A Duke But No Gentleman by Alexandra Hawkins
Overview by Amazon:
In the last opulent days of the eighteenth century, a friendly wager turns into a heated feud that spans decades…and a love affair like none other.
What does it take to tempt a lady…
London, 1792. The Duke of Blackbern and the Marquess of Norgrave are boyhood friends who will still compete at anything. Racing, drinking, gambling, even seduction–until Lady Imogen Sunter crosses their path. Achingly beautiful, and innocent, she has no understanding of the jaded gentlemen who are courting her for favors–of how far they are willing to go to get what they want…
In this game of seduce and destroy?
Fighting for Imogen’s affection should have been no more than their usual spirited rivalry. But when Blackbern discovers his feelings for Imogen have deepened, all bets are off. Norgrave, driven by his own demons, won’t forsake his pride–and with one shocking act of betrayal that threatens Imogen and Blackbern’s newfound desire, Norgrave will set the course for a generation of Regency bad boys who will go down in history as the Masters of Seduction…in A Duke But No Gentleman by Alexandra Hawkins.
Wow. I haven’t read a book like this is a really long time. The complexity of the plot was amazing. This is no simple story. Emotions are heavy and woven throughout the plot. It all starts with two scoundrels, Blackbern and Norgrave. The two are more than rakes. That would be a tame word for them. Their exploits are explored in the story and honestly it was a turn off.
While they have shared women and placed many bets, it is one bet in particular that changes everything. The lovely Imogen comes into their lives. Blackbern is immediately taken with her. Something is different about her and his feelings for her. Norgrave makes a bet about who can take her virginity first. Blackbern’s first inclination is to turn down the bet. However, he knows his friend and is aware that if he says no, it would only spur Norgrave on. In some respects he accepts so that he can keep Imogen safe.
Imogen and Blackbern spend a lot of time together. They grow to fall in love. Blackbern takes her virginity and is making plans for a more permanent situation. The relationship feels good. I liked them together. He brings Imogen out of her shell and she has captured his undivided attention. I quite enjoyed Imogen. She was a lovely woman who deserved to find the love she did. Blackbern was a hardcore rake, but meeting Imogen has changed so much for him. She is the full focus of his thoughts and attentions. Never mind the fact that he is a wonderful lover.
But since there was a commitment between Imogen and Blackbern mid-way through the novel, I knew that there would be the ’big misunderstanding’. I had wondered if she would find out about the bet, if they would be caught or something else? But what happened was horrible. Norgrave was always an unsavory character and he is beyond despicable to Imogen. While many stories have women as the victim of assault, what he does to her has implications for the rest of the story.
As a traumatized woman, Imogen is devastated. It takes the love of Blackbern and his patience to heal her. I won’t lie about how difficult this plot line was – I was actually like, “is this actually going there?” Blackbern seeking his revenge and protecting Imogen made me love him more.
This is not an easy read, but very worthwhile as the love story between the two was one of the most real I have read in a long time.