Cover Image: Duchess by Deception

Duchess by Deception

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Member Reviews

I finished Duchess by Deception feeling sadly disappointed. I wondered if it might be me, that this might be a genre that just didn’t work for me anymore. Because I expected a whole lot better from the author of the Fatal romantic suspense series.

Then I looked at some of the other reviews on Goodreads and discovered that I am far from alone in my feelings. Which leaves me feeling better about the other historical romances in my virtually towering TBR pile – but somewhat at a loss for words about this book.

Duchess by Deception is a historical romance that includes an extended ride on the “Troperville Trolley”. There are enough all-too-common tropes and cliches packed into this book for three stories – and it might have been better if it had been three separate stories.

Because there are three stories here. The first is the one about the Duke of Westwood and his nuptial deadline. If he doesn’t marry by the day of his 30th birthday he’ll be forced to relinquish the title in favor of his nasty, greedy, grasping uncle. And his birthday is at the end of the week as the story begins.

So of course he runs off to his country estate instead of staying in London to find a bride. He discovers a young man digging holes at his estate who is immediately revealed to be not merely female but actually a damsel in distress who is on the run from a fate worse than death.

Yes, my eyes are rolling.

That they fall instantly in love is, of course, a given.

Then the misunderstandammits start rolling in. Because he doesn’t tell her he’s a duke since she hates the aristocracy, even though she is part of it. And he doesn’t tell her he has to marry by the end of the week because, well, he’s already lying to her about being the duke’s estate manager instead of the duke himself.

So when the dastardly villain her father has literally sold her to starts investigating the area around the duke’s estate, he whisks her away to Gretna Green for a hasty marriage over the anvil.

Then the same thing nearly happens to her sister. And that’s not the half of it.

Escape Rating D+: I haven’t dragged the D+ out in a while. I didn’t so much finish this book as skim it to see how it ended. Because there is a third plot thread that is even crazier than the first two.

There’s a whole lot of insta-love going on here, well past the point where it’s believable or even plausible. Not only does the duke fall instantly for his future duchess when she faints in his arms, but then his cousin falls equally precipitously for her sister across a crowded ballroom.

Really? The family seems prone to falling sickness, or possibly insanity.

We don’t have a chance to see either relationship actually develop. What we do get is a lot of sex scenes substituting for the development of the romance. I like a good sex scene as much as the next romance reader, but porn-without-plot is not a substitute for an actual plot. YMMV.

The villains of the piece were both caricatures, and yes, there are two. One is a leering pig of a villain, and the other is a greedy, grasping, murderous villain. Who have no relationship to each other. Which stretches the long arm of coincidence a bit too long for a single book.

And both women forgive their father for selling them to the leering pig WAY too easily.

This story had promise. Actually, it had multiple promises. It just didn’t live up to any of them.
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Duchess by Deception is a well written historical romance.  I enjoyed the plot and the author’s writing.  Fans of historical romance novels will enjoy this book.  I received an arc from Netgalley and this is my unbiased review.
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I've read a lot (but admittedly, not all) of Ms. Force's Fatal series and a small sampling of her contemporary romances, but wasn't sure what to expect from her first historical effort. When it's an author I'm familiar with, I have a tendency not to even read the blurb before beginning to read--so I really didn't know what to expect going in.

Now that I've finished, my feelings are mixed.

Overall I liked the characters--I wasn't always thrilled with their attitudes (especially the mens' in the first chapter) or their actions (the lying went on Way. Too. Long.--really, Derek had no excuse here) but overall they were likable and easy to root for. Derek and Catherine were cute together, even if theirs was the most insta- of insta-love/lust relationships. (His cousin Simon was just as bad--really, it was a bit silly.) We don't see a whole lot of the secondary characters, but other than the aforementioned first chapter, they were mostly unobjectionable, and the second book--which jumps the pond to take place in the United States--could be interesting.

The plot was...different...I have my doubts about whether the idea that drives the premise is even possible--I really don't think it is, but was willing to suspend belief for the sake of the story. Derek's lies added to the IDK... factor, and the way things unfolded at the end was a bit clumsy and very quick. Though Ms. Force is obviously a seasoned author, this first historical book felt like a first book, and one assumes future ones will continue to tighten up and get better as she relaxes into a new-to-her genre.

