Sins of a Wicked Duke by Sophia Jordan
Fallon O'Rourke had a difficult childhood; after her father died on a fool's errand for a selfish lord she was sent to a girls school where she was singled out by the headmaster for her fiery hair. Unfortunately the real world is not going much better as she has been let go by employer after employer because the man of the house cannot keep his hands off her. After one particularly awful firing she accepts a ride from the dissolute Dominic Hale, the Duke of Damon, to her hotel and it proves to be quite eye-opening. He engages in some very dissolute behavior with two prostitutes while she is in the carriage before informing her that she is welcome at his place anytime. She runs away, determined to stay away from him. Fallon decides that the best way for her to get a job will be to disguise herself as a man, but she is shocked when the woman at the agency sends "Francis" to the Duke's house for employment as a footman. She is quite unimpressed with the Duke's behavior as night after night of drunkenness and debauchery follow her employment.
Fallon is undeniably horrified, yet cannot help the attraction she feels for this incredibly virile man. Dominic finds himself feeling lost and the only thing that makes him feel like a real person is when he is buried in a woman (his words) or when he is painting- and he has found that his most recent muse is the fiery haired prude from the carriage. After one night of heavy drinking he finds himself with recollections of a soft, sweet smelling woman in his bed, but he cannot remember who she is- until he discovers that his new valet is actually a woman; the same woman he cannot get out of his head. Dominic knows that he wants her but he is equally sure that his empty soul is unable to offer her marriage. Fallon does not last long against Dominic's charms but she still refuses to become his mistress and give into a blue blood. She leaves Dominic with a challenge: to let go of his past, forgive the mistakes that have been made, and open up his heart. Fallon also needs to let go of her hatred for the nobility in order to find the home she has always longed for- with the man who can do anything to win her.
The first half of the book is basically one scene after another of Dominic engaging in incredibly rakish behaviors, from sucking on another woman's nipple in front of Fallon to being caught in bed with a married woman. I knew that there would need to be some major repentance, combined with some major awfulness from his past to make up for his actions. It's one thing to read about how his past is filled with such incidences and another to actually read about said incidences in the present and it's something I had major trouble getting over. Weird how that works, but it's true. Dominic's complaint was that he was constantly empty and he needed something to fill this emptiness, whether that be a woman or getting a very painful tattoo. This emptiness sprung from a grandfather who put him in the care of an abusive and very angry governess. I guess that's as good a reason as any to turn out... not so polite, but I don't believe that the book adequately explains how he goes from dissolute rogue to the lovelorn, forgiving, desperate man he is at the end. I guess I'm supposed to chalk up to his love for Fallon.
Fallon had issues with her past as well, but they played out in a much more realistic and solvable way. Her hatred of the nobility springs from her father's death and it leads to stubbornness and pride, both of which she has managed to conquer by the end in a very believable manner. Like all working women in romance novels she suffers from being constantly harassed by all male relatives of her employers so nothing new there. Sex was a very big part of this book as both of them are constantly attracted to each other, however, while there are plenty of unconsummated scenes, there are not nearly enough full sex scenes and the ones there are don't play out as romantically as they should have. Sex with Fallon should have been different, more making love, then all the women he had slept with before. There was no side plot of anything to detract from making the protagonists the central, the only, focus of the story, and I felt like that really benefited the novel as their emotional turmoil and their pasts really did make this a complete book.
Rating: I find that I am unable to completely get over Dominic's behavior in regards to other women throughout the story, but the emotional breakthroughs these characters made were quite amazing.