Dear Mrs. Quinn,
Even after I failed to appreciate your last book, I was eagerly awaiting this one. I knew nothing about it until I started reading it and then read the review at AAR. I do agree that the plot, a young highwayman being abducted by his Dowager Duchess grandmother because she’s convinced he’s the son of her lost middle son and is determined that he take his rightful place as the current Duke thus displacing the grandson she – for some reason – can’t stand, is not to be taken seriously. But once I got involved with the story and began to become better acquainted with the characters, I was caught up in their emotions, the interplay of relationships and how it was all going to work out.
I will admit that I didn’t ever get over Jack’s casual feelings for his recently adopted career as a highwayman. Stealing just isn’t right, no matter if he’s only trying to survive, avoiding going back to his comfortable home in Ireland to a family which obviously still loves him despite what he might think they feel after he brought his younger cousin’s body home from the war in France, or tying to help those soldiers less fortunate than he. But I did come to like Jack. He’s a charmer who can smile and cajole almost anyone into doing what he wants and usually what he wants harms no one. It’s not until late in the book that the seeds of why he acts as he does are sown and not until almost the very end that we truly learn why. Thank you for not turning him into some wounded angst bunny who whinges on throughout the book.
Grace Eversleigh is a quiet, composed companion to the Duchess but you avoid making her into either a mouse like creature or a spitfire champing at the bit. She’s well aware of the service the Duchess did her by saving her from her lecherous cousin after Grace’s parents died but that doesn’t keep Grace from feeling slightly resentful of the Duchess’s more outrageous demands. Nor from being delighted when Thomas hands her the means to financial independence. Grace is a good friend, she loves to laugh, she has to be convinced that marrying above her station is all right but she’s not a martyr about it. Brava.
Thomas is a deliberate enigma. As the current — though maybe soon to be displaced Duke – he’s been raised to fulfill his station in life, to be a good steward of the Dukedom, to put the needs of others before his own. He’s a decent guy, he does the right thing and I can’t wait to read the second book in this series to see it all from his POV and uncover all the things you will reveal about him. I especially loved the discussions he and Jack had about what to do with the Dowager Duchess. Outer Hebrides indeed!
I enjoyed watching these main characters as well as the secondary ones, evolve as the book progressed. Grace gets the courage to dare for a relationship where she thought she’d have none in life. Jack overcomes years of guilt and shame at the same time as he discovers there is a woman in the world he wants to marry. Thomas begins to shed his reserve as it dawns on him that he might be free from the overwhelming weight of responsibilities which have always held him in place.
Once past the rather contrived beginning of the book, it’s a delightful character study and another quieter style of Regency. Yes, Jack was a soldier but he’s not burdened with PTSD. Grace is a companion but she’s not a dowdy frump. Thomas starts out rather stiff necked but he looks like he’s about to cut loose and show who he really is. The Dowager is a beyotch but then she’s old and set in her ways and I’m glad you didn’t turn her into a warm fuzzy bunny just because she thinks she’s found the son of her favorite son.
There were moments, especially at the start of the book, that are filled with what I call “wandering in verbal or mental – circles” but either I got used to them again or they eventually got toned down by book’s end. And after the ‘early story reworked for current publication’ that was “Miranda Cheever,” this book feels much better plotted and written. B for “Lost Duke.”