Highwayman Jack Audley has never wanted to be responsible for an ancient heritage and the livelihood of others. But when he is recognized as the long-lost son of the House of Wyndham, his carefree life is over. If his birth proves to be legitimate, Jack will find himself with the one title he has never wanted: Duke of Wyndham. Original.
Jack Audley has been a highwayman.
A soldier. And he has "always" been a rogue. What he is not, and never wanted to be, is a peer of the realm, responsible for an ancient heritage and the livelihood of hundreds. But when he is recognized as the long-lost son of the House of Wyndham, his carefree life is over. And if his birth proves to be legitimate, then he will find himself with the one title he never wanted: Duke of Wyndham.
Grace Eversleigh has spent the last five years toiling as the companion to the dowager Duchess of Wyndham. It is a thankless job, with very little break from the routine… until Jack Audley lands in her life, all rakish smiles and debonair charm. He is not a man who takes no for an answer, and when she is in his arms, she's not a woman who wants to say no. But if he is the true duke, then he is the one man she can never have…
Review: This book is the first part of a two part series and is paired with Mr. Cavendish, I Presume… The book starts off with on an interesting note, with the hero, retired soldier-turned highwayman, Jack Audley, trying to rob the dowager Duchess of Wyndham and her companion Grace Eversleigh. However, what follows is a little fantastic (even for a historical romance). The dowager recognizes Jack as her long-lost grandson at first encounter itself, simply by observing his charm and seeing the top half of his face (the bottom half is covered by a mask). She gives him a ring which belonged to his father as proof. Of course Jack recognizes the ring, and of course, he is the true Duke (it IS a romance after all!). The duchess then goes on to kidnap him the next day (easily) and brings him to her castle to restore him to his rightful position as the Duke of Wyndham, displacing the current Duke, Thomas, who she dislikes for some reason (though I don't know why, he seems perfect!). In the midst of all this, there is that instant attraction between him and the heroine Grace Eversleigh.
Grace is shown as a calm and collected woman, who is in control of her emotions. The author has gone so far with the character that the heroine comes across as spineless, timid and uninteresting. She takes a lot of nonsense from the Duchess to whom she feels indebted to for rescuing her from an unpleasant situation with her cousin. She is also torn between her loyalty to Thomas and her growing attraction to Jack. There is a friendship between her and Thomas and at one point I had hopes that the story will take a twist with Grace or Thomas acting on the attraction... But, sadly the author stuck to her formula and led the heroine unerringly to Jack.
Whereas this is all standard fare, what sets this story apart from other Julia Quinn books (most of which I thoroughly enjoy) is that the hero is not very convincing. Despite his protestations, he just goes along with the dowager's plans. The heroine is like one in a Bollywood movie, perpetually confused… she loves Jack but can't decide if she wants him to be a Duke or not...The most interesting character of the novel turns out to be Thomas. He displays true Hero quality and steps down when Jack's legitimacy is proven and also his relationship with his long-term fiancée Amelia is intriguing.
The book has the expected Julia Quinn charm and humor, but doesn't have that LOL quality exhibited by her previous books. There are times of great humor but, most of Jack's dealings with the dowager, though sometimes funny, often fall flat. It would be great if she had also come back with some snappy reply. But, that would not do as she is portrayed of the bitchy grandmom (à la Lalita Pawar) who has lost her sense of humor. It almost seemed as if the author had drawn up a list of qualities for each of her character and has not allowed them to stray from the script. The characters (except Thomas) almost feel one-dimensional, either black or white, with very little room for grey... I would have loved some wickedness in the novel, with some characters actually behaving out of character. Alas, that does not happen…
The novel ends predictably with Jack, despite his lack of skills, becomes the Duke, and is hugely successful at it. Grace, doing credit to her name, visits the bitchy dowager, even though she doesn't have to... And they live happily ever after…
All in all a good read, but not memorable. I rate this one as 3 as I enjoyed reading it and am definitely looking forward to reading the second part of the series, Mr. Cavendish, I Presume… I can't wait to see what happens to Thomas!
I read this as a part of my 100 e-books Challenge, Historical Romance Challenge, 1st in a Series Challenge, Historical Fiction Challenge and 100+ Books in a Year Challenge (Almost all of them! Good choice!).