REVIEW: Duke in Name Only (The Entitled Gentlemen Book 2) by Caroline Warfield
Misfortune is an excellent teacher.
When Phillip Tavernash, Ninth Duke of Glenmoor, discovers his title is held fraudulently, he embarks on a journey to North America determined to succeed on his own. It doesn’t go well. He has no idea what a fish out of water he will be.
Nan Archer had to summon enough backbone to stand up to her father and older brother who moved their family across the frontier every time civilization reached any clearing in which they’d made a stake. She has landed on the banks of the Mississippi and built something of her own, the tavern Archers’ Roost. She will go no farther.
When Nan’s brother dumps a pathetic traveler, robbed, beaten, and wounded, on her tavern floor she takes him in, as she would any wounded duck. That he called himself duke is cause for hilarity.
Attraction blooms easily, but can Phillip look past his life of privilege to find what he’s looking for deep inside himself? Can he convince her she’s the answer to his search?
Is he a duke or a bastard? Does it matter in the end?
Dear Ms. Warfield,
I finished the prequel to this book, “Duke in All But Name” wondering about the half-brother of that book’s hero. Phillip Tavernash was born the heir of a Duke, with all that this entails: large estates, lots of money and influence, and being called “Your Grace.” But none of it is really his. His world is rocked when his older brother, Gideon, arrives from America. Their father calls Gideon a bastard, treats him horribly, and then sends him to work in Welsh coal mines. Then, when their father dies but after the Crown has confirmed Phillip as the new Duke, proof arrives that his father was legally married to Gideon’s mother and he, Phillip, is the bastard son of his bigamist father. What now?
As the Crown doesn’t “like to be told it made a mistake,” the title is Phillip’s but he decides to make sure it will go to the next rightful person – Gideon’s son. Leaving everything in his brother’s hands, Phillip heads to America to see what he can make of himself.
Damn it. If I’m not the duke, who am I? That’s why I set out on this ill-conceived journey, isn’t it? To find out.
The action picks up with an injured Phillip being brought up the Mississippi River in a canoe by foul smelling mountain man Luke Archer who takes delight in having wounded Phillip recite his full list of titles between chattering teeth. Arriving at the family tavern, managed by his younger sister Nan, he dumps Phillip on the floor and yells for Nan to come see to the wounded man.
Annoyed at her brother putting another burden on her, Nan has Phillip hauled upstairs, fully expecting the man to die but determined to do what she can because she’s a decent human being. Tart and commanding but decent. Gradually Phillip – or Artie as he’s known to the Archer family – rallies and tries to begin working off what he owes them. His story of being taken in by ruthless swindlers who beat and robbed him and left him for dead, is one that doesn’t surprise them. His (reluctant) claim to being a Duke is one they hear but don’t pay much attention to. Soon Artie is willingly sweeping floors, pulling pints, and toughening up his hands learning to chop wood. He also begins falling for no-nonsense Nan who shares his love of reading. He still wants to make something of himself and get justice for what was done to him. Is there a place for him on the wide open frontier?
I love how the book begins. Luke Archer is a character – and one I (for the most part) liked through the whole story – while Nan is put-upon but absolutely in charge. Phillip weaves his way in and out of consciousness, taking in bits and pieces of this place and these people until he’s finally well enough to show that he’s a man of honor. If he doesn’t have any money on him and the bank in Kaskaskia won’t accept that he is who he says he is – a wealthy man with money in a bank in Philadelphia – then he’ll pay his debt to the Archers with the sweat of his brow.
It’s Phillip’s desire to bring the ruffians, who took his greenhorn self for everything up to and almost including his life, to justice that causes a spat of trouble even if Nan tells him she admires his backbone for staying to fight. Those brothers and their bully boys are nothing to be trifled with. The whole Archer family – except for Pa who’s up in the woods – pulls together along with the townsfolk who know that trouble with a capital T (and underlined a time or two) is headed their way. There is law in these here parts but not everywhere and sometimes folks have to do for themselves before handing things over to the justice system. Just to be clear, the Archers only act in self defense against those trying to burn them out and kill them and then they let the law enforcement, the courts, and a trial do the rest.
This doesn’t take until the end of the book nor lead up to Phillip and Nan declaring their love before The End. Huh, I thought. What is going to take over during the last third of the novel? Well, what had been a bang up frontier story with a growing romantic relationship (Phillip shows Nan in small but telling ways that he cares about her) changes gears. As fellow reviewer Sirius often says in her reviews, “don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t like the last part” but it isn’t quite what I was expecting.
“Who are you, exactly?” Jamie asked, a shrewd glint in his expression. “Men come here for two reasons. To work hard and make their fortune or to steal from those who do. You already ran into the second kind, but which one are you?”
1818 on the Upper Mississippi is a time and place of vast change. And remember that Phillip’s goal is to make something of himself as well as build some kind of legacy by himself. He was born to status, had everything handed to him, until it was gone. He needs to prove to himself that he isn’t useless, that he can make something from the talents he has, that he is not, in other words, a wastrel. I like watching him work things out, mentally put pieces together, and come up with a plan but while this happens, Nan sort of fades into the background a bit and when she is in a scene, she seems to only focus on the difference in their stations and her pride. I’ve got nothing against her pride, she has a lot to be proud of, but I feel that a lot of her personality gets lost.
Things do work out, Phillip gets his idea, other powerful men are intrigued by it, and there is a heaping helping of Missouri history included. The romance sort of gently – with a few scenes of hot kissing – flows to a HEA. I approve that characters speak respectfully of the Native population even as they sadly acknowledge that these people will ultimately lose their land. Phillip and Nan are also firmly against slavery. The book wound up not being exactly what I was expecting but what I got, I like a great deal. B