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Monday, May 9, 2011

Of Dukes and Deceptions by Wendy Soliman

Of Dukes and Deceptions by Wendy Soliman
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length(206 pages)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

When Nicholas Buchanan, the Duke of Dorchester, accepts an invitation to visit a country stud farm, he counters his boredom by striking a wager with his henchman that he'll bed the poor relation, Alicia Woodley, before the end of his stay. But he reckons without Alicia's disdain. She's disgusted by Nick's cavalier attitude, unimpressed by his grandeur and wants as little as possible to do with him.

Between her newfound role as family charity case and fending off the attentions of both her clueless cousin and the arrogant Nicholas, Alicia Woodley has quite enough to contend with...but when her life is endangered, quite possibly from those closest to her, surprisingly it is Nicholas who seems determined to ensure her safety. As they conspire to uncover secrets that the family wants hidden at all costs, they discover a passion that surpasses all obstacles.

The words “receptive” and “rampart” will henceforth bring a mental image like never before. The delightful Of Dukes and Deceptions gave me a new perspective. While the story showcases social mores and the less than admirable character traits of some, it is carried along on a wave of humor, both subtle and obvious, that makes it sparkle. It sizzles and sings with emotions.

Alicia Woodley, the poor relative at Ravenswing Manor, where she once was lady of the manor and hostess for her father before his death, does not feel sorry for herself but has a solid plan for her life. She has little regard for the arrogant, handsome Nicolas Buchanan, Duke of Dorchester. He expects to be deferred to but Alicia has more important things to do than kowtow to a spoiled aristocrat. At least that is what she thought. Her affinity with animals, her animal hospital, her volunteer work at the village school, and her knowledge about horses along with her love for the off-color stallion her dad gave her for a pet makes Alicia quite different from most well-born females in nineteenth century England. Piano playing, embroidering, and the like hold no interest for her. She knows she is not “ideal” wife material. However, her curiosity and passionate nature bring on a whole new experience that shakes up her long term plan.

Nicolas Buchanan, who was taught many skills by his man Gibson who took him in hand at an early age, is good at riding shooting, and many other worthwhile things, but he still acts the way he thinks a duke is supposed to act in many social interactions. He makes a bet with Gibson that he will have his way with “the poor relative” at Ravenswing Manor while they are there to look over the Hanoverian stud farm. With Alicia’s young cousin Marie hell-bent on trapping him into marriage and her brother Fredrick willing to help her, Nicolas finds it necessary to use some of his best evasive tactics. However, he ends up pursing Alicia, first to win his bet, then to find out more about her. He finds she is a remarkably interesting person. Later he works to protect her from a would-be murderer. How his efforts evolve into something outside of his experiences makes enthralling reading.

The love scene, so delightfully described, sizzle, satisfy, and sparkle with fireworks of wonder. The openness in Alicia and Nicolas’s communication in speech and in actions make the scenes refreshingly different from the usual.

Wendy Soliman writes with an undercurrent of subtle humor and uses mores of the time to develop characters so engaging they seem to come alive on the pages. Both Nicolas and Alicia make the classic “hero’s journey” to get to a place where they can move on to a happy-ever-after that is far different from what either had envisioned for their futures—SO much better than either had dreamed possible. Good reading!