3/5 stars on Goodreads
|Who Wants to Marry a Duke by Sabrina Jeffires|
When it comes to historical romance, I tend to be set in my ways. I have a couple of favourite authors, like Suzanne Enoch, and I’m reluctant to try new ones. They disappoint too often. I hadn’t read Sabrina Jeffries before, but when I spotted her book at NetGalley, I decided to give her a chance.
Who Wants to Marry a Duke is the third book in a series called Duke Dynasty. Each book tells the love story of one of the siblings of a large family, on top of which there’s a continuous story of a murder investigation. I haven’t read the first two books, but it didn’t matter at all. The characters of the earlier books are introduced well, and the murder investigation doesn’t really kick in until here.
The main couple of this book is Olivia Norley and the Duke of Thornstock, or Thorne. (He does have a real name, but it’s never used and came as a bit of a surprise when I checked the book description just now.) They have a bit of past together. He has been forced to propose to her ten years earlier, but she’s refused. For some reason he’s held grudge for it ever since.
The murder investigation brings them together again. Olivia is an aspiring chemist, beggaring belief in those of us who want some historical accuracy (the book takes place in 1809), but it’s done well enough and I could let it stand. She’s hired by Thorne’s brother Grey to investigate the body of Grey’s father for traces of arsenic. Thorne wants to keep an eye on her, because he doesn’t trust her. But of the two, he’s the one who’s keeping secrets.
Olivia is a forthright character who is curious about everything new, including romance and sex. Thorne is slightly annoying with his hot and cold act, and the grudge he holds seems a little contrived and manufactured for the sake of drama. And when his secret is revealed, the following fight seems out of proportions for the transgression. They make up easily enough afterwards. But they’re a good couple together, Thorne especially grows as a person, and the naughty scenes are satisfying. All in all, a nice romance.
The murder investigation is the weakest part of the narrative and doesn’t really have much of a role despite starting the events. There’s a lot of conjecture about the identity of the villain(s) and their motives, but nothing concrete. The villains aren’t characters in this book, and despite some mayhem caused by them, there’s no suspense. And the murder isn’t even solved in the end.
What made me give only three stars, however, is that the book is one act too short. The last twist, the final push and test of the couple and their love never takes place. It’s even set up perfectly. There’s a probable threat to Olivia’s life, a mirror of an earlier attack, and Thorne rushes in to warn and protect her. But the attack never happens and the book just ends, followed by an epilogue that rehashes the murder investigation, lessening the emotional impact of the last chapter. So, a bit of a let-down in the end. But I liked the writing style well-enough that I’ll likely read the last book in the series, if only to find out who is offing the dukes and why.