The Duke’s Secret Cinderella by Eva Devon
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Never A Wallflower, #3
Release Date: February 21, 2023
According to his mother, Rafe Dorchester, the Duke of Rockford is getting married. This is news to him, but when she basically blackmails him into agreeing, he knows his days as a bachelor are over. And to make matters worse, she tells him she has a list of potential brides for him, but her list only has one name – Lady Francesca, daughter of Lord Palmerton. She informs him that he is to call on her tomorrow and his mother expects them to announce their betrothal at her ball. He agrees to meet her because he has no choice but Rafe is a romantic and longs for a love match, like his parents and his grandparents had, he is sure that when he meets the right woman, it will hit him right away and he will know. And he was right, but the woman he meets is nothing like he expected and he is hit, but it is by his beauty and it is with a brick!
Charlotte Browne is making her way to Marshalsea Debtor’s Prison to hopefully free her elderly friend and servant, Stevenson. Stevenson was imprisoned for a debt that his employer, who happens to be Charlotte’s stepfather, Lord Palmerton took out in his name and refused to pay. She is sure he did it to punish Charlotte. Charlotte’s father died when she was just a baby and her mother remarried a few years later to a widower with two small children of his own. When Charlotte’s mother died not long after, Lord Palmerton kept Charlotte rather than sending her to an orphanage, but she is little more than a servant and is not allowed to leave the house. He is petty and cruel to her and hurts the people she loves to punish her. But her task has been far from easy, and when she is accosted by a thief who tries to take the money she scrapped together to free her friend, help comes from an unexpected source, whom she accidentally hits with a brick! Rafe chases off the thief and insists on going with her to free her friend. He uses his title to get them in and even pays the fee when she discovers she lost her coin. He is perfect and clearly not for the likes of her, but a girl can dream. Later when he arrives at her home to call on her stepsister Lady Francesca, they meet again and another servant calls her Lady Charlotte, and before she can stop herself, she elaborates on the lie by claiming to be Francesca’s cousin. And so begins a romance that can only end in heartbreak…
This book was a well-written and nicely-paced page-turner, but it was not what I was expecting! I thought this was going to be a lighthearted, warm, and fuzzy Cinderella retelling. And while it was a twist on Cinderella, it was anything but lighthearted. The story is filled with lies, secrets, threats, toe-curling kisses, wonderful secondary characters, a truly evil villain, surprising twists, and a shocking revelation before a nail-biter ending that leads to their HEA. Rafe was a truly wonderful hero, I felt so bad for him, he wore his heart on his sleeve and was hurt again and again by Charlotte. Hurting Rafe was the last thing Charlotte wanted to do, but more than her happiness is at stake, she wants to tell Rafe the truth but knows it will only end up hurting more people if she does, so she tries to push him away, but finds that she can’t hurt him to save others, leaving her with no opinions that do not end in heartache. I honestly didn’t think this story was going to be so angsty, there are moments of levity that keep it from being too heavy, but the villain in this story is so vile and so powerful, that he sets the tone for most of the book. That being said, having that much angst during the book, made the ending that much more magical and satisfying. Overall, I enjoyed this story, angst and all, and would happily recommend the title to anyone who enjoys historical romance, fairytale retellings, or just plain old “good vs. evil” stories! This book is the third book in the series, but each book is a standalone title and they can be read in any order.
*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.*