Zebra, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-4390-4
Historical Romance, 2017
Don’t be fooled by the title The Most Dangerous Duke in London into thinking that Adam Penrose, the Duke of Stratton, will whip out some guns to mow down terrorists while doing some ninja-style acrobatics. This is actually a very conventional tale of a brooding rake – yes, he’s described that way too – and a feisty heroine who thinks that she is far smarter than she actually is. There are family secrets, but that’s as far as excitement goes in this story.
Adam is back in London after deliberately exiling himself for a few years in France. He left with his mother when his father committed suicide and there were rumors that he was colluding with the French for treasonous reasons. I’m sure that he and his mother fleeing to that country will defuse those rumors! Now, he wants to look into the circumstances behind his father’s suicide and clear the man’s name if possible. Oh, and to catch up with his two BFFs while he’s at it, so that you will remember to buy those two men’s books too. Coming soon, people, coming soon.
Our hero is surprised when he is invited to the abode of the Earl of Marwood. The previous earl – the late father of the current one, Theobald – and his father were enemies, and he suspects that the previous Marwood may had something to do with his own father’s death. The late earl’s mother brings up a mutual ending of their family feud, by having Adam marrying Theo’s sister Emilia. Adam isn’t against the idea, but he’d rather marry the half-sister of Emilia and Theo – Clara Cheswick, whose feisty and independent nature stirs the gravy in his pot to steamy high temperatures. Clara, however, is against the very idea of anyone from her family marrying the enemy of her father, although as you can guess, she doesn’t mind sleeping with him because that’s somehow different and hence okay.
Adam is a pretty generic hero – if you have come across guys like him before, you’ll know what you will get from him. He isn’t dangerous as much as he’s just saddled with a reputation – people say he has no qualms challenging men to duels for the slightest insult to his family name, and he has killed some of these men too – and for the most part he’s just bossy (but not aggravatingly too bossy) and determined to clear his family name. Unlike some of the author’s previous heroes, Adam is never deliberately cruel or mean towards Clara. In fact, the romance is unexpectedly static in that he sees her, he wants her, and that’s all there is to the love thing on his part.
So, it’s up to Clara to come to the conclusion that it is perfectly okay to marry Adam, and this is the part where the author confuses me. I can’t figure out what she wants to do with Clara. On one hand, our heroine isn’t stupid. She can put two and two to get four. But at the same time, our heroine is so hopelessly ignorant of details that she probably should know, such as the drama between her family and Adam’s – early on, Adam understandably assumes that she knows the most stuff, since she is her father’s favorite – and worse, she is perfectly content to remain ignorant for so long because she believes that listening to gossip is bad.
That leaves Clara in a weaker position for the bulk of the story, and this ignorance also sees her coming up with some eye-rolling assumptions about Adam. In other words, this is a story which requires the heroine to take active steps to remain either clueless or in the wrong, just to get things going. This doesn’t reflect well on the heroine, and don’t get me started about how nobody in her family can marry Adam, but it’s perfectly fine for her to sleep with him.
Still, because the hero isn’t a jackass, our heroine is allowed to eventually realize that Adam is right and she may as well marry him since the story needs to end soon without being humiliated, browbeaten, or forced by circumstances into doing so. The rest of the story is standard laundry list of the usual tropes and clichês one will usually find in this kind of stories. Nothing about it is particularly great or awful, but it also doesn’t try very hard to be interesting or distinctive in any way. I suppose that’s why this story needs a hyperbole like The Most Dangerous Duke in London for a title!