JILTING THE DUKE – Rachael Miles
The Muses' Salon Series, Book 1
As a young man, Aidan Somerville fell in love with Sophia, the orphaned niece of the man owning the estate adjoining that of his best friend, Tom Gardiner. He asked her to marry him, and she agreed, but Aidan wanted to keep it secret. His father ordered him into the military, and before his ship even left dock, he discovered Sophia had married his best friend. Her betrayal has haunted his dreams for ten years. He is now the Duke of Forster, his father and two older brothers having died. One year ago, Tom died in Italy where he and Sophia had been living with their son Ian. Tom's lawyer, William Aldine, has sent Aidan papers. Although neither man had seen each other in all that time, Tom requested his friend become his son's guardian in conjunction with the boy's mother. A plan evolves in Aidan's mind. He will use the opportunity to seduce Sophia, and once she loves him again, he will cast her off to feel all the heartache he has suffered.
Still grieving and reluctant to enter a society she had never had entry into before her marriage, Sophia, Lady Wilmot, is surprised at all the plans Tom has kept from her. However, she knows Ian needs a man's influence as he grows up and has always acquiesced to Tom's plans. Still, she suspects Aidan's motives and actions. Yet, he is also the only man she has loved the way she loved him, with all her heart. While she and Tom had worked on botanical books together, he accomplishing the writing, and she the illustrations, and although Tom saved her from a terrible situation developed by her step-aunt's machinations, their love wasn't what she shared with Aidan. She and Tom had been friends. It also comes as a shock to discover someone is willing to destroy her to get something Tom sent to England.
Aidan's anger and hurt are quickly established in JILTING THE DUKE. While Aidan's desire for revenge is understood, his plot casts him in a scoundrel's shoes. After all, he has had his share of mistresses and is known as a rake. Throughout the story, though, his actions contradict his nefarious purpose. The first instance is his behavior towards Ian, a young, intelligent boy who wins Aidan's regard and then his love. As for Sophia, he finds it is one thing to want to hurt someone you still love, and another thing to actual do it; especially when he learns she is in danger. Strong, well-developed main characters with a huge cast of supporting characters, interesting situations including intrigue and spies, and a love that cannot be denied make this a entrancing read.