Duke Most Wicked by Lenora Bell
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Wallflowers vs. Rogues, #3
Release Date: September 27, 2022
When Brandan Delamar, heir to the Duke of Westbury was a child, he did all he could to make his father proud, but to his dismay, nothing he did was good enough for the Duke and he made his displeasure with his firstborn known. But it wasn’t until Brandan was 12 and his mother, after giving birth to five girls finally had another boy that he learned the truth of why his father hated him. And in that moment, he swore that as hard as he had tried to impress the Duke, he would now pour all his energy into being as wicked as the Duke proclaimed him to be and he succeeded. He was as wicked as wicked could be, even after his mother and his brother died, and even after the old Duke died and Bradan became the Duke. So immersed in his debauchery, West didn’t realize his actions were hurting his sisters, until after waking up in his friend Rafe’s rooms at his club and overhearing some men talking about his sisters, did he realize the extent of his selfishness. He vows, not to reform, but to make things right for his sisters and since he had gambled and frittered away most of his fortune (including the girls’ dowries) he decides the best thing he can do is marry an heiress. He finds an American heiress, proposes, and then informs his sisters of their change in fortune and is shocked when they are not overjoyed that he has not only solved their money problems but found husbands for two of his sisters, eliminating the need for them to have a season.
Viola Beaton, the daughter of a disgraced composter, is the Delamar girls’ music instructor and a sort of companion to them is just as shocked as they are when West makes his announcement. Viola has secretly been infatuated with West for years, but knows that nothing can come from it and has tried her best to bury her feelings, but upon hearing that he is to marry, she can’t stop the pain she feels at the loss of her dream. She buries her disappointment and promises the girls that she will try to reason with him, and convince him that the girls should have a season. But when he refuses to budge, she gets angry and quits.
West is intrigued by Viola, he has always noted that she is pretty, but as his employee, she is off limits. But when she confronts him, he can’t help but wonder how he didn’t notice how passionate she is. He feels like he is seeing her for the first time, but it doesn’t matter, he is to be married and it is probably best that she isn’t around to distract him. But when his sisters mutiny, he is forced to give in to their demands and begs Viola to come back. Now all he has to do is marry his heiress and forget about Viola – simple right?
This was a very interesting read, and it was not what I was expecting and not nearly as clichéd as I had anticipated. The book has a lot going on, yet it didn’t feel busy or scattered, it was, for the most part, a light, fun read, but had a deep undercurrent of emotion running through it, that kept the story from becoming “fluffy”. The book has wonderful characters, witty banter, steamyish love scenes, a spectacular lover’s reunion, music, secrets, surprising twists and turns, a botched proposal, and finally a HEA that didn’t seem possible. I enjoyed this book, more than I thought I would, but there were some things that just didn’t work for me. The ending was a bit too perfect, and I couldn’t get over the fact that West gambled away his sister’s doweries, and I was surprised that the author doesn’t seem to know that ALL the duke’s daughters have the honorific of “Lady”, not just the eldest. All in all, it was a fun and original read that I am happy to recommend. This is the third book in the series, but it is loosely connected and can definitely be read as a standalone title.
*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.*