Their father dead and the Durham dukedom falling to a charming wastrel of an eldest son, three brothers’ grief is complicated by a blackmail scheme which threatens the exposure of family secrets that will take away their birthright. In each book in The Truth About the Duke series, one brother takes the lead in investigating the claims against their paternity and trying to find their origin.
Although the de Lacey brothers spend little time together, what time they do establishes their relationships, rapport, and the family dynamics well. I first read all three books a few years ago and re-read the first two last fall and again recently in anticipation of this review. Liking the first two novels best, I am going to review only them. One Night in London was a free and highly rated historical romance I took a chance on with Amazon. It is therefore responsible not only for my discovery of Caroline Linden, but for my increasingly frustrated hope that lightning will strike twice and I will make another such gratis discovery. That has not gone well.
One Night in London
As the second son and family gate-keeper, Edward de Lacey has run his father’s estates as a good and dutiful child. When the duke died and the blackmail landed in the brothers’ laps, Edward decided to quickly lawyer up – or solicitor/barrister up given it is Regency London – and he lands the best attorney in London for the job. In doing so, he displaces another client, Lady Francesca Gordon. A widow, she is involved in a custody battle for her niece and had just found the only counsel in the city willing to take her case. She decides that this means Edward owes her assistance and when informed of this he decides to provide it, even if it is more because he is attracted to her than in sympathy with her plight.
Opposites attracting, both Edward and Francesca (mostly) act like sensible grown ups and the conflict in their relationship comes from their respective situations and the difference in their social position. Francesca’s subplot resolved itself with a refreshing twist and Edward decides it is time to get out from under some of his obligations and live a little. I liked both of them very much and they made sense together. What Happens in London is simply a genuinely enjoyable romance with a generous dose of spark and a level of steam I have not found in Linden’s later works.
And speaking of steam…
Blame It on Bath
Edward’s younger brother, Gerard, is a military man, strapping, practical, and focused. Realizing his inheritance is threatened, he marries himself off quickly to wealthy widow Katherine Howe. Seemingly a mouse of a woman, but one whose stiff composure Gerard is eager to crack, she has been using all of her strength, having survived one awful marriage, to refuse a second. Her marriage to Gerard is a leap of faith and a stomp of her foot for the right to choose her own life; however, she has more reasons for choosing Gerard than he realises.
Moving post-haste to Bath in pursuit of the family blackmailer, Gerard and Kate have an immediately successful marriage in terms of physical intimacy, but the partnership that will satisfy them both takes longer to arrive. Gerard is in the military habit of deciding his wife is on a need-to-know-basis and that there is nothing she actually needs-to-know. Ignoring her by day and overwhelming her by night (hence the steam), Kate works diligently and successfully to win Gerard’s attention until her beautiful and belittling mother arrives to go out of her way to make her daughter feel small, and the extortion plot simultaneously thickens and distracts Gerard. Fortunately, these two crazy kids manage to work things out.
I enjoyed What Happens in London more than Blame It on Bath, but recommend both of them. On re-reading, they reminded me of both what it is I like about Linden as a writer and what I specifically enjoy as a reader. Her newer works have left me a little flat simply because they are less my taste than these two books and I hope that in her next series, she will return to the tone of The Truth About the Duke.