Rating: 3 stars / C+

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
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I'll start with saying that historical romance is not typically my thing, but my love for Marie Force was great enough that I gave this book a try. I was pleasantly surprised at how I was able to get lost in the story in spite of the fact I typically prefer relatable characters. I found that Derek and Catherine were still relatable even though they lived a hundred years ago and a part of the British nobility. The supporting characters in this story also made this story engaging. I would definitely recommend to anyone who enjoys historical romance, and if you have never tried this genre before, this would be a great first dip into the pool.
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I really enjoyed this book! I love the way Marie writes. I don’t think I have read a book by her that I would rate below 4 stars. She is a favorite author’s for me. I highly recommend this book. Well done!
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When I first started this book I read the first 2 chapters and had to put it down. It just wasn't doing it for me. This worried me as i generally like this author. After a few weeks I went back to try again and boy was I sucked in. If you have ever read a Marie Force book you know her writing is something special. This book like her others left me with a smile on my face with the cute love story between Derek and Catherine. If you are wanting a feel good book then this one would be the one for you. With love at first sight and little drama. This was a very enjoyable book and I totally recommend it.
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" I’ve never seen anything quite like the way the two of you went from confirmed bachelors to happy matrimony in the blink of an eye.” 

I was so excited and curious to read this one.I'm a huge historical reader I like them a lot .This was an easy read with low drama and  the romance was good.It just didn't reach my expectations.

I had a little problem with the romance. Derek and Catherine went from strangers to love in seconds. I wanted something more.

However, it has some great moments and I like the writing .
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The idea of this book is very original, even if the Duke of Westwood has a deadline to marry, he is not willing to marry any of the beauties of the season, he wants to find a woman to talk to, and be satisfied Derek leaves London to cool his head and try to think where he can find his fiancé, what he did not imagine was that he would find the ideal woman on his land, a beautiful woman, who is running away from an aristocrat whom her father, a new aristocrat, offered her in marriage ... This beautiful woman, Catherine, has been running away for a few days and when Derek finds her she is weak and sick. 

But when Catherine tells Derek that she hates the aristocracy he ends up assuming a false identity and when they run away from the 'engaged fiance' and marry hidden, she did not know she was marrying a Duke... The story is pretty hot, the Duke is beautiful, powerful, sweet and does everything for his beloved.

I liked the fact that even the main couple is Derek and Catherine, Marie Force tells us a story of secondary love, but with the same quality, a secondary couple, who has his love story intertwined with that of the Duke and Duchess of Westwood. 

I received an ARC for an honest review. I believe Marie Force is great writing any literary genre.
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While the writing was technically good, there were quite a few things that grated my nerves about this book and that dampened my enjoyment of it. 

While I'm all about creative license to play with certain tropes or twist some historical facts to suit your needs, if you've read enough historical romances, or even read about the British peerage, there are certain facts that can't really be overlooked, like how a duke inherits his title and the fact that he will not lose it if he doesn't meet certain conditions and other few issues that could've been corrected if the author (or her editor) had done a bit more research on the era. So you're warned that you might have to suspend disbelief quite a bit in that respect if you read this book.   

The introduction to Derek, the hero, referring to the ton's debutantes as simpering and the way he put them down with the rest of his friends, put me off him from the start and I just couldn't find it in myself to warm up to him later on. I liked Catherine marginally better, only I would've liked her better with someone who actually deserved her. 

So, again, perhaps some readers can overlook some of these issues, but for me, it was a hard pass. I'm sorry.
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After reading some reviews for this book I was a tad skeptical about this story. A lot of complaints seemed to be around the whole yee olde world that this story took place in being inaccurate. So, if you're super into that I don't know what to tell you because let me just say I couldn't be more unfamiliar with the world that historical fiction is usually set in.



So, getting that out of the way I thought this book was rather enjoyable. The story was unique enough to me and didn't feel like an overdone trope. I enjoyed the characters and how they each grew throughout the story.



Derek is on a timeline to get married by his 30th birthday or he loses his title and has to cede it to his Uncle who is a complete and utter POS. Derek wants to marry for love more than anything and despite going to many a ball he has yet to find a woman to catch his interest. Leaving an event he rides home and finds someone digging a hole on his land. When he finds out it's a woman and not a young man like he thought he's immediately intrigued. Thinking he can't get the answers he needs as a Duke he pretends to be someone else to make Cat comfortable and immediately falls in love.



