I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Most Unlikely Duke by Sophie Barnes
Series: Diamonds in the Rough #1
Published by Avon, HarperCollins on June 27th 2017
Genres: Fiction, General, Historical, Regency, Romance
Purchase Links: Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Google Play
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He never thought he'd become a duke, or that the secrets of his past would cost him his greatest love...
Raphe Matthews hasn’t stepped foot in polite circles since a tragedy left his once-noble family impoverished and in debt. The bare-knuckle boxer has spent the last fifteen years eking out an existence for himself and his two sisters. But when a stunning reversal of fortune lands Raphe the title of Duke of Huntley, he’s determined to make a go of becoming a proper lord, but he’ll need a little help, and his captivating neighbor might be just the woman for the job…
After her sister’s scandalous match, Lady Gabriella knows the ton’s eyes are on her. Agreeing to tutor the brutish new duke can only lead to ruin. Although she tries to control her irresistible attraction to Raphe, every day she spends with him only deepens her realization that this may be the one man she cannot do without. And as scandal threatens to envelop them both, she must decide if she can risk everything for love with a most unlikely duke.
Also by this author: The Earl's Complete Surrender
Author Sophie Barnes offers a delightful tale of true love and finding one’s true worth in her latest release, A Most Unlikely Duke. Throughout this romantic tale, Ms. Barnes treats readers to an honest friendship between the new Duke of Huntley and his neighbor Lady Gabriella, that slowly, and believably, morphs into a tender, enduring love.
After the scandal caused by her elder sister’s broken engagement and subsequent elopement, Lady Gabriella’s parents, Lord and Lady Warwick, have placed all their hopes for a return to a spotless reputation among the ton on Gabriella’s slender shoulders. Prior to her sister’s fall from grace, Gabriella’s parents assumed her interest in insects and reputation for eccentricity did not make a candidate for a “successful” match.
Following a year of intensive “training” Gabriella is now regarded as the epitome of the perfect English lady and has drawn the attention of the very proper Lord Fielding (her increased dowry helps too). The fact that Gabriella does not necessarily like Fielding is of little regard to her parents, or even Fielding himself. However, her neighbor, the new Duke of Huntley? That most unlikely duke? Gabriella likes him very much.
Raphe Matthews recently learned that he has inherited the venerated title of Duke of Huntley, along with the title’s accompanying properties and substantial wealth. Prior to inheriting, Raphe supported himself, and his two younger sisters, as a dockworker by day and a bare-knuckle boxer by night. Following the abandonment of their mother and the death of their father, the Matthews’ children left behind their life as gentry and moved to St. Giles in London, where Raphe did everything in his power to provide for and protect his sisters.
Becoming a Duke allows Raphe to offer his sisters a future he could have even dreamed of. Moving next door to Lady Gabriella offers him a chance at a love he never imagined. The efforts Raphe and his sisters make in order to achieve society ‘polish’ are at times hysterical, and always endearing. Kudos to Ms. Barnes for some excellently developed secondary characters, especially in the Huntley household.
All that’s standing in the way of Raphe achieving all he desires is the ghosts of his past and the prejudice of the aristocracy. Raphe wants to be seen as the man he truly is, not the circumstances he came from. Not an easy task, but the love and steadfast support of the indomitable Lady Gabriella make it all worth the challenge.
I’m not going to lie, I usually like my historical romances with a little more heat than A Most Unlikely Duke by Sophie Barnes supplied. However, this book has more than enough heart to make up for any lack of steam. In fact, the level of intimacy portrayed feels genuine to the characters and the time period, thus making it the absolutely perfect amount.
Gabriella and Raphe both crave acceptance for their true self and each provides what the other needs in this beautiful tale. Raphe needs someone to share his burden and provide the safe haven he’s always strived to give those he loves. By trusting Gabriella and allowing her to be his support, Raphe helps her regain her inner strength and toss aside the suffocating exceptions of her parents and the scrutinizing ton. In A Most Unlikely Duke, author Sophie Barnes provides a perfectly lovely tale filled with honest emotion and relatable characters — and a happy ending that feels worthy and well-deserved.
