I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: Masters of Seduction #1
on June 30th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance, Regency
Purchase Links: Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Barnes & Noble
ADD TO GOODREADS:
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.
Author Alexandra Hawkins crafts a good foundation for her first installment in her Masters of Seduction series by setting A Duke But No Gentleman in a unique time period (1792) with an pair of interesting protagonists. Lady Imogene Sunter is a sheltered eighteen year old daughter of a duke experiencing her first London season. While navigating the social pitfalls of the marriage mart, Imogene, quite literally, runs into Tristan Rooke, Duke of Blackbern and their chemistry is instant. The excerpt included below highlighting their first meeting clearly demonstrates their charming banter and immediate comfort in one another’s presence. With Blackbern, Imogene finally feels free to be herself, and including the freedom to explore her sensual nature.
Along with his childhood friend, the Machiavellian Marquess of Norgrave, Blackbern has dedicated himself to a life of debauchery. Their dissolute lifestyle is starting to lose its appeal for Blackbern, a fact meeting Imogene only emphasizes. Norgrave proposes a wager over the seduction of the innocent Lady Imogene and Blackbern convinces himself that his participation is required in order to thwart his immoral friend’s plot to deflower Imogene. Only as he and Imogene grow closer does Blackbern finally acknowledge to himself that his feelings are actually engaged. Only once tragedy strikes is he able to admit the depth of his attachment.
This historical romance is darker than many offerings in this sub-genre. The intimate scenes involving Blackbern and Imogene are romantic in nature, yet clearly demonstrate the carnality of their connection. Blackbern was no innocent lad before falling for Imogene and his sex life before her is explored. Their banter and burgeoning friendship bring much needed levity to both their lives and this novel. While interesting characters separately, Tristan and Imogene really shine together.
The true darkness in A Duke But No Gentleman comes in the character of Norgrave, whose predilections toward true depravity wreck havoc throughout the novel. Norgrave devolved from the devil on Blackbern’s shoulder advocating dissipation into a dangerous madman. Norgrave’s fragile psyche was unable to handle not only losing at the seduction of Imogene, but the loss of his closest friend to love.
The shine of this novel was lessened by a few minor points. The historical details could have been fleshed out more, exploring the societal differences of the late-Georgian Era (versus the time period of the Napoleonic Wars/Regency Era used in many historical romance novels). It was clear the men carried swords and wore frock coats and waist coats. More detailed descriptions of the ladies’ attire, for example, would have enhanced the complexity of the backdrop of the novel. Also, Imogene seemed to run free from supervision for much of the novel – was this the norm? Maybe the antics of young ladies like Imogene and rake’s like Blackbern are why the moral code of the Regency era was so strict.
Also, Blackbern’s lust for Imogene was obvious from the first, but his intentions for their future remained unclear for most of the novel. His point of view was explored for much of the book but his attitude toward marriage was not mentioned. What was his plan beyond seduction? Was there one? Perhaps he fell so hard and so fast he didn’t have time to consider the consequences until forces beyond his control pressed the issue. Still, he seemed a bit callous and short-sighted to not have thoughts of marriage and a future as part of his internal dialogue.
Tristan’s sense of honor and his unflagging love for Imogene helped him achieve his full potential as a Duke and a Gentleman. Author Alexandra Hawkins provides an interesting tale of an unexpected and deeply rooted love which triumphs over the dark elements that stand in their way.
Warning: This novel contains scenes of sexual and physical abuse. And some pretty hot consensual encounters as well.
Excerpt from A Duke But No Gentleman:
Was it a right or left turn? Without slowing her stride, she glanced over her shoulder at the door on the opposite side of the front hall and collided into an unexpected obstacle. The gentleman grunted, his arms instinctively wrapping around her waist as her momentum knocked both of them backward.
Whether it was providence or the man’s quick reflexes, they landed on the firm cushions of a sofa instead of the marble floor. A faint breathy squeak escaped Imogene’s lips on impact. Her chin bounced against his solid chest while the underside of his jaw struck the top of her head.
“Merde,” her disgruntled companion murmured under his breath. “Are you injured? On fire?”
