A Duchess by Midnight by Charis Michaels
Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Awakened by a Kiss, #3
Release Date: July 26, 2022
After years of being the “evil stepsister”, Drewsmina Trelayne has turned over a new leaf and has even begun to tutor young ladies who are getting ready to debut. At 28, she believes that love is not in the cards for her and she hopes to turn tutoring into a business and finally move out of her sister’s house. Thanks to her stepsister Princess Cynde, she might actually have a paying client. She is to meet with Cynde and her husband at the palace to be introduced to the duke, who is a bit notorious and apparently has twins that will require her services. She reports to the palace and is in the anteroom with the other people hoping to meet with the Prince and Princess when all hell breaks loose and a gift of birds for the Princess are accidentally released in the room! She tries to calm the crowd and find a way to capture the birds, when a man she noticed earlier in the corner, tries opening the door to release them, she stops him, explaining the birds would die in the palace, so he breaks a window and the birds fly out. She thanks him and starts chatting, nervous about her meeting she shares more than she should, telling the man of the duke and his twins, only to find out that he is in fact the duke!
Ian Clayback, the Duke of Lachlan is notorious, his name is linked with the Luddite riot and it is said that he conspired with his tenants and then turned on them by alerting the military of their intent to riot. And for the most part, this is true, but his intentions have been misinterpreted and the damage is done, his tenants don’t trust him and his peers think he is trouble. He has worked hard to rebuild the trust and has come to London to try and gather support to get rid of the levies on small craftsmen’s products as they are not able to compete with the mills. He has also decided to launch his twin nieces into society but admits they might need some help, even still, he is not thrilled when the Prince blackmails him into hiring Drew.
Drew meets the twins, Imogene and Ivy, and their mother Lady Tribble, and is shocked to learn that have had no preparation for a season at all, and then she learns that they have been with their mother in a cult/commune for the last five years – something that even Ian didn’t know. Impressed that the girls have opened up to Drew, he begs her to stay. Things are going well and the more Ian sees Drew, the more he likes her and is attracted to her, but his nieces need her and he has to concentrate on helping his tenants, so he will resist her! Until after dinner one night when he meets with her to talk about his niece Imogene and one thing leads to another and they are caught in a passionate embrace and are forced to marry! Can this forced marriage become a love match or are they doomed to a life of unhappiness?
I really enjoyed this story, it was well written and paced nicely, and had a lightness that made it entertaining and very easy to read. Drew and Ian share an almost instant chemistry, but that doesn’t mean they fall in love instantly, the romance develops at a slower pace, making it much more believable. This book has secrets, cults, familiar faces from previous books, including a very odd merchant, great secondary characters, steamyish love scenes, laugh-out-loud moments, and finally a HEA complete with an epilogue. This is the third book in the series, but the books are very loosely connected and can easily be read as standalone titles. I highly recommend this title, I think it might be my favorite in the series and a book I would happily read again.
*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.*