The Wicked Duke by Madeline Hunter
Jove: May 31, 2016
Genre: Historical Romance
Source: Free From Publisher
With The Wicked Duke Madeline Hunter concludes her Wicked trilogy, solving the mystery of the previous Duke of Aylesbury’s mysterious death and giving the current duke his happily ever after.
Lancelot Hemingford, Duke of Aylesbury, is rusticating while the rumours that he was involved in the death of his older brother calm down. While in the country, Lance crosses paths with Marianne Radley, a young woman that has returned to the area as a dependent of her uncle. Soon after meeting, Marianne’s social climber of an uncle conspires with Lance to rid him of the murderous charges laid against him if he will marry Marianne. Lance agrees and marries Marianne, yet trouble is always on the horizon because Marianne is unaware of the deal Lance made with her uncle.
The Wicked Duke is a historical romance that I was really looking forward to. The one-sided marriage-of-convenience plot had me intrigued, and having enjoyed the first book in the trilogy, His Wicked Reputation, I was eager to jump right into this one. Alas, I have to admit that I struggled with the first half of this book. The author writes with a subdued sensuality, which is great (it’s what I loved about the first book); however, in The Wicked Duke, I found the pacing quite slow in the first half of the book. The interactions between Lance and Marianne seemed intermittent and somewhat unrealistic considering what Marianne thinks to be true about Lance. Marianne’s uncle confesses to Marianne that his daughter was abused and cast aside by Hemingford, and the uncle concocts this convoluted plan of marriage as a means to seek justice for his daughter. Marianne takes her uncle at his word and believes that Lance has assaulted her cousin. The problem for me is that Marianne never really hesitates in her attraction to Lance despite believing that Lance is a rapist. Readers of the genre will be aware that there is most likely a “mistaken identity” aspect to the story so Marianne’s attraction is rendered less ambiguous, but the character Marianne doesn’t know this. I struggled to get past the fact that Marianne so easily reconciled her attraction to Lance with what she believed to be true about his past actions. Personally, I felt that some resolution about Lance’s assumed past behavior sooner in the plot would have gone a long way in evening out the pacing.
Pacing issue aside, the second half of The Wicked Duke is where the momentum picked up and I was fully engaged in the story. Lance and Marianne finally marry and readers start to become engrossed in their developing relationship. The sensuality that I find unique to Hunter shines in this second half and solidifies the physical aspect of Marianne and Lance’s relationship. Of course, Lance and Marianne’s problems don’t disappear after their wedding night. Marianne is still unaware of why Lance married her and Lance still has to contend with the accusations that he murdered his elder brother. It was these problems that had me glued to the book, anxious to discover how Hunter would resolve them.
If you’ve enjoyed the first two books in the trilogy, you will be pleased at this final installment. Not only does the final brother get his happily ever after, but the thread of the murdered Percy, connected through all three books, finally gets its resolution. The author’s signature style is alive and well in The Wicked Duke, and fans will enjoy Lance, the wickedest brother, and his rather prim heroine finding their groove with each other and putting to bed ghosts of the past.
If you enjoyed Madeline Hunter’s writing style, Nicole Jordan’s The Art of Taming a Rake is likely to appeal. I had mixed feelings about this one, but I do think the focus on a physical relationship between the hero and heroine will appeal to fans of Lance and Marianne’s relationship development.
Rose Lerner is another historical romance writer that I think writes with a big emphasis on sensuality. However, what I liked about Listen to the Moon is that the author balances out physical intimacy with a strong relationship, something that I found somewhat lacking in The Wicked Duke.
Kerrigan Byrne’s The Highwayman is another great follow-up read for those who enjoyed The Wicked Duke. The Highwayman combines a large dose of intrigue with a steamy romance. It’s follow-up, The Hunter was even better.