ABOUT THE BOOK:
Award-winning author Olivia Drake begins her new Unlikely Duchesses series with THE DUKE I ONCE KNEW (St. Martin’s Paperbacks; December 31, 2018). With compelling characters and skillful plot twists, Drake’s latest novel will take your breath away.
First love is always the sweetest…
For years, Abigail Linton devoted herself to caring for her parents and her siblings’ children. Now, eager to create a life of her own, Abby seizes upon a position as a governess on a neighboring estate. Unfortunately, her absentee employer is Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell, the notorious rake who once broke her youthful heart. But since he hasn’t set foot on his estate for fifteen years, Abby assumes she’ll never have to lay eyes on him ever again.
Then, from out of nowhere, Max appears. He is stunned to come face to face with the girl
next door he fell for years ago—before he went away, and she stopped writing to him …
even though Abby swears that he is the one who left her without a word. Could it be that
this spirited, witty spinster has won Max’s heart all over again—and that they may have a second chance at love?
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The sounds of cooing and kissing mortified her. Good
heavens, would they never stop? Anyone might walk into
the library! They ought to have the decency to take their
amorous activities upstairs to a bedchamber.
But, of course, Rothwell did not possess a shred of de-
cency. It made her cringe to recall that she herself had once
fallen prey to his allure.
She risked another look over the edge of the table. Her
The duke was delving beneath the hem of his par-
amour’s gown, sliding his hand up her ankle and out of
sight. The ladybird squirmed and squealed in a frisky at-
tempt at evasion. He leaned down and silenced her play-
ful protests with a masterful kiss.
Abby sank back down again. Her pulse pounded and a
blush heated her inside and out. She oughtn’t be so scan-
dalized. Rothwell had a reputation as a notorious rake.
Over the years, she had heard many a tale whispered
among the neighbors of his disgraceful doings. Yet it was
one thing to listen to idle gossip and quite another to actu-
ally witness him in the throes of depravity.
And here she was, trapped. What was she to do?
If she made her presence known, the duke would find
out that Miss Abigail Linton was the new governess. She
could not be absolutely certain that he had forgotten her.
And if he did remember, he surely would dismiss her on
the spot, for he wanted nothing to do with her.
Her spirits fell into a fit of the dismals. That would mark
the end of her little adventure out into the world. Oh, she
could apply for a position elsewhere, but who would hire
her if she’d been summarily discharged from her previous
post? She would be forced to return to her brother’s house
and resume her predictable life as the maiden aunt, grow-
ing withered and gray, shuttled between relatives, with no
real say in her future.
The very thought was suffocating.
Nevertheless, she could not continue to crouch here
while the two lovers were smooching and whispering.
What if their intimate activities escalated? What if they
did the deed right here, right now?
The horrid prospect spurred Abby to action. She must
try to sneak out of the library unobserved. It was her only
Dropping to her hands and knees, she crept along the
carpet, weaving a path between the tables. Her long skirts
hampered her progress, forcing her to inch along at a snail’s
pace. Rothwell’s black boots were visible through a forest
of chair legs. At least he was too distracted to notice her,
judging by the amorous sounds emanating from across the
room. To be safe, she made a wide berth around the couple.
Feverish plans raced through her head. If only she could
reach the door and slip out, then all might be well. Per-
haps she could convince Lady Gwendolyn not to mention
the new governess to her brother. And what of Lady Hes-
ter? Was there a chance that she could be persuaded to bide
her tongue, too? Should Abby confess the truth and en-
list her help? Was it possible to stay out of sight until he
departed the Court?
Sweet heaven, how long did he intend to stay?
In the midst of her meditations, she couldn’t help over-
hearing the syrupy drivel of their tête-à-tête.
“Your Grace, you are too bold! Such a naughty boy you
“I left boyhood behind long ago. Shall I demonstrate?”
“Mm, no. You mustn’t . . . ah, yes. Yes!”
Abby grimaced under a tide of acute embarrassment.
As she crawled closer to the door, she glared in the di-
rection of the lovers. She could just see Rothwell’s legs
pressed against a froth of cream skirts. Blast him and his
debauchery! He was the worst of rogues, the king of
scoundrels. A more wicked man had never been born—!
Too caught up in remonstrations to watch where she
was going, Abby bumped her hip hard against a mahog-
any pedestal. A little squeak escaped before she could clap
her hand to her mouth. At the same instant, a faint clank-
ing noise drew her attention upward.
The globe atop the pedestal wobbled precariously. As
she watched in horror, the sphere toppled from its perch
and clunked onto the floor, where it rolled straight past the
chairs and tables to land at Rothwell’s heels.
“What the devil—!”
Frozen in concealment, Abby watched wide-eyed
through the maze of table legs as his boots shifted around.
