There is no great adventure in this novel, no espionage, no crime to solve, no treasure to plunder. What I did for a Duke is purely character driven and the focus is on how love grows between two people, how relationships form and how they strengthen through mutual respect and honesty. You would be forgiven for thinking that this sounds boring but it serves to create a believable and combustible chemistry between the two leads.
Alex Moncrieff, Duke of Falconbridge, seeks revenge on the scoundrel who cuckolded him and effectively ended his engagement to a woman he believed he could love. His quarry is Genevieve, the scoundrel's sister, who he intends to seduce and abandon - thus rendering a punishment that befits the crime. The story centres round a house party hosted by the scoundrel's family, allowing Alex the opportunity to put his nefarious plan into action.
What he fails to foresee is that Genevieve is not a typical Regency miss. She is clever, wilful and already in love. On the morning of Alex's arrival she learns that Harry, her love, plans to marry another and so it is a colourless and lacklustre Genevieve that first greets Alex. Despite her heartbreak she cannot help but be drawn into witty banter with the Duke. It is this banter that Long excels at, spinning words together to create realistic and amusing dialogue.
Alex is a fabulous hero; jaded, dark and unapologetic. He is also the opposite of what I usually want from a hero. A widower who actually loved his first wife? I like my heroes to be rakes and resolute bachelors - preferring the idea that the heroine is their first love leading them into a HEA. Naive and idealistic? Yup, but that's the joy of reading romance. Cleverly Long tells us that Alex is a widower of ten years, making his past distant, on only one occasion are details of his marriage revealed and this is to Genevieve and the conversation engenders neither jealousy or insecurity in her. What it does do is illustrate a jaded and cynical hero who is open to the concept of love, who is indeed more embracing of it than the heroine though it does not weaken him. Often in historical romance the male is much older than the female, reflecting the era, this irritates me as the age gap is usually ignored or glossed over. Long has given us Alex who is almost forty - not a crime in itself but Genevieve is barely twenty and usually this would make me uncomfortable. Not here as both characters address it, Genevieve and her friends laugh about it, Alex makes the most of it. Ultimately it works because the heroine is not childish and has an awareness of sex and sexuality, though experience with neither.
Genevieve is a clever lady, she is able to read people and situations and sees straight through Alex. What might have been a Great Misunderstanding is kerbed by an insightful heroine. Genevieve deduces that Alex has a motive for spending time with her and forces him to admit it early on in the novel. An admirable move, as this meant that both she and Alex were able to see each other clearly and to admire each other without secrets.
The reason for the half star deduction is purely because there were about twenty pages when Genevieve annoyed me, though I do stress I loved her for the other 300! She was a bit confused about ideas of love, while I was swallowing my heart every time I saw Alex's name. Additionally, while I love Long's writing - especially her dialogue, she has a tendency to overlay her characters' thoughts with her own voice. These moments make her writing accessible and amusing but often to the detriment of context. Pedantic of me, I know, and so I urge you not to let these little things deter you from reading what is an otherwise brilliant regency romance.