Title: The Duke I Once Knew
Series: Unlikely Duchesses #1
Author: Olivia Drake
Format: eBook/Paperback, 333 pages
Publication: December 31st 2018 by St. Martin's
Links: Goodreads | Amazon |B&N
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Wine Glasses
First love is always the sweetest.
For years, Abigail Linton devoted herself to caring for her aging parents and the children of her siblings. Now, eager to make her own life, she takes a position as governess on the neighboring estate. It shouldn’t matter that her absentee employer is Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell, the infamous rake who once broke her youthful heart. Surely he’s forgotten her, for he hasn’t set foot on his estate for fifteen years. At least, that is, until he arrives unexpectedly.
Max is incensed to meet his sister’s new governess. But why does Abby appear just as displeased to see him when it was she who’d rejected him all those years ago? Why is he so drawn to the independent spinster she has become? And why is there a sparkle in her beautiful blue eyes that suggests they might have a second chance at love?
Though she loved her family dearly , she yearned for something more. Something of her own choosing.
First in the Unlikely Duchesses series, we have a heroine wanting to make a change. Abby was the surprise baby, her older siblings were already out of the house as she grew up. She ends up taking care of her older parents, missing a debut in London, and eventually landing into a role as caregiver for her nieces and nephews. It is when her family is arguing over who gets to have her that Abby decides she would like some control and freedom in her life. She decides to become a governess for the younger sister of the Duke of Rothwell, who just so happens to be her childhood love.
Her rapt gaze followed the dusting of black hair that narrowed to a line, trailing downward across his flat belly to disappear inside his breeches . He looked every inch the wicked rake that young ladies were warned to avoid.
Thirty-year-old spinsters ought to know better, too.
This story was filled with cliches and tropes that help make up the backbone of romance and while they provided the, somewhat, requisite sweet and romantic moments, it also gave this a been there and done that feel. You won't get a fresh take or be particularly inspired by this story but you will like the heroine, she saves this from getting the mediocre tag and raised the rating from two to three stars. Her family is not malicious in their selfishness or obliviousness to Abby possibly having her own wants and needs but they are still selfish and oblivious. The author did a wonderful job infusing and relaying Abby's emotions to the reader, her quiet determination and fear from stepping out on her own. There wasn't villainous family members or a one eighty change from Abby, she still wanted to be in her family's lives but didn't want theirs to be hers. I thought towards the later half we lost a little bit of Abby as the focus shifted to the hero, Max, and the tired “Don't love because it can weaken you”.
It was an unsettling thing for a man to question the state of his life. Especially when only a few days ago, he’d found it to be perfectly satisfactory.
The cliches I mentioned before, really hit hard on Max. He is the child of a marriage where his father loved his mother more than she loved him and he now feels he has to shun all love connections. There is a Misunderstanding that has him hardening his childhood heart against Abby but other than a quick plot trick, it is discussed (Thank-you!) and while not completely solved, figured out enough to not be a problem between them anymore in the first half. Abby does outshine him but he also doesn't ever break out of the duke, rake, and scared of love mold; he just isn't interesting or memorable. Their sex scenes do come in the second half but as there wasn't much emotional build up to them, they still ended up feeling abrupt. As a consequence, I can't say I was ever too invested in their romance or caught any sparks from them.
Along with the sweet, fun, and romantic cliches and tropes, there were some very tired ones. There is a “villainous” woman who wants Max and plays into the one dimensional social climbing, jealous other woman. This used to be a favorite of romance but it has been tending to move away from it and at this time, I much rather see female friendships or at least villainous women with some depth (in a time period where it was tough for women, this can be written as intelligent and powerful stratagem).
All in all, this had a sweet inspiriting heroine, Basic Ben hero, tired other woman character, and some possible interest in reading their stories secondary characters.
Oh, hell, why deny it? He was in love with Abby. And nothing in his life had ever shaken him so much.