At the Duke's Pleasure by Tracey Anne Warren
This is the third book in the Byron family saga and features the eldest brother, Edward Byron, the Duke of Clybourne. Edward has been engaged to Claire Marsden since he was 12 and she was an infant, while he has always planned on "one day" going through with the wedding, he has continually put it off. Finally deciding that it is time to begin fulfilling his duty and marry, but he is very surprised to find that Claire does not feel the same. Claire had worshiped Edward and looked forward to their marriage until the day she overheard him in the garden calling her a child and proclaiming he had no interest in her. Now she is determined to protect herself and her heart from Edward and sets out to get him to call of their wedding by behaving poorly. From interactions with a courtesan to curricle races in the park to cutting her hair off and gambling in a famous gentleman's club, Claire is certain that eventually she can get Edward to call of the wedding. Edward knows that something is up but he is equally determined to marry Claire because it is his duty and because he very much wants the lovely young lady.
Even while pushing Edward away Claire finds herself succumbing to his sensual manipulations whenever the two of them are alone. She knows that she is giving him a terrible amount of power to hurt her in the future, but she cannot help herself. Meanwhile Edward has been disappearing and backing out on planned outings and Claire is worried that he is engaged in an affair. But Edward is actually trying to track down "Wolfe," a French spy who has been passing information to the French for years, and who is responsible for his brother Cade's torture while he was on the continent. Making one last desperate attempt to get Edward to call off the wedding Claire agrees to a ride in the park with a notorious rakehell who has already ruined one innocent young woman. Edward is furious and goes riding after Claire and in the aftermath she reveals her feelings for him. Edward is ecstatic and quickly moves up the wedding, but he still needs to fulfill his obligations to the crown. Fed up with Edward's disappearance Claire follows him into the lion's den and it is up to Edward to save her and prove that he can make her as happy as she has made him.
I have always very much liked how Tracy Anne Warren writes- it's descriptive and fast without being fluffy or overdrawn. The romantic development was very much underdone. I find that more and more I am left wondering why a heroine fell in love with the hero. We were told multiple times that Edward was handsome and yet he does very little that would clarify why she fell in love with him. I could see why Edward had fallen in love with Claire to some extent as she was adventurous and caring but I wish that had been developed more as well. For a while the Wolfe plot was completely separate from the romance, and thus seemed completely unnecessary, but near the end I really started to get into it and see how it worked towards the romance. It really led to some nice juicy emotions and angst as Claire worried that Edward was having an affair and did not love her.
The sex was very delayed in this book and was a little smashed into a small portion of this book, although it was very well written. I was a tad thrown by the brief spanking scene that was not really worked in to a sex scene and was really a punishment for her admittedly outrageous behavior. He apologies profusely and apparently it didn't hurt too much, but I just felt like he was treating her like a child. This flows nicely in to Claire's behavior while she is trying to get Edward to call off the wedding. I tried to understand her way of thinking but I cannot figure out how she truly believed she could do all these things, get him to call off the wedding, and her parents, or another man, would still take her back. She was doing things that would leave any unmarried miss completely scorned by society and all she could think was that at least she would not be married to a man who did not love her. I don't usually comment on the cover but this one is just crazy- it seriously looks as though the woman's neck is twisted to an incredibly painful degree.
Rating: I am aware that it seems as though I found so much to dislike in this book, and I need to work more on describing what I did like. I did enjoy this book and will continue to look forward to more book's from this author and about this interesting family.