I fully intended to absolutely love this book because I have loved every book I’ve read by this author. I just couldn’t get there with this one and I’m so sorry to have to say that. Since I’m reading an advanced copy, there are several things I sincerely hope are corrected prior to publication – there are smaller things – like a completely naked man suddenly having blood on his sleeve – and there are huge things like the entire process of being declared the heir to a duke (which is the entire premise of the book). If you add in that I neither liked nor was invested in ANY of the characters, you’ll see why I just couldn’t love the book. The only character I found unobjectionable was Jax, who is our hero’s friend. The other characters in the book seem more like cardboard caricatures – even with Ash’s noble intentions, I couldn’t like him or what he did. He did have an epiphany, but – well – that didn’t make up for the rest of it – at least not to this reader.
Ash Ellis had a very, very hard life. He was raised in an orphanage and went to work in a bottling plant when he was eight. The work was grueling with long days, no sleep, little if any pay, the punishment was often and severe, and starvation-type hunger. When John Coakley offered him a chance to escape that existence, he jumped at it – only to find that he’d jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Coakley was cruel, took all of the goods they’d pickpocketed, beat them regularly, and virtually owned them. They’ve finally managed to escape Coakley and Ash and Jax now own their own gaming club, The Devil’s Staircase. That, however, isn’t enough for Ash. He wants revenge on the aristocracy for all of the mistreatment he and other children have suffered – and he’ll get it by fair means or foul. When the germs of an idea take hold, he acts and gets himself declared a ducal heir.
Lady Henrietta Prince is the daughter (and only child) of the Duke of Granville. Since her mother’s death, Hetty has secluded herself on their country estate, Rosehill Park, where her French mother had been revitalizing the vineyards. That became Hetty’s mission in life, she’d continue her mother’s work and make their wines a profitable entity. She loves Rosehill Park, it is her solace, her refuge – and she certainly isn’t going to allow that upstart rogue who claims to be her father’s heir to tear it apart.
Upon meeting Ash and hearing his claim, Hetty’s father accepts the claim as real – after about a 5-minute conversation. Hetty’s father and his lover are cartoonish – outlandish – and in no way believable. Then – he tells his new heir and Hetty that he wants them to marry. This man could be a pervert of the first order, and the duke wants him to marry his daughter just as soon as he meets him.
I found everything about this book to be implausible, improbable, and very, very unlikely, and since I also did not care for the characters, I cannot recommend the book. If you choose to read it, I hope you love it. The author is one I normally love; I just could not love this particular book.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.