LAST NIGHT WITH THE DUKE – Amelia Gray
Rakes of St. James , Book 1
St. Martin's Paperbacks
London – Early 18th Century
Although Esmeralda Swift is the granddaughter of a viscount, her mother fell in love with a penniless Irish poet, and her brother, the new viscount, disowned her. When both her mother and her stepfather poet died, Esmeralda was left impoverished with her younger sister, Josephine, to raise. She has barely managed that, but at twenty-five she is the proprietress of Miss Mamie Fortescue's Employment Agency. Miss Mamie has passed on, and her nephew leased the business to Esmeralda, cheating her at the same time; yet she has a room to live in with Josephine, which is a good thing. When the Duke of Griffin enters her office wanting a chaperone for his twin sisters for the season, she agrees to find him one, but he insists on her and won't accept no, even agreeing that both Josephine and Napoleon, the stray Skye terrier dog they took in, can stay with her at his house.
Griffin is one of the infamous ‘Rakes of St. James,' along with his good friends, the Duke of Rathburne and the Duke of Hawksthorn. Years ago, as a prank, they sent debutantes ‘secret admirer' letters. The girls had all shown up at selected locations for clandestine meetings, and soon learned they had been duped. They were all perfectly safe, but the secret admirers' names got out. Now Griffin learns someone threatens his sisters a revenge scandal during the season. He needs to protect his sisters from anyone who wants to punish them for his sins. He likes Miss Swift for her forthrightness and her ability to tell a duke ‘no,' even though he won't accept that answer. He demands her for more than her ability to safeguard his sisters. In part, he wants her because of his physical reaction to the lovely woman, and his attraction to her combative attitude.
Despite the reputation as a scoundrel earned during his early years in London, Griffin is in reality an honest, caring, and honorable man. He wants what is best for his family even as he lives apart from them in his second London residence. With Esmeralda in the house his sisters and aunt share, this proves a good precaution as she only becomes more desirable. An unfortunate incident will change that and change his perception of Esmeralda.
Readers will enjoy the story involving Griffin and Esmeralda, and will find the other characters equally appealing. Certainly a great start to a new series.