The Lost Duke of Wyndham. Julia Quinn. 2008. HarperCollins. 384 pages.
It's very silly, but it works: "You don't know Jack. But you could. Read this book. Fall in love. With Jack Audley, Julia Quinn's most dashing romantic hero yet."
First paragraph: Grace Eversleigh had been the companion to the dowager Duchess of Wyndham for five years, and in that time she had learned several things about her employer, the most pertinent of which was this: Under her grace's stern, exacting, and haughty exterior did not beat a heart of gold. Which was not to say that the offending organ was black. Her grace the dowager Duchess of Wyndham could never be called completely evil. Nor was she cruel, spiteful, or even entirely mean-spirited.
Our heroine, Grace, works as a companion. She's not of the same social class as her employer. She's good enough to be at the beck and call of the dowager. But not good enough--wealthy enough--to merit marriage proposals from the eligible men in the neighborhood. And she's especially, especially not good enough to entertain thoughts of a grand marriage. Class has always mattered to the dowager--a prouder woman Grace has never met--but it's never been an issue with Grace. Not really. But all that changes when Jack comes on the scene.
Who's Jack? He is a highwayman. He meets the dowager and her companion late one night. He holds them at gunpoint. What Jack didn't expect was to be recognized. The dowager becomes convinced--then and there--that this man, has to be the son of her favorite son, John, a son she's never stopped mourning. She begs him to visit her--without a mask--the next day. She needs to see him. She won't rest until he's been restored to the family. Even if that means seeing the current duke, Thomas, lose his place in the family.
The encounter upsets Grace as well. Jack takes her breath away with one little kiss.
"She was being seduced. She could barely breathe--but this, she knew. In a few minutes they would part ways, and he would have done nothing more than kiss her, and she would be forever changed" (12).And
"Grace touched her mouth, trying to pretend she did not love the shivers of excitement that rushed through her at the memory. He had kissed her. It had been her first kiss, and she did not know who he was. She knew his scent, she knew the warmth of his skin, and the velvet softness of his lips, but she did not know his name. Not all of it at least" (18).Within a day or two of their first encounter, he's moved into the mansion. And Grace is encountering him again and again and again. He's just as drawn to her as she is to him. Jack is charming. He's more than just handsome. He's witty too. He loves to tease.
"You stole a kiss."But now that this highwayman is quite likely the rightful heir, the Duke, their love is more forbidden than ever. And the dowager is not for a moment letting Grace forget her place. Will these two get their happily ever after?
"That," he said, leaning forward with great cheek, "was freely given."
"I do wish you'd call me Jack," he sighed.
"Mr. Audley," she said again. "I did not--" She looked quickly about, then lowered her voice to an urgent whisper. "I did not...do...what you said I did."
He smiled lazily. "When did 'kiss' become such a dangerous word?"
She clamped her lips together because truly there was no way she would gain the upper hand in this conversation.
"Very well," he said. "I shan't torment you."
It would have been a kind and generous statement if he hadn't followed it with: "Today."
But even then, she smiled. It was difficult not to, in his presence. (121)
While I didn't find Jack to be "Julia Quinn's most dashing and romantic hero yet," I did enjoy him. I enjoyed Grace and Jack as a couple. I enjoyed their conversations. I enjoyed their story. I still find Quinn's writing to be delightful and charming. I still think she is one of the best writers in the romance genre.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews