Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Duke’s By-Blows, #4
Release Date: October 13, 2020
Desperate times call for desperate measures, at least that is what widowed Imogen Huxley believes. When her husband died and left her penniless, his family was far from sympathetic, they told her she could stay in their care for her year of mourning and then they were done with her, so with no family and no skills, Imogen decides that she has no choice but to become a courtesan. Terrified her husband’s family will learn of her actions before she can find a protector and kick her out, she looks for a man in some of London’s seedier brothels, including the Cat’s Companion. It is there where her life takes a turn from bad to worse, when she sees the madame, Maggie and the Earl of Roddenbury standing over the body of a dead woman and overhears them discussing the fact that the earl killed her and that she wasn’t the first, Imogen gasps and draws their attention to her – she takes off and runs out into the alley, where she runs right into the arms of Oscar Fitzhugh.
Oscar is the first of the late Duke of Roseford’s illegitimate children and the owner of Fitzhugh’s a popular men’s club. He is in the alley behind the Cat’s Companion looking for answers, his former mistress went missing and is presumed dead and Oscar wants answers. He and Louisa parted ways when she fell in love with him and wanted him to love her in return, when he made it clear that he was not capable of love, she left him and not long after, he got word she was dead. Now he wants to know why and has come to the brothel looking for answers, but instead what he finds in another woman in trouble. Unable to turn his back on her, he whisks her away to his home and when he learns what she witnessed, he knows her life is in danger and believes the Roddenbury is likely responsible for Louisa’s demise as well.
He offers to help her and keep her safe, but makes it clear that no one – including her dearest friend Aurora – can know where she is. With no options, Imogen gratefully agrees. They both try to fight the intense attraction they feel, but soon they give into desire and become lovers. Oscar makes it clear that he only wants a physical relationship, love is not in the cards for him and he doesn’t want to hurt her as he did Louisa. Imogen agrees but it is obvious that neither one of them is going to be able to abide by the terms, especially when things with Roddenbury escalate and Oscar is forced to face his feelings not only for Imogen, but for Louisa and his siblings as well.
This was well written, fast moving, intense story with wonderful characters and very steamy love scenes. Oscar might be one of the most emotionally suppressed heroes I have ever read, he has such a good heart and cares deeply, but he refuses to name his emotions thinking that if he doesn’t admit to them, they can’t hurt him, but once he meets Imogen, the wall he has always used to keep his feelings in check begins to fall apart. The story is full of mystery, emotion, great secondary characters, including cameos from Selina, Derrick and Nicholas and well as Lucas and Diana from the 1797 club, a really nasty villain, steamy love scenes and finally a very touching declaration scene leading to HEA. This is the fourth book in the series, but it could easily be read as a standalone title. I enjoyed this book and would happily recommend this title.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher.*