Barbara’s rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: Hazards of Dukes #2
Publication Date: 10/27/20
Number of Pages: 384
I loved the book blurb and was really looking forward to the read although this author seems to be hit-or-miss for me. However, I’ve just ended up frustrated with it instead. Maybe if I had read the first book in the series, it would have answered some of my questions – but it certainly wouldn’t have fixed the ending. That ending left me feeling – unfinished – unsatisfied – just ‘un’. Instead of emitting a sigh of satisfaction and warmth at the end – I emitted a growl. Perhaps Nash and I have something in common since he likes to growl.
Both Nash and Ana Maria played roles in the first book of the series, Never Kiss a Duke. Maybe Ana Maria’s background was more fully explained in that book, but what I read in this one just left me with more questions than answers. Nash and Ana Maria share similar backgrounds in that they were both abused from childhood forward. Both felt they didn’t belong in the worlds in which they lived and both were trying to make the best of the situations in which they found themselves. They had been friends during childhood because Nash was friends with Ana Maria’s brother Sebastian. Nash knows most of Ana Maria’s background, but he’s kept his own deeply hidden.
Nash (I’m not sure we learned his last name), Duke of Malvern, spent his childhood being both physically and mentally abused by his cruel, bully of a father. Nash spent his entire life hearing his father tell him, “You take after me. In every way.” Naturally, having heard that since childhood, Nash believed it wholeheartedly. Especially when he was usually at a loss for words and chose to use his fists to make his point. In reality, Nash is nothing like his father. When he uses his fists, it is to right a wrong. He has a giving heart and has surrounded himself with his father’s by-blows. He offered to send them money or a position working in his household – whichever they wanted. Most of them chose to work for him. Nash is determined never to marry because he is terrified that he’ll be the kind of husband and father his own father was. Well, he planned never to marry until his grandmother showed up – uninvited – and told him he had to marry because if he didn’t his cousin who is as abusive as his father would inherit.
Lady Ana Maria Dutton spent most of her life as a drudge in her father’s house. Her stepmother couldn’t stand the sight of her – didn’t want her – and immediately relegated her to servant status. She slept in the highest room in the attic – one so bad that even the servants weren’t made to sleep there. She did the most menial tasks around the house and bore the brunt of her stepmother’s wrath if she was dissatisfied. With her father and stepmother gone from this world, Ana Maria is lost. Her brother, then her cousin (story from the first book) immediately moved her back into her proper status as a Lady – but Ana Maria wasn’t comfortable there. She never felt as if she belonged – and she doesn’t feel as if she can belong with the servants any more either. She feels as if she’s walking a tightrope trying to find her place in the world. Her brother and cousin want marriage and home for her – but is that what she wants? They don’t really ask; they just assume she wants marriage. She does, but she wants it with someone who wants and accepts her for who she is – she wants love. She doesn’t want someone who only wants her dowry. She’s always admired her brother’s best friend Nash, but he’s said he’ll never marry.
Ana Maria was steady throughout the book – she admired Nash – she wanted Nash. Nash was pretty steady as well, although you wouldn’t think so. He wanted Ana Maria as well, but he couldn’t marry her – because he could love her – and love meant emotions – and emotions meant anger and violence. Needless to say, they had a tough-row-to-hoe before they could get to their HEA.
You might want to stop reading here because I’m going to talk about some of my frustrations and it might spoil some things for you. One of my big frustrations is when an author presents situations that just don’t make sense, but they don’t explain them. For instance – in this book Ana Maria was treated as a servant by her stepmother – from the age of maybe 5-8 years forward until her stepmother died a year or so ago. Where were her loving father, brother, and cousin during those 20 or so years? Did her father not care? Did he never see her? You’d think he’d notice that he never saw his daughter – or – when he did see her, she was dressed worse than the servants. Why wouldn’t she say anything to him? Why wouldn’t her brother present her case to her father? The woman is somewhere around twenty-eight in this book and her father and stepmother only died a year or so before, so, as an adult, why wouldn’t she take steps to do something for herself? Then, there is Nash. His father died three years ago, yet neither his mother nor his grandmother has approached him. Their excuse is that they didn’t know whether he was like his father or not. Well, that should be a quick enough inquiry – why would it take three years. How did his mother remarry when she’d run off and left his father? It doesn’t say anything about divorce. Then there is the ending of the book. It was just abrupt – BOOP! and it was there. I almost feel as if there wasn’t really an HEA. I don’t know – it just didn’t feel finished. Another chapter or an epilogue could have gone a long way toward helping the end of the book. BTW – if you like the word ‘Oxymoron’, you’ll love this book because I think it appears on every other page. I understand what the author was doing, but it was just too much.
I’m not sorry I read the book and I’m happy that I met Nash and Ana Maria. However, I would not read the book again. Maybe the next book in the series will complete the HEA for this book, but I think I’ll probably never know because I doubt I’ll read it.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.