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January 3, 2019

The Duke I Once Knew by @OliviaDrake1 ~ a Review & Excerpt

by MK French

Abigail Linton and Maxwell Bryce had romantic feelings for each other when young, but Max and his infant sister were brought to London after his mother's death. Fifteen years later, Abigail had gotten fed up with her older siblings perpetually using her to soothe their lives with no consideration for her wants. She accepts the post of governess for Max's younger sister, thinking that he would be away from the estate. Circumstances send him back to the estate along with his libertine friends, and the two meet again for the first time in fifteen years.
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Duke I Once Knew
December 2018; St. Martin's Paperbacks
978-1250174376; ebook, print (336 pages)
Regency romance
The Duke I Once Knew is part of the Unlikely Duchesses series of romance novels. This stands alone, and we see the relationships that Abby and Max have with everyone around them, not just with each other. The history between Abby and Max is laid out slowly as they remember and discuss it, and the details of their past are revealed naturally. This does mean the romance part starts off relatively slowly, though the attraction and romantic feelings had been simmering for the fifteen years they were apart. They fixate on their misunderstandings and their feelings, and reluctantly let go of them in time. There are a number of romance novel tropes that play into this novel so some plot points can be accurately predicted.

I liked Abby and Gwendolyn, her teenage charge that had been isolated for such a long time. Max's friends were irritating every time they made an appearance, and I certainly shared Abby's frustration with her much older siblings dictating her life without even consulting her. Of course, Abby and Max ultimately reveal their true feelings and come together again. The journey to get there was a fun one to follow.

Buy The Duke I Once Knew at Amazon

Read an Excerpt

The sounds of cooing and kissing mortified her. Good heavens, would they never stop? Anyone might walk into the library! They ought to have the decency to take their amorous activities upstairs to a bedchamber.
But, of course, Rothwell did not possess a shred of decency. It made her cringe to recall that she herself had once fallen prey to his allure.
She risked another look over the edge of the table. Her eyes goggled.
The duke was delving beneath the hem of his paramour’s gown, sliding his hand up her ankle and out of sight. The ladybird squirmed and squealed in a frisky attempt at evasion. He leaned down and silenced her playful protests with a masterful kiss.
Abby sank back down again. Her pulse pounded and a blush heated her inside and out. She oughtn’t be so scandalized. Rothwell had a reputation as a notorious rake.
Over the years, she had heard many a tale whispered among the neighbors of his disgraceful doings. Yet it was one thing to listen to idle gossip and quite another to actually witness him in the throes of depravity.
And here she was, trapped. What was she to do?
If she made her presence known, the duke would find out that Miss Abigail Linton was the new governess. She could not be absolutely certain that he had forgotten her.
And if he did remember, he surely would dismiss her on the spot, for he wanted nothing to do with her.
Her spirits fell into a fit of the dismals. That would mark the end of her little adventure out into the world. Oh, she could apply for a position elsewhere, but who would hire her if she’d been summarily discharged from her previous post? She would be forced to return to her brother’s house and resume her predictable life as the maiden aunt, growing withered and gray, shuttled between relatives, with no
real say in her future.
The very thought was suffocating.
Nevertheless, she could not continue to crouch here while the two lovers were smooching and whispering.
What if their intimate activities escalated? What if they did the deed right here, right now?
The horrid prospect spurred Abby to action. She must try to sneak out of the library unobserved. It was her only hope.
Dropping to her hands and knees, she crept along the carpet, weaving a path between the tables. Her long skirts hampered her progress, forcing her to inch along at a snail’s pace. Rothwell’s black boots were visible through a forest of chair legs. At least he was too distracted to notice her, judging by the amorous sounds emanating from across the room. To be safe, she made a wide berth around the couple.
Feverish plans raced through her head. If only she could reach the door and slip out, then all might be well. Perhaps she could convince Lady Gwendolyn not to mention the new governess to her brother. And what of Lady Hester? Was there a chance that she could be persuaded to bide her tongue, too? Should Abby confess the truth and enlist her help? Was it possible to stay out of sight until he
departed the Court?
Sweet heaven, how long did he intend to stay?
In the midst of her meditations, she couldn’t help overhearing the syrupy drivel of their tête-à-tête.
“Your Grace, you are too bold! Such a naughty boy you are!”
“I left boyhood behind long ago. Shall I demonstrate?”
“Mm, no. You mustn’t . . . ah, yes. Yes!”
Abby grimaced under a tide of acute embarrassment.
As she crawled closer to the door, she glared in the direction of the lovers. She could just see Rothwell’s legs pressed against a froth of cream skirts. Blast him and his debauchery! He was the worst of rogues, the king of scoundrels. A more wicked man had never been born—!
Too caught up in remonstrations to watch where she was going, Abby bumped her hip hard against a mahogany pedestal. A little squeak escaped before she could clap her hand to her mouth. At the same instant, a faint clanking noise drew her attention upward.
The globe atop the pedestal wobbled precariously. As she watched in horror, the sphere toppled from its perch and clunked onto the floor, where it rolled straight past the chairs and tables to land at Rothwell’s heels.
“What the devil—!”
Frozen in concealment, Abby watched wide-eyed through the maze of table legs as his boots shifted around.
A large male hand flashed down to stop the spinning of the globe. Any faint hope that he might assume it had fallen of its own accord vanished in a millisecond.
Rothwell strode forward, his footfalls sharp and decisive. He came straight to her. To her great consternation, she found herself gazing at the polished black leather of his boots only a few inches away.
“Who are you?” he demanded. “What are you doing in here?”
Abby raised her chin only slightly, keeping her face averted. It was best that he didn’t gaze fully at her—or hear the normal pitch of her voice lest it trigger his memory.
“I’m just a servant,” she whispered, “tending to my duties.”
“Speak up! Why did you not make your presence known at once?”
His dictatorial tone shredded her better judgment. “I was trying to leave discreetly,” she flared. “It didn’t strike me as wise to interrupt your tryst.” She paused, then added in a more servile tone, “I do beg your pardon, Your Grace.”
She felt his gaze boring down like a physical force that threatened to smother her. She wanted badly to look up, to glare into his face and tell him in no uncertain terms exactly what she thought of him.
But that would be highly imprudent.
With lightning swiftness, he clamped his hands around her upper arms and hauled Abby to her feet. She found herself staring up into a pair of wintry gray eyes set in a face of unabashed masculinity. Although a dissipated life had hardened his expression and etched faint lines on either side of his mouth, he was more disturbingly handsome than ever. He also seemed taller and tougher, his chest broader and his shoulders wider.
She hated that he still had the power to make the breath catch in her throat. Worse, she hated that he had the authority to dismiss her with a snap of his arrogant fingers.
As she racked her beleaguered brain for a way to convince him not to do so, something flickered in those icy eyes.
pg 34 -37

About the Author

Olivia Drake is the author of the Cinderella Sisterhood series (Seducing the Heiress, Never Trust a Rogue, Scandal of the Year, If the Slipper Fits, Stroke of Midnight, Abducted by the Prince, Bella and the Beast, His Wicked Wish, and The Scandalous Flirt). She has been a member of Romance Writers of America since 1981, and her novels have won the Golden Heart Award, Best Historical Romantic Suspense and Best Regency Historical from Romantic Times. She has also won the prestigious RITA award. She currently resides in Houston, TX.

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Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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