‘The Irish Duchess’ by Patricia Rice

 Neville Perceval, the bankrupt Duke of Anglesey, has been burdened since youth with more responsibility than one man should handle. He has finally accepted that he needs to marry a wealthy, gracious lady who will ease his burdens and smooth his political path.

Fiona MacDermot, the rebellious, untamed cousin of an Irish earl, has the freedom and independence Neville has never known. Like the duke, she needs cash to help starving villagers and orphans. Unfortunately, she’d rather earn a living than have anything to do with useless men, and the politicians she knows all belong at the wrong end of a rope.

But when the duke is nearly beaten to death, and Fiona’s looms are lost to a murdering thief, their lives are entangled in ways that threaten their futures. Lust shouldn’t factor into their destinies, but it does, and now they have to find their dreams together, or die trying

EXCERPT:

“Finished with the news sheets, His Grace, Neville Perceval, the Duke of Anglesey drained his brandy glass, picked up his walking stick and high-crowned hat, and set out for home. He had a stack of estate papers on his desk that needed his attention. And his  cousin Blanche had yet another mad scheme for improving the Manchester mills that he must discourage in some manner.

He couldn’t believe he was placed in the position of acting as a bloody tradesman just to keep his wretched cousin from sinking all her coins into improbable schemes for benefiting the welfare of mankind. Mankind was scarce worth the effort.

Neville allowed instinct to guide him home while he lost himself in thought. The Anglesey townhouse occupied a rather large chunk of real estate in one of the older sections of town, one where gaslights had not yet been installed. Accustomed to the dark shadows of trees from the park, Neville gave his surroundings little notice. Even the clammy fog obscuring the pavement did not deter him. He could find his way home blindfolded if needed.

Only the sound of a footstep where there shouldn’t be one finally dragged him from his reverie. One too many violent incidents in these past years of political chaos had taught him caution. Had someone followed him from the club? Why?

One of the things he had learned from Michael, Blanche’s new husband, was how to act quickly and defend himself. Over the years, his lessons with Gentleman Jackson had given him a much needed outlet for frustration. Neville needed no more than the snap of a twig to jump from absentminded thought to full alert.

The scoundrel crashing through the shrubbery caught the full force of the gold-plated knob of Neville’s walking stick. The second scoundrel suffered the brunt of Neville’s fist plowing into his face at such an angle that his jaw fell slack. Neville cursed as still a third leapt from the bushes, and footsteps behind him indicated he’d attracted a crowd.

Giving up any pretense of politeness, he flicked open the sword in his stick, slashed at the man advancing from his side, kicked at the one rising from the street, and heard the sweet sound of a groan as he connected with his soft target. Any triumph he might have felt dissipated the moment a cudgel cracked across the back of his skull.

With a growl of fury, Neville swung and slashed at his opponent, but he’d already realized the futility. There were just too many of them.

As someone grabbed his sword and twisted it from his hand, Neville plowed his fist into still another jaw and had the satisfaction of hearing it crack before the club came down on his skull again.

This time, the Duke of Anglesey crumpled to the street, swearing as the blackness of unconsciousness threatened. He had no heir. He couldn’t die.”

FEATURED AUTHOR: Patricia Rice

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‘The Marquess’ by Patricia Rice

STORY: Scarred in a duel over a feckless woman, Gavin Lawrence leaves America to take up his new duty as Marquess of Effingham, vowing never to care about others again. But lurking in the secret passages of his crumbling manor house is a courageous and exceedingly annoying young woman in terrible danger.

The self-sufficient daughter of a soldier, Dillian Whitnell guards her injured cousin in isolated Arinmede manor after an attempt on both their lives. Dillian hadn’t expected the new marquess to notice her, but his stubborn refusal to believe she’s a ghost turns into a hide-and-seek game that leads to increasingly close encounters. A game where irritation turns to intrigue, and intrigue to a forbidden passion as the real villain emerges from the past.

REVIEW: This story was such a pleasure to read. Patricia Rice gives us her version of the beauty and the beast, and I really liked her take on it.

Gavin Lawrence, recently titled Marquess of Effingham, a badly scarred man, has finally arrived in England to claim his title and properties, including an old and run down castle with hardly any servants. His brother Michael accompanies him for this adventure, and as younger brothers go, Michael is ever so obliging in throwing Gavin for a loop, and the latest one is particularly troubling to this impoverished newly minted aristocrat.

Dillian Whitnell has lived with her young cousin Lady Blanche Perceval for a while now, and to many in the society, she’s known as Miss Reynolds, Blanche’s companion. The pretence is deliberate even though the name is legitimate. The women have become very close confidants and mostly rely on each other, and not on Lady Blanches cousin, young Neville, Duke of Anglesey who neither of them trust and are suspecting of trying to kill Blanche.

The two main characters were very likable once you got to know them better and understand their backgrounds. Trust never came easy to them and trusting each other took some time. Once Gavin finds out who Dillian really is and learns of her childhood, he can’t help but admire the woman she’s become. The same goes for Dillian, although it was much harder for her to get to know the man behind the scars.

What I also appreciated in this story is the realness brought to the love scenes between the two. There was no coyness in them and the chemistry was purely sexual in the beginning. Both individuals knew what they wanted from each other, and frankly neither wanted nor could offer more, at the time. I liked that.

Even though the story starts off a bit slow, I understood the reasons behind it. The author chose that course in order for me to get familiar with the cast of characters as well as the setting of the plot, and I for one appreciate that she did. It helped me to understand the dynamic between the main and secondary characters, and the relationship between the hero and the heroine. As the story develops, so does the plot and the pace is picked up. Ms. Rice knows her craft and there were no loopholes left in this well written, very solid and highly entertaining mystery filled romance.

As beauty and the beast stories go, this one’s one of the best I’ve read so far. I also read the sequel to it, The English Heiress, which is Michael and Blanches story, and recommend it highly as well.