Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea
Royal Entourage/Book 1
Avon/February 28, 2012
The morning after the most scandalous bachelor party of the century, the dukes of the royal entourage must face all of London’s fury . . . when not one of them can remember a thing.
Roxanne Vanderhaven always believed herself the perfect wife. But when her husband, the Earl of Paxton, leaves her clinging to the edge of a cliff, she’s forced to face the truth: she married a murderous blackguard. Her eventual rescuer, Alexander Barclay, Duke of Kress, is one of England’s most disreputable peers — a member of the notorious royal entourage, no less – and certainly the last man she can count on. Indeed, the Prince Regent himself exiled Barclay to Cornwall, and now, by decree, the dashing duke must seek a royal bride to regain favor and help quell the public’s fury against the excesses of the crown.
Roxanne desperately wants a new life — after she’s uncovered the cause of her husband’s despicable actions — and she finds herself drawn, most surprisingly, to her unlikely champion. The Duke of Kress may not be quite the scoundrel he appears…but if she gives him her heart, will Roxanne be making the same mistake twice?
This was surprisingly funny for a historical romance. I don't usually expect much humor when reading historicals unless it's the sarcastic, self-deprecating humor usually imparted by the long suffering hero. This time around it's both the hero and heroine who try to out-do each other with their sharp wit. Their bantering reminded me of David (Bruce Willis) and Maddie (Cybill Shepard) from the show Moonlighting.
After being sent to the wilds of Cornwall to redeem himself by finding a suitable bride, Alex Barclay instead finds a lady hanging on for dear life. Being somewhat of a hero, he rescues her then finds himself caught up in her crazy scheme to fake her death. It wasn't that hard to convince Alex to help Roxanne, he expects to be bored in Cornwall and thinks Roxanne might liven things up a bit. Alex is an adorable scoundrel that I couldn't help but be smitten with! His humor, kindness and protectiveness all make for a most excellent hero.
Roxanne is an outsider. Her father was in trade (how dreadful!) which made her marriage to the Earl of Paxton on the scandalous side. She received a title, he received a large dowry. Roxanne didn't think Paxton was madly in love with her but she did think he liked and cared for her. So wrong! The man was a complete ass and when Roxanne realizes this, she comes out of her shell and becomes a woman on a quest. She was delightful in her schemes and plans for revenge on her husband. She still has doubts about her appeal as a woman but Alex erased those doubts. I felt sorry for Roxanne in that she didn't fit in anywhere. The peerage looked down on her and she stayed away from her childhood home because she didn't think her old neighbors would welcome her. I enjoyed seeing her make a home with Alex and his odd assortment of family and friends.
The secondary characters are there for moral support, good-nature ribbing, trouble and alcohol (Not always in that order). They are a fascinating assemblage including a few dukes, a duchess, an eccentric aunt and a number of locals for added flair. This is the first book in a planned series and we do meet some of the heroes and heroines of future books but there wasn't a feeling of "setting up" for the next book while overlooking the current story. The developing friendship and eventual romance between Roxanne and Alex was front and center. If I had one issue with the story it was Roxanne's husband and how he was dealt with. Not what I would call satisfying.
The first book in a new series needs to grab you, give you interesting characters and make you want to come back for more, Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea does all that and more.