Not the Duke’s Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt
Tracy’s rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Greycourt, #1
Release Date: December 18, 2018
Lady Freya Stewart de Moray’s life changed dramatically 15 years ago after what came to be known as the “Greycourt Tragedy”, when her brother Randolph “Ran” almost died and her family was torn apart. Now 27, Freya has joined the secret society of Wise Women and has taken work as a companion/chaperone to Lady Holland and her daughters, using the assumed name of Miss. Stewart. Her life is nothing like she thought it would be, but she is content. While helping reunite a woman with her child, she is chased by some men and jumps into a carriage. That carriage is occupied by the one man Freya hoped to never see again – Christopher Renshaw, the Duke of Harlowe, the man her 12 year old self vowed to marry and the man she holds responsible for destroying her family. She looks up and sees he is wearing Ran’s signet ring, hate for him almost overwhelms her, but he doesn’t recognize her, which makes her hate him all the more. She is rude to him, but he protects her when the men chasing her approach the coach. She leaves his coach with a parting shot at him and continues on with her mission.
Christopher is a widower, he was married and sent to India shortly after the “tragedy” and only returned to England two years ago when he unexpectedly inherited the dukedom from a distance cousin. He keeps to himself and has spent the last two years restoring the duchy. He didn’t recognize Freya, but he was intrigued by her, she made him feel alive for the first time in years. He tries to put her out of his mind, sure he will never see her again. He goes to his club and is confronted by a man he knew in India – a man who seduced his late wife – Mr. Plimpton. Plimpton has letters from his wife Sophy, which he threatens to make public if Harlowe doesn’t pay him off. He says he will exchange the letters for the money at a house party being held by Harlowe’s former brother in law, Baron Lovejoy. Christopher wants nothing more than to thrash Plimpton, but he failed Sophy in so many ways, that he can’t let her memory be tarnished by the letters. He will go to the house party, pay off Plimpton and return to his solitary life.
Freya goes to the house party with her employer, hoping to get information on Lord Randolph, the neighbor of the Lovejoy’s, a man who is actively trying to pass a bill in Parliament to revive witch hunting – the Wise Women have long been targeted by witch hunters and this bill will threaten their already dimished numbers. She arrives at the party and is shocked to see not only the duke, but her former best friend Messalina Greycourt as well. Christopher immediately recognizes Freya from the coach incident, but doesn’t reveal her. He also recognizes Messalina. Messalina knows exactly who Freya is, but for some reason has kept the knowledge to herself. Her family is at the center of the “tragedy” and Freya is sure that Messalina must hate her – her brother Ran was accused of trying to elope with and then murdering Messalina sister Aurelia. Messalina is surprised to see Christopher talking to Freya, but quickly realizes that he doesn’t know who she is. She approaches them and is hurt when Freya slips away, why would Freya forgive Christopher, but snub Messalina? Freya has ignored her since they saw each other again for the first time in years when Freya came to London. Messalina has kept her distance, but longs for her friend. Messalina has her own reasons for attending the party, her dear friend Eleanor, Lady Randolph died last year and Messalina is sure her husband is responsible, so she wants to investigate and bring him to justice.
Later Freya sneaks in Christopher’s room, hoping to retrieve her brother’s ring. She enters and realizes immediately that she made a mistake, she forgot about his dog, Tess. But before she can leave, Christopher grabs her. She kisses him and when he returns the kiss, she bites him and slips away – with the ring. He is shocked and intrigued. He confronts her later and demands the return of the ring. The ring is a reminder to him of his failures and his determination to be a better man. She of course refuses. Later he demands it again, this time she challenges him to a duel – winner gets the ring. She beats him, but he finally recognizes her! She tells him what happened to her family after that awful night, but she doesn’t really know what caused the tragedy. Christopher tells her what he witnessed and begs her forgiveness for not saving Ran – he never believed Ran killed Aurelia. He tells her that he was married off and exiled to India shortly after the incident and only returned when he inherited. He hasn’t seen Julian Greycourt or Ran since that night. She begins to realize that Christopher is not the man she thought he was, she still can’t forgive him, but no longer hates him.
When Freya overhears two different conversations, she will find herself in more trouble than she could ever imagine. She finally talks to Messalina and agrees to meet with her later. But when she follows Christopher, they end up being locked in a well house for the night. She and Christopher talk and he tells her of his time in India and the horrific events that lead to the death of his wife. She calms him and tells him of her family. They are rescued the next day by Messalina, who was hurt that Freya stood her up, but soon realized that she was actually missing – along with Christopher.
To save Freya’s reputation, Christopher proposes, but Freya refuses to marry him. She cites the many reasons that they could never be together – he refuses to accept them. He will win her! But theirs will not be a smooth journey to HEA.
The story was good, but honestly, there is so much going on and so many pertinent secondary characters, that it gets a little hard to keep track of the “romance”. The book is well written, interesting, entertaining, steamy and definitely a page turner, but I finished it feeling a little unsatisfied. There were a lot of unanswered questions, some will probably be addressed in the future installments, but some were specifically relevant to this story and I can’t see how they will be incorporated in to the future books. Overall, it was a good read and I would be happy to recommend this book and am looking forward to the next one!
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me.*