The Wicked Ways of a Duke by Laura Lee Guhrke
The poorly named Prudence Bosworth (yes of course her nickname is Pru) is scraping by as a seamstress, living in a woman's boarding house, taking abuse from the spoiled bitches of the ton, but obviously she leads a fulfilling life because she has True Friends who love her for who she is. In strolls the equally poorly named Rhys de Winter, the Duke of St. Cyres, (apparently pronounced to rhyme with sincere) who is gorgeous but penniless and is out to snare an heiress.
Suddenly lucky Pru finds herself an heiress! Yep- she inherits a fortune from the father who never married her mother and left before she was born with the stipulation that she marry within one year. Well, duh! St. Cyres is excited because he can now satisfy both his desire for our little heroine and his desire for money. He manages to convince Pru that he loves her but that he has no clue about her recent good luck, despite the fact that EVERY newspaper in London, and apparently the continent as well. The pair become engaged, but of course Pru is destined to find out about his dastardly deception and angst begins. It doesn't take an imagination to answer the question: Will the two manage to work things out in time for a happily ever after?
I was frustrated by the books handling of the inheritance and Pru's own lack of ... brains really. Despite her ability to realize her relatives are taking advantage of her because of her new inheritance, she is completely fooled by St. Cyres. Completely and utterly taken in. And the book plays on the old adage that money is the root of all evil, with said money bringing out the worst in everybody until Pru realizes that it's only the people who loved her before she gained the inheritance who are her true friends. Almost as if we are supposed to feel sorry for Pru. The book featured two, yes only two, steamy scenes which is in my opinion is a deplorably small amount for a book of over 370 pages especially when the two characters seem to have little going for each other except a physical attraction.
The books' main strong point is the demons that haunt St. Cyres. I am so sick of the tortured gentleman haunted by a mistress who didn't love him, a father who sent him off to boarding school, an older brother who took all the credit, etc. They've been overdone, way overdone. St. Cyres' problems are much more interesting, more original, more realistic, more tragic, and unfortunately ultimately dealt with much too easily. The ending is also fulfilling, if not unexpected, and I found myself glad that Pru finally grew a backbone even if it was a backhanded, insignificant way. I was also glad that the character had a full(er) figure and the book mentioned it quite often, and how attracted St. Cyres was to said figure.