Thursday, September 10, 2015

How to Seduce a Duke - Kathryn Caskie (Avon - Oct 2006)

Series: Royle Sisters (Book 1)

Who are the Royle sisters? All of London is gossiping about the beautiful triplets who've taken the ton by storm. Their slightly scandalous behavior is the subject of gossip and it's whispered that they may be the "secret" daughters of the highest prince in the land . . . As for the oldest, Mary, she certainly has learned...


Why is the notorious Duke of Blackstone ruining Mary's well-laid plans to marry his brother, the handsome Viscount Wetherly? Every time she turns a corner, he is there-tantalizing her, teasing her . . . and the more she tries to ignore him, the more insistent he becomes. Mary knows she must make an advantageous marriage, but surely Blackstone is the wrong man for her. Isn't he?

Blackstone is not about to let his brother become bewitched by some wily blueblood pretender . . . even one as deliciously tempting as Mary. But until she came along, no woman has ever resisted his smooth, well-practiced seductions. Could it be that he's actually fallen in love with this infuriating chit?

This was a fun book to read. Mary and her two sisters have come to London from Cornwall after the death of their father. While going through his papers they discovered that there is a mystery attached to their births. They feel that if they can talk to their father's friends, maybe they can discover the truth. The story that they hear stuns them - that they may be the illegitimate daughters of the Prince of Wales. Their father's friends are determined to help them find the truth, at the same time launching them in society.

Mary is the oldest of the triplets and the most practical. Though they have been left good dowries and enough money to live comfortably, she keeps a tight hold on the pursestrings, worried about what might happen to them in the future. She is determined to find a husband for herself, and seeing the handsome Viscount Wetherly in the park several times, has decided that she is in love with him. She just needs to find a way to meet him.

The book opens with a funny scene of Mary, having convinced her sisters to help her, disguised as a marble statue in the garden next door. The Viscount is a guest at a party there, and Mary wants the chance to learn more about him. Unfortunately, he is there with his rakish brother, Blackstone. An encounter between the statue and Blackstone results in a slapped face for him and a missed opportunity for her. A subsequent, more acceptable meeting, has Blackstone recognizing Mary and believing the worst of her.

Blackstone is very protective of his younger brother, especially now that he has a title and wealth of his own, plus the reputation of a war hero. Wetherly has said he is ready to find a wife and has settled on a woman he has seen in the park but not yet met. Blackstone is very cynical about women, thanks to his father marrying a woman who was only after his money and title, His opinion hasn't improved after seeing the way women of the ton pursue men. When he discovers that Wetherly's eye has settled on Mary, and that she's looking right back, he is determined to interfere. He sees Mary as out for what she can get.

There are sparks between Blackstone and Mary from the very beginning. He is determined to keep her away from his brother by whatever means necessary, and Mary is equally determined to have her chance with him. Blackstone indulges in some pretty deceptive ways to ensure that Mary spends time with him, ways that Mary discovers and reacts furiously to. He finds himself thoroughly enjoying flirting with her, making outrageous comments and getting her wound up. He doesn't understand how he can be attracted to the type of woman he thinks she is, but he can't deny that he is. At the same time, Mary discovers that she is spending far more time thinking about Blackstone than his brother. She's getting a lot of enjoyment out of trying to figure out how to wreck his plans and get her way. When a few too many glasses of wine cause her to lose her inhibitions, her actions really give Blackstone the wrong idea. It isn't until it's too late that he realizes just how wrong, and that he needs to do the right thing.

At this point, the attempts that each makes to get the better of the other just add to the confusion between them. Interference from one of her father's friends adds to it. By the time everything is sorted out, Blackstone realizes that not only has he judged Mary unfairly, he has fallen for her. The question becomes one of being able to convince her. Mary realizes that it was Blackstone who had had her heart all along, but can she trust him when he says he cares? I loved all the interactions between them, as they fought their attraction. I occasionally got a bit frustrated with Blackstone's judgmental attitude, but the way it would come back to bite him was always satisfying. 

The story behind the girls' birth was really interesting. There are some things they discover through the book that seem to corroborate what they were told, but they are still looking for definitive proof. I enjoyed their father's friends, the Old Rakes club. Sometimes I wasn't sure whether they were more help or hindrance, but they certainly helped keep things interesting. Lady Upperton was also quite a character. One lead that they found appeared to lead nowhere, until something that happens at the very end of the book. I'll be interested to see how it all works out in the later books.

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