THE DUKE OF HER DESIRE – Sophie Barnes
Diamonds in the Rough – Book 2
Thomas Heathmore, the esteemed Duke of Coventry, befriended another duke—a very unusual one. New to his rank, the Duke of Huntley, Raphe Mathews, grew up in the slums of London. Many in society look down on him and his two sisters, Amelia and Juliette, who are now joining their assemblies. If it weren't for his rank, few would accept either the new duke or his sisters. Huntley likes and trusts Coventry, so when he plans to leave London for a few weeks, he asks Coventry to guide and advise Amelia through society's tangled etiquette. At her age (22) she is nearly on the shelf, so her achieving a marriage match is very important. Coventry agrees to help Amelia.
During her dance lessons, Amelia's body and emotions react to her partner, Coventry. He is very handsome, strong and well built, but she knows he could not be interested in her. Raphe's mother-in-law and Coventry's mother also help her to become established in society, and they help her pick out appropriate potential husbands. Surprisingly, a couple of those men are very interested. Yet Amelia has other plans; she wants to help the children living in her childhood neighborhood—those with little hope for a future beyond crime and prostitution.
The setting in this novel is an unusual look (for a romance novel) at the dichotomy between the rich and poor in 19th century London. Author Sophie Barnes pulls it off in an interesting and effective manner. Scoundrels exist in all levels of society, but so do ethical, good-hearted people. While Coventry tries to guide Amelia, she attracts him, but he cannot tell her. He has secrets to keep, secrets which would harm not only him and his family if they came to light, but also Amelia. Amelia thinks her audacious and forthright behavior offends Coventry, despite her desire for him. All these entanglements make a very good story.