The Return of the Duke by Lorraine Heath was a wonderful read about two legit adults who have made their way in the world and know what they want. I couldn’t put it down!
Marcus Stanwick (the former heir to the Duke of Wolfford) is trying to clear his family name after his father was involved in a plot to assassinate Queen Victoria. He knows he won’t get the title back, but he’s hoping to at least retrieve a modicum of respect, and also secretly wants to understand what his father was thinking.
In the very first scene (and wow this was a charged scene), he goes to visit Esme Lancaster, his father’s former mistress and “enemy” of his family. Marcus believes that Esme knows something that could help him in his quest. And I won’t spoil the plot, but I’ll say that Esme isn’t what she seems, she knows a lot (so of course they team up reluctantly), and this is not a gross story about his father’s mistress. She’s also in her thirties and I found it refreshing to read about an older heroine in a regency novel.
This turns into a sort of spy/mystery novel halfway through, so be prepared for a lot of action. The stakes are high because both of the characters are so invested in finding out who is behind the plot, but there’s also this wonderful sexual tension simmering between them right away (my favorite scene was when they practice boxing in Esme’s ring and things get hot). Over time, this grows into love and WOW does Heath know how to write a great lust-to-love story. The arc was just beautiful.
Esme is a GREAT leading lady. She’s talented, aggressive, and fierce. She has a pretty sad backstory and lives a rather lonely life with her dog Laddie, so she’s surprised when she falls for Marcus. Unlike many other regency heroines, she isn’t afraid of going for it.
By the end of the book, they care for each other so much that they’re willing to sacrifice themselves to save the other, something that’s clear in each of their internal monologues. I can’t recommend this installment enough!
This book will be available for purchase on July 26th, 2022.