REVIEW: Duke in All But Name (The Entitled Gentlemen Book 1) by Caroline Warfield
Secrets and lies threaten to pull them under, but a forced marriage may be their salvation.
Gideon Kendrick grew up as the despised bastard son of the Duke of Glenmoor. Exiled to the mines by his father, he has not only survived but thrived and prospered. He lives apart, wanting nothing to do with the duke, the estate—or anything in his past, except his younger brother Phillip, the new duke.
When Phillip disappears, leaving behind a letter asking his brother to care for his affairs, Gideon can’t refuse. Armed with authority making him the duke in all but name, he returns to the scene of his worst memories, facing vicious rumors and his family’s past. He also finds a grasping would-be heir, a steward with secrets, and a woman who stirs in him a desire he thought buried with his beloved wife.
Mia Selwyn lives in the shadows, an unwanted poor relation in the house of her viscount uncle. When her cousin’s hoydenish attempt to meet the supposed heir sees her drenched, ill, and in need of nursing, Mia is sent to care for her. Though warned to stay clear of the despised Kendrick, she is drawn into the dark undercurrents among the mismatched collection of residents and enthralled by the enigmatic Mr. Kendrick.
She quickly realizes he is not the monster he is rumored to be, twisted in body and mind. Instead, he is a resilient resourceful man with a deep love of family. As family, household servants, and villagers take sides on whether Gideon is the source of all the estate’s problems or its salvation, Mia and Gideon forge a partnership.
Together they struggle to unravel secrets and the tangle Phillip left behind, and in the process, find a future for themselves.
Dear Ms. Warfield,
It took me two times to really get into this book. The opening scene of Mia, the poor relation, enduring a horrid dinner with her relations followed by an encounter almost as bad with the hero made me put it down for a week or two. I just wasn’t in the mood for a book of nasty people acting this way. Then something made me pull it up again on my ereader and I tucked into it, reading almost 200 pages in a day.
There is a lot of backstory that we don’t even see in a prologue or any flashbacks. Instead Gideon’s childhood and teenage years are revealed later after we’ve gotten to know him and see what a caring person he is. The fact that he shows up at a place he hates and has awful memories of just because his relation asked him to and he realizes that the estate and people dependent upon it need someone in charge says a lot about Gideon. Vicious rumors fly from the moment he arrives, he’s basically treated like shit by the household staff, and there is another man there claiming to be the next in line to the Dukedom.
Why is that man there? Because Gideon’s half-brother, the man whose right to the Dukedom was upheld after his father died, has left – supposedly with a broken heart – after revealing to the woman he loved that he’s probably a bastard from a bigamous marriage. Phillip is now missing after asking Gideon to look after the estate, giving Gideon the powers to be “Duke in All But Name,” and telling Gideon that this will allow Gideon’s son to eventually inherit the title as the Lords won’t want to wade into this mess and strip Phillip of his title now that it’s been confirmed.
Poor Mia is exactly that. Her father, the younger son, married the daughter of a Methodist minister. Now Mia lives with her sulky cousin who is mad to meet the Duke – or if Phillip is dead (as everyone thinks) or out of the line of succession – his successor. Said sulky cousin pulls a stunt like that pushed on Jane Bennett and winds up with influenza. After Mia is ready to collapse trying to care for Selina and the sick maid, Gideon steps in and ends up compromising her. One forced marriage later, Mia begins to discover what Gideon is attempting to do and dives in to help this man who is nothing like what everyone is whispering. So is he a bastard or is he the real Duke? That might be the easiest thing for Gideon and Mia to determine amidst all the other issues going on around them.
After I restarted the book, one of the things that got me to commit to it is the fact that Gideon apologizes to Mia the very next time he sees her for how he treated her when they met. Then Mia does something she realizes she shouldn’t have done and apologizes to Gideon. Oh, Lord, how many books have I read in which it takes until the second half of the story for the main characters to do that? Gideon has a lot of reasons why he ought to bust loose and tell a few people off but he retains his temper in the face of provocation and just tries to do what is best.
Mia finds herself respecting this man whose reputation has been tarred and feathered by one and all. She also doesn’t pull any missish “I can’t marry except for lurve” nonsense either. She’s come to see that Gideon is a hard working, self-made, respectable man who takes her concerns seriously and reassures her.
I had to remind myself that this was an era without social media or easy communication and that people who have lived all their lives in one place and depended on the Quality for their livelihoods would be more likely to believe more of what they’re told. The detective work and the things and people that Gideon and Mia are up against drags out a bit. There are some rinse and repeat moments followed by two steps forward to one step back. Then suddenly everything gets wrapped up with blazing speed.
I think the best part of the book is watching Gideon and Mia’s relationship blossom and develop. He is delighted to find in her a capable and intelligent woman while she sees everything I’ve mentioned so far. Not everything between them is smooth sailing as would be expected for a couple who hasn’t known each other long before marriage. Not all their plans are thought out and perfect. But they work well together and I loved seeing Gideon as a wonderful father. I’m not sure who the next book in the series will feature but I’ll be looking forward to it. B
Oh, good. This is the first in a series. I know what I’m reading tonight. (I’ve been known to spend so much time choosing a book that there is not enough evening left to actually read it.) Thanks, Jayne.
This does sound good, Jayne! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Oh this does sound good.