A large male hand flashed down to stop the spinning of
the globe. Any faint hope that he might assume it had
fallen of its own accord vanished in a millisecond.
Rothwell strode forward, his footfalls sharp and deci-
sive. He came straight to her. To her great consternation,
she found herself gazing at the polished black leather of
his boots only a few inches away.
“Who are you?” he demanded. “What are you doing in
Abby raised her chin only slightly, keeping her face
averted. It was best that he didn’t gaze fully at her—or hear
the normal pitch of her voice lest it trigger his memory.
“I’m just a servant,” she whispered, “tending to my duties.”
“Speak up! Why did you not make your presence known
His dictatorial tone shredded her better judgment. “I
was trying to leave discreetly,” she flared. “It didn’t strike
me as wise to interrupt your tryst.” She paused, then added
in a more servile tone, “I do beg your pardon, Your Grace.”
She felt his gaze boring down like a physical force that threatened
to smother her. She wanted badly to look up,
to glare into his face and tell him in no uncertain terms
exactly what she thought of him.
But that would be highly imprudent.
With lightning swiftness, he clamped his hands around
her upper arms and hauled Abby to her feet. She found
herself staring up into a pair of wintry gray eyes set in a
face of unabashed masculinity. Although a dissipated life
had hardened his expression and etched faint lines on
either side of his mouth, he was more disturbingly hand-
some than ever. He also seemed taller and tougher, his
chest broader and his shoulders wider.
She hated that he still had the power to make the breath
catch in her throat. Worse, she hated that he had the au-
thority to dismiss her with a snap of his arrogant fingers.
As she racked her beleaguered brain for a way to convince
him not to do so, something flickered in those icy eyes.
I enjoyed this well-written book. It is a lovely second-chances love story with flawed but likable main characters and a ‘perfidious peahen’ of a villain. Overall, I loved the story, but I did think that some of the middle section could have been pared down and that space reallocated to flesh out the end because I thought the end was a little abrupt.
Abigail (Abby) Jane Linton is just weeks away from her thirtieth birthday. This upcoming birthday has her considering her life – she is unmarried, has no prospects and is at the beck and call of all of her much older siblings and their families. At this very moment, they are all around her loudly discussing her future – which of them she should live with, what she can do for them, which of them needs her services the most. Not one of them has asked her where she wants to live or what she wants to do. This will be her future – going from one home to the other being the unpaid companion, caregiver, nursemaid – whatever. Now, she loves her family unconditionally – and they love her, but she just has to have at least one adventure in her life. So, amidst all of the family arguments, she interrupts and announces that she is going to apply for the open governess position at Rothwell Court.
Rothwell Court is the property of Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell, although he hasn’t lived there for fifteen years. He’s actually only visited there once, very, very briefly in those fifteen years. However, it is the home of the duke’s much younger sister – Gwendolyn (Gwen). Gwen has spent most of her life living at Rothwell Court with only the company of her governess, an old aunt who pays little attention to her and the servants.
Maxwell (Max) Bryce’s father whisked Max and his newborn sister away from Rothwell Court when his wife died. Max was sixteen and he was in love with the girl from the neighboring estate – Abby, who was fifteen. They had a tiff on the day of his mother’s funeral and they never saw or spoke to each other again for fifteen years. Each had promised to write and Max had told Abby that he would come back and marry her when he reached his majority. Each kept their promise about writing letters, but neither received any letters, so each thought the other to be faithless. Max’s father preached at Max constantly about not falling in love because love only made a man weak and brought him nothing but pain and heartache. Max took that advice to heart and became one of the biggest rakes in London.
When Max unexpectedly visits Rothwell Court and finds Abby there – sparks fly – and not necessarily the good kind. Max has brought several friends from London and one of them is the woman he wants to become his mistress. Abby can’t believe it and constantly takes him to task about exposing Gwen to that woman. Max and Abby still feel that strong attraction that was there when they were 15 and 16, but both fight those feelings – especially Abby because she doesn’t want any part of the debauched man Max had become. So, I loved watching the two of them grow and come back to the sweet love they once had for each other. I did think it took a bit too long to get there, but when it happened, it was lovely.
I recommend this book and hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Olivia Drake is the author of the Cinderella Sisterhood series (Seducing the Heiress, Never
Trust a Rogue, Scandal of the Year, If the Slipper Fits, Stroke of Midnight, Abducted by the
Prince, Bella and the Beast, His Wicked Wish, and The Scandalous Flirt). She has been a
member of Romance Writers of America since 1981, and her novels have won the Golden
Heart Award, Best Historical Romantic Suspense and Best Regency Historical from Romantic
Times. She has also won the prestigious RITA award. She currently resides in Houston, TX.