Return of the Duke by Lorraine Heath
Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Once Upon A Dukedom, #3
Release Date: July 26, 2022
Just over a year ago, Marcus Stanwick changed in ways he never could have imagined when his father, the Duke of Wolfford was convicted of plotting to kill the queen and hanged for treason and the Crown stripped him of his titles, and estates, leaving the family homeless, penniless, and shunned by society. Burning for vengeance and hoping to restore the honor to his family name, Marcus loses himself in London’s dark underbelly, looking for answers but after a year with no success he finally seeks out the last person he ever wanted to talk to – his father’s former mistress.
Esme Lancaster is not what she seems, she is not the loose woman she has portrayed, she is actually an agent working for the home office and the queen’s protector. She met the duke while investigating rumors of a plot to assassinate the queen and was ordered to engage with him. Even now she is still looking for answers about the plot to assassinate Queen Victoria and is surprised it has taken Marcus so long to confront her and even more surprised at her immediate attraction to him. He is rude to her and demands to know if his father confided his plans or co-conspirators to her. When she can’t provide him with any new information, he leaves, but they meet again in a few days and she believes his intentions are honorable, so she offers up a name that she says his father mentioned. She is following up on a lead given to her by her superior and isn’t really surprised when her path crosses with Marcus again but realizes her cover is blown when he saves her from being discovered. They escape, but he is injured and she takes him home to tend his wounds. The next morning the truth comes out, she was never his father’s lover, she was investigating him, she suggests they work together to figure out who was the mastermind behind the plot and stop them before they can strike again. So all they have to do is find the killer and try not to fall in love – simple right?
This was such a great read! It was well-written, nicely paced, and tied up all the loose ends from the series perfectly. This book has it all; intrigue, wonderful characters, action, great secondary characters, steamy love scenes, redemption, and finally a lovely HEA complete with an epilogue. I think this might be my favorite book in the trilogy, and while it could be read as a standalone title, I would recommend reading the books in order for the best reader experience.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that I requested and was provided to me by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.*