It was such an odd question that she lifted her head to get a closer look at the man who had saved her from a nasty fall. Any coherent response faded from her mind as she stared into the most beautiful eyes ever bestowed on a male. Long dark lashes framed blue-gray eyes that reflected curiosity and amusement. Imogene’s gaze dropped down to his mouth as the corners curled upward into a smug grin, as if her reaction to his masculine beauty was not unusual.
The handsome stranger was patiently awaiting her reply to his question, and here she was gaping at him as if she had never encountered a man. “Did you ask me about a fire?” she asked, her tongue feeling thick and awkward in her mouth.
He smiled, and it was quite a magnificent sight. His teeth were straight and his breath was infused with his favorite brandy. “Aye. The manner in which you burst through the doorway, I was certain your skirts were ablaze,” he said, his gaze lingering on her face. “Have you hurt yourself, darling?”
“No.” She frowned, belatedly realizing their reclining position on the sofa. She tried to move and found herself anchored to his muscled chest. His arms were still around her waist and one of his hands was indecently low enough to touch her backside. “I—we . . . you should let me go.”
“I disagree. I am rather comfortable having you draped over my body.”
“Well, I am not,” she said primly, flattening her palms against his chest in an attempt to push away from him. Or at least she tried to free herself. The wicked man seemed determined to hold her captive. “It is indecent, and you are no gentleman if you persist in delaying my departure.”
Although she would never admit it to anyone, she could have rested her chin against her crossed arms and stared at him for hours. He was truly extraordinary. Unfortunately, the arrogant man was aware that his looks were a cut above those of most gentlemen, and the effect he had on women.
“Do you not get bored with following the rules?”
Of course she did, but she would bite holes in her tongue before she made such a confession. Especially to him. “No. Rules are put in place to protect us and ensure order in the world.”
“It must have been your governess that filled your head with that nonsense,” he said dismissively. His hands tightened on her waist when she struggled to slip from his hold. “Life is wonderfully messy, and no amount of structure changes that fact. So what have I done to deserve you, my lady?”
“Nothing.” The roguish gleam in his eyes was a little unsettling. He was staring at her as if she was a gift and he was deciding how to unwrap her. “An accident that I have already apologized for—”
“Actually, you haven’t.”
“I—” She inhaled and silently went over their conversation. It grated that he was right, but she refused to admit that she had been dazzled by his handsome face. “You are correct, good sir. Forgive my oversight. If I may, I would like to offer you an apology. I sincerely regret meeting you.”
His eyes widened in surprise. “Oh, darling, now you are simply being cruel—and you are a liar.”
She stirred in his arms as her temper flared. “How dare you!”
“It pains me to insult a beautiful lady, but I think if we are to continue our friendship, we should be honest.”
Her gaze narrowed. “Are you drunk, or is this some sort of prank you play on unsuspecting ladies?”
His laughter was just as appealing as the rest of him. Rich with genuine humor, it warmed her even as her stomach fluttered.
“If true, that was quite a feat on my part. Lest you forget, you were the one who tackled me?”
Imogene blushed at the reminder of her carelessness. “Ooh, it is unkind of you to remind me. Let me up at once, or I shall—”
“Is this our first fight?” he inquired, his expression easing into indulgence. “And here I have yet to have a taste of you.”
“A taste?” she said blankly, before the healthy pink in her cheeks deepened into a scarlet hue. “I forbid you to kiss me!”
The charming rogue chuckled. “How can I resist such a dare?”
She felt his fingers curl around her neck. No man had ever been so bold as to touch her in this manner. Her skin tingled at his caress. He nudged her face closer to his.
Good grief, the man intended to kiss her!
“Imogene Constance —,” her mother said in icy, clipped tones. “What are you doing with that gentleman? Climb off him at once.”
Her fingers curled into impotent fists. “See what you have done. That woman is my mother,” she furiously whispered into the man’s face. “Release me or we will both pay dearly for your mischief.”
About Author Alexandra Hawkins:
Alexandra Hawkins is an unrepentant Anglophile who discovered romance novels as a teenager and knew that one day she would be writing her own. The USA Today bestselling author has written seventeen historical romances, including A Duke But No Gentleman, the first book in her new Masters of Seduction series. Alexandra has combined her love of English history, mythology, and romance to create sensual character-driven stories that, she hopes, will touch readers’ hearts.