Cat is on the run from a man her father promised her to. Running into "Jack" she thinks she's finally found peace, love, and a man she can grow a family with. I enjoyed Cat's character and how fierce and independent, but also caring and nurturing. She cared for everyone and I felt for her when she finds out about who Derek really is.



I have to say despite the insta-love thing I don't think it was written poorly. I felt why and how they fell for each other so quickly and they had a real relationship that is sometimes glazed over in other books. It didn't feel too quick or like lazy writing.



The romance was written really well and at times I was happy I had my fan going. The sexy parts didn't take over the story or the characters and I really liked that they had a relationship outside of that.



Overall, a very good story. One I would most certainly recommend and see myself re-reading again sometime
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An enjoyable book, though many of the threats presented didn't seem much like threats at all given how easily they were resolved, other than the conflict between the main characters. There the pitfalls were obvious but took much longer to resolve. I like the thread of character history that ran through the book and I enjoyed the happily ever after. Great interaction between the main characters.
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Duchess by Deception by Marie Force is the first book in her Gilded series and her historical romance debut. And oh boy what a debut that is.
I'm normally not a fan of historical fiction, but I wanted to give it a try and I'm so happy I did. I was captivated from page one, read it cover to cover in one sitting, I couldn't put it down.

Derek Eagan, seventh Duke of Westwood needs to wed. On his thirtieth birtday he ahs to be a married man, otherwise he loses his title and wealth.
Catherine McGabe, daughter of an Earl already fled an arranged marriage. She loathes this system. When both meet, they have insta chemistry and fell in love rather quickly. But Derek keeps a major secret from her, that later on threaten to destroy their HEA.
I greatly enjoyed this trip into historical romance and give 4,5 stars.
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Duchess by Deception by Marie Force is book One in the Gilded Series.  This is the story of Catherine McCabe and Derek Egan.  Catherine was being forced to marry a Titled man who had even tried to force himself on her...so she went on the run.  Derek is a Titled Duke since his parents death when he was little, not though he has a deadline to be married by 30 or loose that Title to his evil Uncle.  Derek is 29 and has not found a women to catch his eye or his interest so he lives town to get some peace...but what he finds is Catherine.  Derek doesn't tell her who he is but does give her a fake...what will happen when the truth comes out?  Loved Ms. Force's writing so this was a must have book for me.
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I was thrilled at the opportunity to review Marie Force’s first foray into historical romances.  A master storyteller, I had high expectations and she didn’t disappoint.  This was a fantastic first offering although I have to say that I still prefer her Outrageous series!

The Duke of Westwood has to be married by his thirtieth birthday or he will lose his title.  This birthday is ten days away at the start of the book.  He has been attending balls during the ton’s season, but finds all the young debutants insipid, and despairs of getting wed by the final date.  Then he decides to cut the season short and travels home, only to find an urchin excavating dirt at the boundaries of his land.  When he intercepts the urchin, he turns out into a dirty blond-haired young woman.  Of cultured voice, lovely manners, truculent manner, he’s intrigued by this winsome young lady who wants nothing to do with gentry and only wants the means to live on her own.

Thus begins the adventure of Derek Eagan, Duke of Westwood, in trying to win over this young lady who has captured his attentions, intrigued him, and entertains him.  He deceives her, impersonating his forehand, and wins her favor, thus entering into a whole charade full of deceits.

This story was entertaining, and what I liked most of all were the references to the period it is based on, early 1900’s.  There’s plumbing in the houses of the most wealthy, motorcars, the Wright brother’s are working on their plane, and there’s already the beginning of electricity.  I was a little confused because the manners, the customs and the conversations felt like a Regency romance, whereas the setting is more into the future. I was also anxiously counting the days while the Duke won over the lady because the days were going by, the duke didn’t seem to be in a hurry, and I didn’t see any wedding happening soon.  

