BLAME IT ON BATH – Caroline Linden
The Truth About the Duke , Book 2
I began my review of the first book in the series, ONE NIGHT IN LONDON, with this:
The Duke of Durham has three sons. Charles, Lord Gresham, the eldest and heir, devotes himself to enjoying life…wine, women, and gambling. The youngest de Lacey, an impulsive sort, is a Captain in His Majesty's Army. In the middle is Lord Edward de Lacey, the dutiful son who calmly and efficiently manages the monies and properties of the vast Durham estates. And what does the Duke himself do? Durham lies dying in Sussex and pleads for all his sons to come to him; he has a secret to impart and apologies to make.
Since then, the duke has died, and the secret has been revealed. As a youth before unexpectedly becoming duke, he made an unfortunate, short-lived marriage that may or may not have been legal. He and the woman separated, and it's unknown whether she was alive when the duke eventually married his beloved duchess, whom he lost more than twenty years ago. In the first book, Edward set out to look into the legalities of the situation, but another complication bothers the youngest brother, Lord Gerard, more. Someone sent his father blackmailing letters threatening to reveal his proof of a bigamous marriage and the illegitimacy of the de Lacey sons. Gerard takes leave from the army determined to find—and deal with—the blackmailer. Since two of the four letters came from Bath , that's where Gerard means to start. And while he's at it, he plans to keep an eye out for a wealthy bride in case the brothers lose their inheritance.
Word has leaked out about the Durham Dilemma, as the gossips have dubbed it. Katherine, the widowed Lady Howe, sees this as a solution to her own dilemma. Katherine is a great heiress from her merchant father. Her beautiful and ambitious mother arranged her daughter's marriage to an old viscount. Who rapidly went through her dowry, but Katherine's fortune reverts to her upon his death. The old man's nephew, Lucien, gets little but the title and land. He and Katherine's mother are pestering her to marry him. Katherine's mother has so cowed her daughter through the years that she's afraid she will give in. But anything would be better than that.
Long ago Katherine's family lived near the de Laceys and Gerard once did her a good turn; she's never forgot him since. Katherine connives to approach him and proposes a marriage of convenience: he's to save her from marrying Lucien in exchange for her £100,000. As Gerard ponders the proposition, he looks her over. Though she's not a beauty, and it's hard to see her figure in the drab, unflattering clothes (that her mother deems suitable for her), he's tempted by the fortune that could save him and his brothers. He arranges to meet her again in three day to give her his answer. Armed with a letter from her to her solicitor and some time to inquire about her, he satisfies himself that her story is true. The two meet again and his answer is yes! In fact, he has a special license, and the deed is done quickly.
Though her new husband is not the lanky, good-natured boy she met that once, he's big, strong, and handsome. He stirs feelings in her she never felt before, not least of which is safe. Once in Bath , she hopes friendship can turn into more. As for Gerard, he's quite pleased with the match, though with his investigation taking most of his time, they spend little of it together. Meanwhile, Katherine is free to be herself for the first time in her life. While she makes friends—and her own choices—she gathers confidence in herself…except about Gerard's feeling for her.
What a likeable hero and heroine and a so charming story! With passion, suspense, and no little humor, BLAME IT ON BATH is a delight. I laughed out loud at Gerard's thoughts about those “…tight little ringlets above the ears…” that you see in pictures of the era. I also found the love scenes enjoyable for their illumination of the two people involved that raises them above the purely mechanical. Other characters, the nice and the not-nice, come alive as individuals as well. If you like novels in which people you like grow to be more than they were, you'll love this series.
BLAME IT ON BATH does not completely solve the Durham Dilemma; that will take Charles to stir himself in book three, THE WAY TO A DUKE'S HEART.