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Monday, March 2, 2009

A Duke to Die For by Amelia Grey

A Duke to Die For by Amelia Grey
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full
Heat: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Dandelion

When the rakish fifth Duke of Blakewell’s unexpected and shockingly lovely new ward arrives, she claims to carry a curse that has brought each of her previous guardians to an untimely end. As she tries to persuade him to release her to manage her own fortune, and he tries to find her a suitable husband, they become scandalously entangled. When several potentially deadly accidents befall the Duke, Henrietta is the only one who can help him…

I love a good historical romance, and this story didn’t disappoint. It has all the standard elements historical readers will expect: a hero who’s a bit of a rogue; a heroine who’s sweet and beautiful but smart enough to stand up for herself; minor characters who chide the hero and support the heroine; and a few simpletons who are there for comic relief. Oh, and a grand season of balls and courting in high society London! Ms. Grey develops her characters and the setting very well, and the tension that rises between Duke of Blakewell and his ward Henrietta Tweed is perfectly timed and tuned.

Though he’s supposed to be her guardian, Blake finds himself inexplicably drawn to Henrietta, and she to him. The problem is a curse: as a child, Henrietta lost her parents in a horrific accident, and ever since then, she’s believed she carries a curse to all who watch over her. True enough, Blake does suffer a few accidents of his own in this story, but while Henrietta believes the doom is her doing, he tries to convince her that’s it just part of living an adventurous life. In the meantime, he does the duties of a guardian as well as he can, even asking a former mistress to prepare Henrietta for the Season of courting, so she can find a husband. The only problem? Blake and Henrietta would much rather spend time stealing kisses and falling in love than finding another man to marry her off to.

This story moves along at a brisk pace. I enjoyed all the minor characters, especially the various dukes and lords who try to win Henrietta’s hand, and the widow whose hot air balloon venture threatens to rob one of Blake’s best friends of all his money. The subplots serve the main plot well – however, one of my chief criticisms of this story is that, after all the stumbling blocks Blake and Henrietta encounter early on, the climax is not nearly as powerful as I would have liked. After the scene in which they confess their mutual love, there’s nothing else that really keeps them apart, other than Henrietta’s belief in her curse. Even this is easily fixed, and the story ends while I was still waiting for a larger black moment to separate the lovers.

There are also snippets of advice letters to Blake from his grandmother that open every chapter; I did not find these particularly relevant or interesting and in fact stopped reading them about halfway through the book. However, don’t let these minor flaws keep you from picking up this book. It’s a lovely story, told in the true tradition of historical romances, with a hero and heroine you’ll fall in love with from the start. Ms. Grey’s writing is strong and her attention to detail spot-on. A Duke to Die For deserves a place on every historical romance reader’s list!