To be honest, I didn’t like the deceit the Duke played on Catherine. I had a hard time believing that the Duke would fall in love that fast and that he would convince a total stranger into marrying him, much less a woman who appeared to be as intelligent as Catherine.  Later on, the story improved a lot, the conversations felt more like I expected from a historical romance, there were elements of intrigue, danger, marital discord, eloping, epidemics, that made the book totally entertaining.  I loved how Derek and Catherine behaved, even when they were squabbling, and how deferential and respectful Derek was towards Catherine all the time. I loved, loved, Derek’s cousin Simon.  He was a rakehell of the first order, but when the situation warranted, he manned up and showed the honorable gentleman he was inside.  He was Derek’s best friend and his ally in anything Derek needed, great character! There were a lot more sex scenes that I expected in a historical romance, and some of the language was sublimely cheesy.  I liked the book, most of it, but I prefer the author’s contemporary stories much better.
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Marie Force is a very well-known and popular writer of romantic suspense and contemporary romance novels, and is now turning her hand to writing historical romance.  Based on this first foray into the genre, I’m afraid I have to say that she should stick to writing what she knows best, because Duchess by Deception is simply awful; it’s based on a flawed premise and is full of more really tired clichés than you can shake a bundle of sticks at.

Derek, Duke of Westwood, came into his title at the tender age of six following the death of his parents in a carriage accident.  He has grown into his role and is a dedicated young man who manages his responsibilities admirably and is genuinely concerned for the welfare of all those who depend on him – even moreso as his thirtieth birthday approaches.  Because, you see, some ancestor or other put a stipulation in his will that the holders of the title MUST be married by the age of thirty, or they will forfeit it and the dukedom will pass to the next heir.  And Derek, with just a week or so go to before his thirtieth birthday,  hasn’t yet found a woman he wants to marry.  The new crop of debutantes each Season are more vacuous than the last, (and don’t get me started on the sexism inherent in statements like this – “Is there one among them who cares about anything other than her hair or her gown or her slippers?”) – and while he isn’t necessarily holding out for a love match, he does want a wife with whom he can hold intelligent conversations and share affectionate companionship.

Okay, so now let’s rewind.  Derek must marry by his thirtieth birthday or abdicate his title. Er, nope.  British inheritance law doesn’t work like that. It does not allow for a peer to make any stipulations of this sort as to how his title progresses; a title is not a possession and thus is not something that can be bequeathed or have conditions attached to it.  For instance, the Queen doesn’t have a say in who succeeds her (although in very, very exceptional circumstances, I daresay she could, which would involve all sorts of constitutional upheaval and acts of Parliament) and as far as I know, this goes for the peerage as well. So the novel’s plot is based on a completely erroneous premise, which, in my book, is enough to sink it without trace.

Moving on.

Derek, being the conscientious young man he is, is determined to do his duty and find a wife by his birthday, especially as his current heir is his father’s brother – Derek’s uncle – who is a grasping, dastardly individual who has always wanted the title for himself (he and Derek’s father were twins and Anthony was born second) because he deserved it.  It was he who engineered the accident that killed Derek’s parents (this isn’t a spoiler, as it’s revealed in the first chapter) and he still chafes that Derek wasn’t with them, as he was supposed to have been – and so his evil plot to become the Duke was foiled.  Can I get a ‘MUAHAHAHAHA’? And just in case we aren’t clear about Anthony’s ambitions, his mistress is there to hit readers over the head with a tea-tray:

“You ponder the fate of your nephew and the duchy you covet.”

Anthony raised an imperious brow.  “It is rather impertinent for (of?) you to speak so boldly of things that are none of your concern.”

Seriously?  I wonder if Ms. Force has read any historical romance since the 1980s.

Anyway.  While travelling back to his estate, Derek comes across a filthy boy in shoddy clothing digging in a field.  Wondering why there is a filthy boy in shoddy clothing digging in one of his fields, Derek stops to ask questions, the boy bolts, Derek catches him, the boy passes out – but not before his cap falls off to reveal long dark tresses… and lo! ‘tis the heroine in disguise.   Arrived at his ancestral pile, Derek’s protective instincts are on high alert, and even though the young woman is dirty and smelly, he unaccountably wants to care for her, crawl into bed next to her and “hold her until the fever broke…”  So he does. (After she’s had a bath, natch.)

When she awakens and is told she’s at the Duke of Westwood’s estate, the young woman – Catherine – is immediately fearful and makes clear her dislike of peers of the realm, so Derek decides not to tell her he’s a duke, but instead introduces himself as the estate manager because he wants to know more about her.  But that has to be put on hold while they get back into bed for spurious reasons and cuddling and flirting ensues.  She’s just woken from a fever, they don’t know each other,  they’ve barely said two words to each other and yet she comes up with things like:

“How do you expect me to sleep with a big, rutting beast in my bed?”

