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Marcus Reece, duke of Exeter, had always acted to preserve the family name, and his twin brother's along with it. To keep his brother, David, from being called out for a duel of honor, Marcus again cleans up David's mess and sends him out of London for awhile. But David ends up injuring his leg when his carriage wrecked during a race in a small town called Middleborough. The vicar's widow, Hannah Preston, takes care of David as he heals. David comes to care for Hannah, and for her small daughter, Molly. David is sincere when he proposes to Hannah, but the day before the wedding he panics.
Hannah curses her own idiocy. With few choices open to her, she weds a gentleman she hardly knows. David escorts Hannah and Molly to London, says he must be away on business for a bit, and promptly disappears. Hannah does not learn that David forged Marcus's name to the marriage license until the cold and aloft duke appears before her in person with accusations. Of course, Hannah is ready to simply walk out. But before she can, David and Marcus's sister, Celia, and stepmother, Rosalind, arrives and proceeds to gush all over Hannah and Molly.
Reluctantly, Hannah agrees to play the part of Marcus's duchess for a while. In doing so, Hannah will help secure Molly's future and Marcus can keep his relatives from hating David. The entire mess would sort itself out within only a month or two. Meanwhile, Marcus can continue his investigation with Bow Street of a counterfeiting ring. David seems to be mixed up in entire counterfeiting scheme and Marcus hopes to prove his brother innocent. But with tempting Hannah nearby, Marcus is having trouble concentrating. Marcus learns that by playing the part of husband, he has a chance to claim happiness.
***** Caroline Linden's characters are so vivid that, for awhile, I forgot they were all part of a fictional piece. As I read, I could easily see the events unfold before me and felt as though I were a part of everything. An outstanding story that I hated to see end. BRAVA! *****
Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.
on October 14, 2006
Hannah Preston is an unassuming widow of the late vicar to Middleborough, twenty-five miles from the jaded influence of London society. When David Reece barrels into town one fine spring day, she's dismayed, though not surprised, to find herself the caretaker for the spoiled aristocratic man after he injures himself while carriage racing. As the weeks pass, the two form a genuine friendship that ends up in a most unexpected way--marriage. Unfortunate circumstances led her blindly to the alter and she winds up married not to a man she thought she could live with, but to his cold and haughty brother instead!
Marcus Reece, duke of Exeter, has pulled his brother up by the collar all their lives, but this time his reckless sibling has gone too far. In a bold move that may well be the worst affront to his ducal personage, his brother has gone and gotten married--but using Marcus's name! To the world, he and this provincial vicar's widow are legally wed, and he cannot break his family's heart by denying it. When he purposely embroils Hannah in a thin web of lies, he finds beneath her country demeanor a woman far more capable of grace and wisdom than many ladies frequenting society's soirees. What's a strict, emotionless duke to do with a willful and headstrong pretend wife? It shall not be anything involving tender emotions! Or will it?
The main ingredient that caught my attention right off was the characters. From the duke, Marcus, and Hannah to Marcus's stepmother Rosalind, this book shines with characters that make the story come to life. Marcus is a cold and guarded man, but with good reason. He is the caretaker of his family and he takes his job seriously. Author Linden does an excellent job of penning him a heartless man, but not long into the story, she reveals his true inner workings and securely lodged the burdened man into my romantic heart. Hannah comes along at a time in his life when he feels the pressure of family and duty perhaps the greatest. She brings to his home a sense of reality and down-to-earth sense. Together with her daughter Molly, she quite charms the frown right of Marcus's face and his emotional unveiling to her was so beautiful to read. There is a mysterious plot involving David that moves nicely in the background and really does a spectacular job of supporting the main characters instead of overtaking them. The focus of this romance is all about the love.
Author Linden has literally captivated this reader with a wonderfully written tale! I look forward now to backtracking to her previous title, "What a Woman Needs". Looking forward to many more, Ms. Linden!
Reviewed for The Mysic Castle