In my quest to litter my book pile with new to me authors, I stumbled upon this new series by Amelia Grey, The Rakes of St. James. I found the premise of the book promising and I was intrigued by the thought of starting a new trilogy, so off I went to read. This is a historical romance but the author clearly tells you she takes some liberties with the plausibility of some of her situations. For example, our Rakes in question; it’s unlikely we’d have so many single peers of comparable rank and age roaming about society parties still on the prowl. Alas, we do and the story is all the better for it.
The Duke of Griffin and his buddies played a little trick on the newly debuted society girls some ten-ish years back. He and his two friends, set a plan in motion to tease the young innocents into believing they had a secret admirer – they placed a silly, friendly wager on who could get the most girls to show up, unattended, to meet their mysterious secret admirer. To their credit, they never intended to touch the girls, just to lurk in the shadows to see which of the three could pull the most chicks. There were no winners, the three guys each pulled their four tricked girls but sadly, word of their private, friendly wager became public knowledge in the scandal sheets. This news did not reflect kindly on the twelve unsuspecting girls and the title, Rakes of St. James was cast upon Griffin and his cronies. Now, flash forward 10 years later and Griffin’s twin sisters are ready for their first season. Retribution might just be the word of the season. Threats to innocent girls are made because of their older sibling’s youthful indiscretions. His parents are dead and gone so the burden of their safe passage through the ton is thrust on Griffin. His dear Aunt who has taken on the brunt of raising the rambunctious twins has taken ill and Griffin needs to hire a chaperone for the copious teas, park strolls, galas and soirees. Enter Miss Esmerelda Swift.
Esmerelda is the grand-daughter of a viscount. Sadly, after Esmerelda’s father died, her mother defied the wishes of family and married beneath her station for love. Mom was promptly disowned and shunned from society, along with Esmerelda and eventually, her half sister, young Josephine. With all of her parents dead, Esmerelda is left to fend for herself and her young charge. She’s struggling but keeping a roof over their heads and food in their bellies by running an agency that places, nannies, governesses and you guessed it, chaperones. Clearly, she is a force to be reckoned with, she’s a female small business owner. Esmerelda was raised with the grace and education you’d expect for her lineage but she also has the tenacity of necessity clipping at her heels as she struggles to raise her sister.
There is a touch of the insta-love between Griffin and Esmerelda but the slow burn of a typical historical romance tempers that a bit. It’s more of a longing and denial of attraction thing going on and boy can you feel the heat between these two as this attraction continues to go on and on. Even though Griffin has no idea of her grudge nor her proper lineage, Esmerelda is determined not to fall for someone in the society that shunned her mother. She is bossy and direct with him, just as she is with her employees, and he fucking loves it! No one ever speaks to him that way, he’s a Duke for fuck’s sake. Every time she questions him or pushes back, he falls a little more in love with her. For Esmerelda’s part, she allows herself to vividly fantasize about the Duke falling in love with her and swooping her up in a lover’s embrace but she never allows herself to react to his endearing flirtations. Oddly enough, this Rake of St. James isn’t nearly the bad boy he’s made out to be. He refuses to pursue Esmerelda while she is in his employ and it is killing him to keep his hands and lips off her smart mouth. Six weeks, the social season lasts six long weeks. Six weeks of him chasing down leads that might threaten his sisters, six weeks of watching Esmerelda show compassion and strength when dealing with his sisters and her own, six weeks of sweet words of encouragement and a couple of passionate gropes in the library…six weeks for it all to go to hell in a handbasket when his Duke-attitude gets him in trouble with all of the ladies in his life. And then one sweet, beautiful moment with a broken young girl and her sister to win said sister back. I mean he’s the Duke and Duke’s get what they want for fuck’s sake.
Last Night With The Duke is a sweet, easy to read historical romance. It’s light and moves quickly. The supporting characters are built nicely and leave you wanting a HEA for them as well. The descriptions are eloquent enough to place you in the elaborate scenes but don’t overpower the bigger arc of the story. Esmerelda’s strength of character, coupled with Griffin’s affable nature makes the witty banter flow beautifully between the couple. I will definitely read the other books in this trilogy when they are released. There are questions left to be answered and more HEAs to be had.
Smooches,Tags: 3.5 stars, historical romance, scandal, The Rakes of St. James trilogy