It was past eleven o’clock in the evening by the time
Raphe returned home, his knuckles tender and his body still sore from the fight. Glad to get out of the cold, he closed the door on the rain that now poured from a thunderous sky, shrugged out of his coat and hung it on a hook behind the door just as his sister Amelia entered from an adjoining room that served as a small parlor.
“Good evenin’.” She yawned, leaning against the door frame. Squinting through the darkness, Raphe echoed her salutation. “I thought ye would be asleep by now.”
Stepping past her, he entered their tiny kitchen and snatched up the tinder box.
“I was,” Amelia said, following him into the chilly room. A threadbare shawl was draped across her shoulders, and as she pulled it tighter with pale and trembling fingers, Raphe felt his heart lurch. This wasn’t right. His sister did not deserve to live like this. None of them did. Pushing aside such fruitless ponderings, he found a candle, struck a flint and held it to the wick until a flame began to bloom, driving the darkness toward the walls where it struggled against the light.
“If it makes any difference, Juliette’s safely tucked into bed.” Amelia said, referring to their younger sister, whose weaker disposition was a constant cause for unease. When Raphe lifted the lid of a nearby pot and peered inside, Amelia added, “I made soup for dinner.”
“Smells delicious,” he dutifully told her.
“We both know ‘ow untrue that is, bu’ I appreciate yer optimism.”
Meeting her gaze, Raphe made a deliberate effort to smile. “Per’aps I can manage some meat for us tomorrow.” It would certainly be a welcome change from the potatoes and turnips they’d been eating for what seemed like forever. Christ, he was so tired of having a sore belly all the time, and his sisters . . . they never complained, but he knew they needed better nourishment than what they were getting.
“That’d be nice,” Amelia said. Her tone, however, suggested that she doubted his ability to manage such a feat. Bothered by her lack of faith in him, he grabbed a chunk of bread and tore off a large piece. “A chicken ought to be possible. If we make it last a few days.”
Amelia simply nodded. Grabbing a cup, she filled it with water and placed it before him. “I miss the smell of a bustlin’ kitchen.”
The comment threw him for a second. “Wha’?”
“Meat roastin’ on the fire, bread bakin’ in the oven.” She shook her head wistfully. “It’s funny. I
can’t picture Mama, but I remember Cook—plump cheeks an’ a kind smile. I remember bein’ ‘appy in the kitchen back ‘ome.”
The sentimental thought made Raphe weary. He didn’t bother to point out that she’d only been seven when they’d lost their parents and there’d been nothing left for Raphe to do but turn his back on the house in which they’d spent the early years of their childhoods and walk away, taking his siblings with him. He’d been no more than eight years old and with a mighty burden weighing on his shoulders. “I know this isn’t the sor’ of life that any of us ever imagined.”
Feeling his temper begin to rise at the memory of what their parents had done to them all, he added, “Hopefully, in time, things’ll get better.”
“I’m sure ye’re right.” Could she possibly sound any more unconvinced?
He ate a spoonful of soup, the bland flavor just a touch better than plain hot water. Amelia took a step forward. “The reason I didn’t retire with Juliette earlier is ’cause of this letter.” She waved a piece of paper in his direction. “It arrived for ye today while ye were out.”
Frowning, Raphe stared at her. “Do ye know who sent it?” He couldn’t even recall the last time he’d received a letter. Nobody ever wrote to him or his sisters.
“The sender’s name’s smudged. So’s the address. It’s a miracle it arrived here at all.” Handing the letter to Raphe, she watched as he turned it over and studied the penmanship. Sure enough, the only legible part of the address, which even appeared to have been altered once or twice, was his name: Mister Raphael Matthews.