Published February 7th 2017 by St. Martin’s Paperbacks, Victorian Rebels #4
Rating : 4.5 out of 5 Stars
“The duke was a particularly lethal combination of paradoxes. Patient and volatile. Principled and vicious. A nobleman, but by no means a gentleman.”
I was captivated by this story, its darkness and its beauty. The plot was intricately crafted, with deep layers of emotional complexity, palpable tension and angsty feels. The Duke is an epic romance, flawlessly written, from the amazing character development to the unique storyline. It is however a dark story, with a happy ending that felt like a relief! It’s definitely not a fluffy fairytale.
The story is set in London during the Victorian era. Imogen Pritchard has been forced to work two jobs to pay off her father’s gambling debts and keep her family fed. Her encounter with Cole Talmage, the Duke of Trenwyth will change her life. Cole is a complex, heartbroken and tortured character. He buys Imogen’s virginity, and yet she feels protected and desired. Neither one of them will forget the emotional intimacy they shared for a few hours.
Fast forward two years, Cole has been to hell and back, literally. Held hostage, tortured and abused by the Ottoman Turks, he is severely injured physically and mentally. During his captivity, Imogen has become his obsession and dreaming of her was his sanctuary. He intends to find her back, but doesn’t recognize her as his new neighbor. I must admit that I had to suspend disbelief, this non-recognition plays obviously a pivotal role in the story. Imogen’s status in society has drastically changed, she married one of her patients at the hospital and has become a dowager countess.
Cole’s captivity has altered him, he is bitter, cynical and tortured by fits of wrath and terror. In my mind, he is the definition of the tragic hero, betrayed, abandoned and broken. He is not a good man, he despises Imogen, threatens and humiliates her. She is tolerant and easygoing, but he pushes her past her limits. Obviously, they come from very different worlds and Imogen is convinced that, even if Cole did recognize her, they would never be able to overcome the divide between them.
“The man had been scoundrel and saint. Heathen and hero. A dangerous man and a deferential lover.”
Imogen is a strong woman who can do anything she sets her mind to, she is selfless, determined and is a free spirit. Despite his anger, Cole is attracted to Imogen like a moth to a flame, he craves her company, her sweetness and generosity. She is determined to save him from himself. I was happy to see that this character was redeemable, he was ashamed of his past actions. I definitely needed more groveling to make his path to redemption believable, though! Oh, and I would have enjoyed an epilogue, so much!
Cole and Imogen’s story was unforgettable and epic, with thrilling elements and stunning settings. This was my first read by Kerrigan Byrne, but I definitely want to catch up on her Victorian rebels series. This book is the fourth in the series, but it can be read as a standalone. If you enjoy historical romance, this author is not to be missed!
I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley.