Constantine Huxtable missed being the Earl of Merton by two days. That is his parents married two days after he was born which was the fastest they could secure all the needed paperwork. Unfortunately, that made Constantine, Con, illegitimate and unable to inherit the title and all it entailed. Still, he was still the recognized son of an Earl and was accepted without question in polite society. His brother, Jon inherited the title but died when he was 16 making the next Earl a second cousin.
Hannah Reid, Duchess of Dunbarton knew all this but Con’s dark looks appealed to her and now that she was a widow, she planned on making Con her first lover. Hannah had married a very old Duke. No one expected him to live as long as he had but Hannah missed him. Though he had been old enough to be her grandfather, Hannah grew to love the Duke and appreciated his insight and knowledge of the world. Now, after a year of mourning, she turned her sights to having a lover. She doesn’t plan on marrying any time soon nor does she plan on falling in love. Yes, a lover was what she needed.
Hannah made her plan on how to get Con interested and Con watched with amusement at Hannah’s games. He planned on getting Hannah into his bed but on his terms, not hers. With all the posturing, will they ever get on with their desired affair? Better still, with all the challenges given, can anyone live up to the expectations that each have? They both have reputations within the ton, are they deserved? Is Hannah really as cold as they say or is that just a mask she wears? Con likes his lovers with depth, if Hannah is as shallow as she seems, will this affair even last the length of the season, if it ever even gets started?
This is the fifth book in Ms Balogh’s series about the Huxtables. You do not need to read the previous books to enjoy this one. However, all the characters from the previous books are an important part of this book. This is good and bad. If you plan on reading the previous books, you will learn all about each character before you know their story. It’s good, if you have read the previous books because you will learn what has happened to them and how they are getting along.
I loved the characters. Okay, I fell in love with Con in the first book. Con truly shows his depth in this book. He’s more than he shows the world and the mystery of why Elliot believes him to be a thief is revealed. Hannah has more layers than anyone in society expected. She has a history that still impacts her present. Between her games and her interactions with Con, she begins to bloom. Con has his own ghosts to put to rest and Hannah has no problem helping him.
The historical period portrayed was very well done. Though no date is actually given, I’m going to say Regency period. Regardless, I was emerged into the whorl of attractions of the season as well as the little things we forget about such as communication by lots of letters and just enjoying quiet.
I would highly recommend any of the books in this series and find this one an excellent end to it. At least, I assume it is the end as there are no other major characters needing to be wed! The writing is such that I couldn’t wait to get back to the story whenever I was forced to take care of other things. I was not only thrilled to read about Hannah and Con’s relationship but I was happy to learn what has been happening with his cousins.
Con and Hannah have secrets that they are not sharing with society. They are also a lot more complex than they let the world know. As they each peal back the layers, they enmesh the readers further into their lives. Secrets are told and found out as they got from society acquaintances to lovers to something they aren’t sure of.
Again, I loved this book and only wish there were more Huxtables to follow.
Re-Issued Review: Originally Reviewed in Mid 2010
Beloved New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh has written her most beguiling novel yet, in which the black sheep of the scandalous Huxtable family finally meets his match—in a woman of even more wicked reputation.
“The Devil was about to be tamed.” Her name is Hannah Reid. Born a commoner, she has been Duchess of Dunbarton ever since she was nineteen years old, the wife of an elderly duke to whom she has been rumored to be consistently and flagrantly unfaithful. Now the old duke is dead and, more womanly and beautiful than ever at thirty, Hannah has her freedom at last.
And she knows just what she wants to do with it. To the shock of a conventional friend, she announces her intention to take a lover—and not just any lover, but the most dangerous and delicious man in all of upper-class England: Constantine Huxtable.
Constantine’s illegitimacy has denied him the title of Earl, so now he denies himself nothing . . . or so the ton would have it. Rumored to be living the free and easy life of a sensualist in his country estate, he always chooses recent widows for his short-lived affairs. Hannah will fit the bill nicely.
But once these two passionate and scandalous figures find each other, they discover that it isn’t so easy to extricate oneself from the fires of desire—without getting singed. For the duchess and the dark lord each have startling secrets to reveal, and when all is said and done, neither will be able to say which one fell in love first, who tamed whom, and who has emerged from this game of hearts with the stronger hand.