May 04, 12
Read from May 02 to 04, 2012
Giving the last book in the series 4 stars - mostly because we learn more about Dalziel: who he is, what his real title and life are about, how he separated from his family to serve his country, AND who the mysterious "last" traitor is.
This is about Minerva and Royce (Dalziel's real name). He's the 10th Duke of Wolverton, but he put all that behind him 16 years ago when he decided to accept a highly secret position for their majesties at Whitehall. His father didn't approve; to his father (and many marcher lords like him), the government changed - it was their job only to support the government insofar as it benefited them. But give up one's position and possibly one's life? No. So Royce and his father parted ways that day, and Royce changed his name to Dalziel to save his family. He "lost" his title, but being the only legitimate heir, now that he's given up his commission (Napoleon is defeated, no need to stay), Dalziel had to become Royce Varisey, heir to the dukedom of Wolverstone again. Especially when he learns that his father died before he could return home. Royce had always hoped to reconcile with his father and to learn how to be a duke from his father. But that's no longer an option.
Instead, Royce turns to Minerva, the chatelaine of Wolverton castle. Minerva was adopted by his parents when at an early age she was orphaned; while her family was gentry and she has a small fortune of her own, Minerva never cared to marry for anything less than love. And she's always harbored a fascination-obsession-crush on Royce. But Varisey's behave in certain ways: they're stubborn, prone to bad tempers and anger, marry for position/money/title and not for love, tend to father illegitimate children on their many mistresses, and only look out for their own interests. Minerva wants nothing to do with that; she's seen enough by being close to Royce's mother and father. Yet, before he died, Royce's father told her to tell Royce that he doesn't have to be just like him... he should do it his own way. And before both Royce's mother and father died, each made her promise to look after Royce - to assure he takes his rightful place as duke. To Minerva, that means reacquainting him with his lands, his people, his castle, and his responsibilites, and then making sure he marries well. Then Minerva will give up her chatelaine position and travel on her own money. Anything to get away from Royce.
But it's never that easy - not in this series. Because the inimitable spark occurred between Royce and Minerva almost immediately. He took it to be lust, which he intended to slake on her, should he discover she feels the same. But Minerva is good at hiding her feelings. And after his father's funeral, Royce is approached by the grande dames of the ton, who inform him that it is *imperative* that he marry immediately. Prinny is looking for a source of income, and he has his eye on Royce's property and income. I don't quite understand how Prinny could wrest it away from him, but without a marriage and an heir forthwith, somehow Prinny could.
So Royce decides that despite the list of eligible young misses that he's given by Minerva and the grande dames, that the only one who makes sense as his bride is Minerva. Seen from the Varisey eyes, it makes sense: she already knows and loves his people and his land; she knows the castle; she knows how he should go about his duties and can help him; and he desires her. What more does he need?
But when Royce tries to pop the question to Minerva (to keep his promise of announcing his engagement within a week's time), instead, Minerva kisses him. Which starts him down the path of slaking his desire. He finds her a willing participant. So he decides the best way to get her to marry him is to seduce her. How and Why men think that's the way to a woman's heart, I'll never know.
Complications ensue... one of which is that the traitor is close at hand during the funeral. And stays on for a house party. Turns out, the traitor is one of Royce's own cousins. And that cousin tries to thwart Royce at every turn; and that cousin finally comes up with a way to get back at Royce - thru Minerva.
At the same time, Royce insists that Minerva occupy his bed nightly. Trying to be aware of his sisters and other guests who still remain at the castle, she agrees on the condition that no one know. Despite the bed-hopping already going on, Minerva wants to maintain her reputation. And she figures when Royce finally announces his duchess, she'll more easily be able to break ties with him if no one knows about the affair. And Royce, meanwhile, is falling in love with Minerva - recognizing that he wants a marriage more like his friends and his Bastion Club members. So Royce allows Minerva to show him how to be his own duke - to take an personal interest in his people, his lands, and his community. During the day, the two act as duke and chatelaine; at night, they're ravenous lovers.
But will Royce convince Minerva to marry him? Can he, when she's looking for nothing less than love?
While this book follows the typical pattern of this series' books and love affairs, there is something different about Royce and Minerva. They have the aspect of knowing one another already, but they've never been lovers before. In fact, Minerva's a virgin. So the author's combined the qualities of her previous heroines to come up with Minerva. Also, we learn that while Minerva's never had a Season in London, she's friends with Letitia and many of the previous Heroines from this story.
Unfortunately, there's a lot contrived about this particular tale - some has to do with this traitor, which, of course, must be caught before the series can end. And once again, what feels like months is only weeks... and many of the love scenes are repetitious. Except for one amusing scene where Minerva blindfolds Royce and demands he keep his hands on the bed posts. It was that "something new" to this series, and Royce's reactions were priceless.
All in all, I'll finish the other 2 books I haven't read in this series, but only for completion's sake. And to pick up on some of what I missed about the traitor. But I'll be glad to move on.