yes” to the duke? Or “no” to both?
If there’s one thing a reader can count on in an Eloisa James novel, it’s that it will be an enjoyable romp with a great deal of double entendres and banter between hero and heroine before the two admit their attraction.
From the first scene in which Jeremy and Betsy spar across a billiard table, we know how the story’s going to end, but getting there is half the fun.
If the reader is a fan who has followed the entire Lindow Castle series, she will no doubt agree that Jeremy, Thaddeus, and Betsy are a delightful trio.
Jeremy is a true Byronic character, dark, brooding, filled with guilt over something not his fault. He aids and abets Betsy in her hoyden scheme of wanting to go to an auction disguised as a boy while at the same time making certain they are well-chaperoned so there’s no irreparable danger to her reputation should the prank be discovered. He also fights his attraction to her until he realizes she will be happy with no one but he.
As well as being a schoolmate of Jeremy’s, Thaddeus is a sympathetic and loyal friend who defends Jeremy against the traducers spreading gossip about the tragedy in the colonies.
If there a flaw in this story, it’s that there are too many events alluded to—the deaths in the colonies, Jeremy’s brief sojourn in Bedlam, the acts perpetrated by the very minimalized villain of the piece. Readers would much prefer being shown about them in flashbacks, even brief ones.
There are again references to the late, devil-may-care Horatius, once more making some readers wish the author would contrive to have the original Wilde heir survive the bog and reappear hale and hearty. This might cause some problems for North, now established as the duke-apparent, but would also offer another novel in the making.
Be that as it may, Eloisa James’ romances are always a delight, and this one is the best yet. Read on and enjoy Lady Betsy’s courtship.