Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Retail Price: 7.99
Heat Level: Hot
Six Regency heroes—One royal hangover
An infamous night has been lost to memory. The scandalous Dukes of the Royal Entourage must make amends. The first step is a heroic rescue.
One of England’s most disreputable peers, Alexander Barclay, Duke of Kress, has stumbled upon a perfect opportunity for redemption. Having been exiled to Cornwall by the Prince Regent himself, Barclay discovers lovely Roxanne Vanderhaven clinging to the edge of a cliff, stranded there by her murderous blackguard of a husband . . . just waiting to be rescued.
Back on solid ground, Roxanne is desperate for a new life— once she’s retaliated for her husband’s despicable actions. Surprisingly, she finds herself drawn to her unlikely champion, certainly the last man in England she could count on. Yet, the infamous Duke of Kress isn’t quite the scoundrel he seems . . .
Series: The First Rule of Scoundrels (Book 1)
Between the Duke and the Sea is the first novel in Sophia Nash’s ‘Royal Entourage’ series featuring Alex Barclay, the Duke of Kress and Roxanne Vanderhaven, the Countess of Paxton among an unforgettable company of characters and sub plots.
This book is a clever introduction (so it’s a longer read) for the series which features seven dukes in varying degrees of penalty from British Prince Regent, George, each with specific orders following a night of debauchery in which the dukes disgrace the Prince and incur the wrath of his subjects.
As one of the dukes banished to his ancestral home in remote Cornwall, Alex Kress, a British Duke of French heritage, is forced to return, restore his manor and marry a proper lady. But a funny thing happened on the way … out for an inspection of his dukedom which is isolated by the sea; he encounters his chance at redemption in the form of a true damsel in distress.
Artful descriptions put readers in the scene with the well-developed characters like this one:
Rescued by Alex and dazed by the event, Roxanne intent on discovering her rotten husband’s reasons for wanting her dead and plotting her revenge, sets out under the protection offered by Alex to do both. For the Duke of Kress, Lady Paxton presents his opportunity to redeem himself and thaw out his hardened heart.
There are many sub plots afoot in the book which is well-seamed together so that they don’t overwhelm the reader but it’s still a lot to take in one read. Lord Paxton’s prissy manner as he pursues his love of horticulture is revealed, a gaggle of ladies arrive at the Kress manor hoping to win the Duke’s proposal of marriage while Roxanne – now going by Tatiana Harriet – is introduced as Kress’s cousin. Predictably, Roxanne does her part to help him root out the worst candidates for Alex’s wife while she tries to plan for her future. For his part, Alex agrees to help her and uncover her husband’s reasons for wanting her dead. Something that is not disclosed as the book veers into other subplots such as Roxanne’s efforts to recover her father’s hidden fortune in mining which she plans to resurrect as she goes into seclusion and the Prince’s sudden appearance at a murder trial.
There is a nice evolution of emotion and feelings between Alex and Roxanne as each comes to grips with their feelings and tortured pasts and the obvious obstacles (she’s still married though as Alex reminds her, is dead). But for me, the pairing of the two didn’t quite pull me in totally. That could be because of the conflict sitting hugely between them and their chemistry is offset by bickering and Alex’s overconfidence. The dialogue in this story is quick, catchy and clever and the characters revealed nicely through it and their actions – and there were a lot of those. Nash provides some funny scenes like Roxanne at her own grave and Alex’s calm, cool haughtiness undoing Lawrence Vanderhaven in his own home.
But at times, an overly long internal monologue or narrative bogged down the book somewhat. In fairness, it is a set up for the coming books still; Nash has produced some characters readers will eagerly await to see more of like Alex’s half-brother/cousin John Barclay, Isabelle Tremont, Duchess of March and her love interest James Fitzroy, Duke of Candover. The introduction of a large number of personalities was smoothly accomplished and their development spot on enriching scenes and moving the plot or subplot forward.
In my opinion, the plot veered off somewhat in the last third of the book with a new character (Roxanne’s father’s lifelong friend), return to the mines (her heritage) and murder trial that all felt a bit rushed and rather disconcerting when it was fairly swept under the rug. Still, under Nash’s capable hand, the writing was pretty entertaining and dialogue winsome. With the set up capably accomplished, the rest of the books in her series should prove even more enjoyable allowing for more focus, delicious settings and character conflicts explored.
Reviewed by Helena
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