To which he responds:

“Have no fear, my dear lady. Your shrewishness has caused my ‘thing’ to wither and die… I can assure you that you’re entirely safe from my fornicating tendencies”

And then she wonders – what, exactly, was that tingle between her legs?

Jesus H. Christ on a cracker. We’re 11% into the book by this point, by the way.

In a nutshell.  Catherine is running from the slobbery old bloke she’s supposed to marry and doesn’t want anything to do with the aristocracy. Two days after their first meeting, she and Derek are sucking face and then shagging (and joy of joys, she gets to say “It will never fit!”) and at the 30% mark, they’re running off to Gretna Green to get married, presumably so he can marry her without revealing his true identity, which is dumb, but no dumber than the other dumb stuff in this dumb book.

No prizes for guessing what happens next.

The writing is stilted and often unintentionally funny (see quotes above) – not what I’d expect from an experienced author – and the characters are barely two dimensional.  Given Ms. Force is known for writing steamy sex scenes, the ones in this book are dull and there is zero chemistry between the leads.  There’s a secondary romance that also takes off like a rocket, between Derek’s cousin (Anthony’s son) and Catherine’s younger sister, and to call the villainous Anthony ‘cartoonish’ is, frankly, to insult cartoon villains the world over.

I’ve said enough for you to realise that you should give this book a wide berth – unless you’re a masochist or just want a good laugh at the terrible dialogue.  If you’ve never read Marie Force before, do yourself a favour and read the excellent Five Years Gone, or one of her romantic suspense titles.  I hope she’s not going to stop writing those, because in spite of its lovely cover and less-used setting of 1902 (which is largely irrelevant to the story anyway),  Duchess by Deception is terrible.
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I’m going to start this review by saying that Marie Force is one of my favourite contemporary romantic suspense authors, and someone I deeply respect in the writing world. 

But with that said, I really, really wish she hadn’t tried her hand at historical romance because this is a hot mess. It’s got some absolute clangers in terms of historical inaccuracies and a hero who tells continued and repeated lies to the heroine and then tries to tell her it’s all for her benefit. While refusing to allow her to sleep apart from him because ‘she’d never forgive him if he gave her too much time to think about the many ways he’d done her wrong’ and basically forcing himself on her even when she told him she wanted him to leave.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the historical and geographic inaccuracies. Set in 1902, mostly at the Duke of Westwood’s Essex estate. However, it reads more like a Regency romance than an Edwardian one; the only thing non-Regency was ‘collar and tie’ on the gentlemen rather than cravats. The duke, Derek, and his love interest Catherine elope to Gretna Green to get married hastily… which is the first thing I scowled at. In 1856 the law was changed to stop the scandalous Scottish marriages taking place, requiring at least one member of a couple wishing to marry to be resident in Scotland for 21 days prior to a marriage. Which didn’t happen. So in 1902, no couple from England are running off to Gretna and getting married on the day of their arrival.

Which brings me to another point. In 1902, the journey from Essex to Scotland could have been managed in a couple of days, as Derek and Catherine did - but certainly not by horse-drawn carriage, which would have been a 6-day journey at least, but nobody would do it that way. Trains ran the length and breadth of Britain by that time and they would only have taken a carriage as far as the nearest station. Guess what else isn’t even mentioned in the book? That’s right. No trains. The Duke’s carriage magically transports them from Essex to Scotland with just one overnight stop.

Historical and geographic inaccuracies aside, I thoroughly disliked the plot of this book. Derek flat-out lies to Catherine about who he is and continues to do so even after they’re married until he’s caught out, which is dubious consent in my book at the very least. And then he refuses to allow her to be righteously angry because he’s afraid she won’t forgive him, which would frankly be the least of what he deserves.

Oh, and did I mention the sex? This pair are at it like rabbits within a few days of meeting, before getting married and afterwards, and not content with them, Force also writes in a romance between the duke’s cousin and Catherine’s younger sister and writes a whole separate story in which they get married and have sex too. There were so many sex scenes I started skimming them after a while. This is NOT supposed to be erotica.

I almost quit reading this at the 70% mark, but I don’t believe in critiqueing something without full and informed knowledge, so I soldiered on. Shortly after that Catherine did finally read Derek the riot act properly, saying she couldn’t reconcile the goodness she saw in him with the man who repeatedly lied to the woman he claimed to love. At which point he went off in a sulk and took off to London for three days, letting her find out about it from the housekeeper.

Guess what? The genuinely epic grovel this story desperately needed never, ever happened, Catherine decided sex with Derek was good enough to not care about his lies and when he fell ill with influenza, blamed herself for putting stress on him, and SHE apologized to HIM. Self-gaslighting was a new low even for this book.

I honestly can hardly believe a writer with as much talent as Marie Force wrote this utterly dreadful drivel. Please, please go back to writing contemporary suspense, ma’am. Or maybe get a sensitivity reader and an editor knowledgeable about the historical period you’re writing about to clean up the horrible mess of inaccuracies and dubious consent before you publish the rest of the series.

I can hardly believe I’m saying this, but I cannot possibly give this awful story any more than one star.
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Overall, not a bad start to a new historical series - particularly given that this is Force's first foray into the historical genre. There were times that it felt a bit forced for me - it's tough to do a "hot" historical along the same lines as a contemporary romance, and frankly some of the sexytimes seemed a bit unrealistic/overly-contrived. Also, I'm probably overly picky as a historical reader but there were some minor things that were either inaccurate (e.g. calling someone by the wrong title) or seemed highly unlikely given the social norms of the time (e.g. Catherine's father being the second son of an earl, but also a blacksmith??). But all that being said, I did enjoy the book.

As somewhat typical in Force's novels, there are secondary characters with a fairly detailed, separate storyline of their own. While their story was related to the main plot, I almost wish there were fewer details given in this book and they were given a separate book of their own (it's not unheard of to see authors do this with separate books with concurrent storylines). There is also some "insta love" (x2, no less). Although this is somewhat supported by actual novels of the time, this modern gal would like a little more to happen between a couple before people start declaring their undying love for each other. I guess I want them to work for it a little. {shrug}

There is clearly a setup for future books in the series and I do plan on checking them out - especially as it sounds as if the next book will likely be taking place in Newport, RI during the Gilded Age, which sounds fascinating.

*eARC provided by the publisher and NetGalley. All opinions are my own.*
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Yes, I'm reviewing another Marie Force book. What can I say? I’ve adored her writing since I first read Maid for Love several years ago. I’ve read about 80% of her books (and still working on catching up on one series!) and have loved them all. But before I dive into the review, I have to let you guys know that historical romance isn’t my favorite genre. OK, in all honesty, it’s at the very bottom of my list. But I know there are SO many of you that love historical romance, and well...Marie Force wrote this...so I jumped right on in. And I tried. I tried really, really hard to LOVE this book enough to give it 5 stars. So, I’m totally prefacing this review with the warning that historical romance is NOT something I love. Therefore, I’m calling this a biased review instead of nonbiased. So Marie, if you read this...I’m sorry I didn’t love it! But it truly is me and not you! The writing, as always, was fabulous. She’s got a talent for storytelling as evidenced by the fact that this was something like her 70th book release. It was just really hard for me to get lost in the story. In true Marie fashion, her heroine is a strong-willed, free-thinker that is not going to let anyone own her or run her life. She’s smart, feisty, and adventurous.  And our hero is no ordinary duke. He’s looking for someone that’s going to be more his equal than a pretty thing on his arm. There’s intrigue, passion, a few fisticuffs, and even a mystery or two within these pages. 

NICUnurse’s Rating: I’m giving the story 4.5 stars because it’s a well-written story. I didn’t love it, but if YOU love historical romances, I have no doubt that you WILL love this story. So please don’t let my “eh” feelings about this book. I promise it has nothing to do with the storyline, the writing, the characters, or the author. Simply the genre...and me.
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I was really surprised on how much I loved this book! I have read Marie Force before and this not what she usually writes! Really loved!!
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A sweet historical romance with a hint of mystique as our Duke's disguise ends up being his love trap. I really loved the maturity here - a lot of historical romances often have really young women (that's just how it was) so there's always something lacking from them that an older, more refined woman has. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this romance and look forward to reading more of Ms. Force!
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