The Duke's Sweet Revenge by Jamie Salisbury
George Stoddard, future Duke of Sussex, refuses to believe his father when he claims that Lady Jane Campbell is bad news, but is confronted painfully with his father's truth when he discovers that Jane and his brother Jonathan, conspired to kill the Duke and frame George for the murder. Years later George returns to England, determined to stop Jonathan's marriage to Lady Sarah Davies, whose supposed fortune will prop up the Sussex coffers, as George holds the loans on the Sussex estate. Sarah is in her own financial straights after her father's bad investments and her brother's memory problems, and she is marrying Jonathan so that her vast dowry can pay off the Davies' debt. George kidnaps Sarah on the way to the wedding, planning to hold her only until after the wedding. For the week she is his captive, Sarah falls for the handsome highwayman who goes by "my lord." Her attempts to escape him, including drugging him, bashing him over the head, and escaping out the window in the rain, ignite his temper, but he never loses it with her and he refuses to allow his desire for her get in the way of his mission, even while unable to resist a passionate kiss.
When the date of the wedding passes, George lets Jane go, but not before warning her about Jonathan's true intentions. Jane calls of the wedding with Jonathan, but agrees to pretend things are still find to placate society. Meanwhile Jane discovers who George really is and George continues trying to gather evidence against his brother. He finds that he cannot stay away from Jane, even though he knows she deserves so much better than him and feels massive amounts of guilt over everything. Jane knows that she could make George back into the man he used to be and is determined to help him clear his name, even if it means making dangerous decisions. George is furious at himself, and at Jane for putting herself at risk and for continuing to go out into society even while he remains convinced that he will never marry her. Jonathan is becoming suspicious of Sarah asking questions and enlists the help of his henchmen to put a stop to it, by any means necessary. It will take the love of a good woman to help George work his way out of his conundrum and to feel like he belongs in real society and deserves a happy life.
Sarah is a likable heroine because of her dedication to her family, her love for her mentally disturbed brother, and for her common sense approach to most of her life. Unfortunately the one area of her life she doesn't approach with common sense is her relationship with George, because she falls, and succumbs to a man who treats her abysmally for much of the book. George's demons certainly excuse a fair amount of awful behavior, but his treatment of Sarah is reprehensible. He uses her like a whore at times, and then hugs her loves her which is something someone very manipulative would do. He accuses her of sleeping around and froths at the mouth at the thought of her marrying someone else even while insisting he will never marry her. What brought this book down an entire heart for me though was Sarah's completely stupid behavior with regards to her own safety. She knows that Jonathan is dangerous and possibly deadly and that someone is after her, and yet show ventures out on her own. I couldn't even excuse her because she was just trying to help George.
Their relationship was toxic for much of the book with George pushing him away because of his dangerous tendencies and past, punctuated with brief moments of passion that ended with him treating her poorly again. I just did not see how they would function normally as George spent the entire book worried about hurting her to the point that he hurt her even more. His obsession with how dangerous he was got old very quickly and ended up being next to nothing. Some of the more interesting parts of this book were told from Jonathan's, and other villains, point of view, but the ending to that subplot was abrupt and confusing. Supposedly Jonathan was caught red-handed, but I couldn't figure out how. There was a secondary romance involving a woman who eventually married Jonathan and another man, and she acted just as stupidly and naively as Sarah and I ended up disliking her quite a bit and wondering how pathetic a man would have to be to fall in love with someone that ridiculous.
Rating: Despite it's problems, I was prepared to give it 3 hearts, but the stupid decisions made by the heroine and other woman (repeatedly) dragged this book down to a VERY low 2 hearts.