What the Duke Desires by Sabrina Jeffries
Maximillian Cale, the Duke of Lyons, is stunned to receive a note claiming that his long lost brother, whom has been presumed dead for years, is alive and well. The note leads him back to a private detective agency of Dominic Manton, where he runs into Lisette Bonnaud, Dominic's illegitimate half-sister. Lisette is the daughter of an Earl and his mistress and when her father died, his heir and Lisette's other half-brother, cast off Dominic, Lisette, and her full sibling Tristan and then accused Tristan of stealing a horse so he has been living in exile for years. She is frustrated that Dominic won't let her help with the investigations so when Max shows up she offers to help him find his brother, claiming to have information. Max is skeptical but he knows that only way to possibly find his brother is to go with the beautiful young lady. The two masquerade as a married couple and go to France where Tristan has been living and where Lisette has her own connections amid the French spying agency.
Pretending to pose as husband and wife brings the two into very close contact for long periods of time. Lisette has always harbored a grudge against the aristocracy because of her father and half-brother but Max is quickly teaching her that her judgments are wrong. She finds herself falling for him and it is her own insecurities that stand in the way of her reaching out and grabbing what she wants. Max has his own family secrets involving madness and he is terrified that he will go mad and does not want to put any woman through that. The more he likes Lisette the more he is convinced that shackling her to a madman is something he could never do. The two finally go back to London where they are confronted with reality and with every member of their family. When they are both backed into a corner they say things they regret and their future is uncertain until they decide that nothing else matters but finding happiness together.
Jeffries writing is very readable and her stories always flow so well and her books manage to be both fast reads and enjoyable. Lisette's story is interesting and I am a sucker for romances with such a vast difference in social stations even if it is horribly unrealistic. I loved how her experience as illegitimate colors her view of those around her and how those views were challenged and changed throughout the novel as she saw more of the world and got to know Lyon. Max's fear of madness is understandable but is quickly starting to become overdone in romances even while I understand there really is a limited pool of "demons to haunt the hero" shticks. However, it was done the right way because, even while still wondering about this, he came to realize that there were more important things in life. It is always a mark of a good romance when both characters change for the better because of the other and this romance had that.
The two worked wonderfully well together but there was not enough sex at all and the book wasn't really all that steamy to begin with and I didn't really get the sexual tension that was supposedly simmering between them. The plot involving the lost brother, while not really touched upon in my summary, really made up the bulk of the story and I believe that was to its' detriment. The plot brought them together and was the reason they stayed together, but I quickly lost interest in it because it dragged on for so long and really distracted from the romance between them. The truth was certainly interesting and came together in a big reveal at the end but by then I had moved on and was just waiting for the story to end. The book also very nicely sets up the next book in the series and I definitely plan on reading it.
Rating: An enjoyable read with a likable romance but the secondary plot took over and distracted from the story.