Monday, February 26, 2018

ARC Review: My Once and Future Duke by Caroline Linden

Series:     Wagers of Sin #1
Pub. Date:Feb. 27, 2018
Length:384 pgs

My Once and Future Duke kicks off a new series by Caroline Linden, Wagers of Sin. I believe this series will revolve around gambling at the exclusive Vega Club. Our heroines will be girls with similarly-situated childhoods who met and bonded at their boarding school, dubbed Ms. Upton's Academy of the Unwanted. This was a good start to the series with an independent heroine who was the perfect person to thaw out our stuffy and proper duke.

Sophie Campbell started life with an idyllic childhood with loving parents and the adventure of traveling with them to support her mother's opera career. But when she lost both parents at a young age, Sophie had to learn some hard lessons when her guardianship was given to an uncaring curmudgeon who did the bare minimum to provide for her. Luckily, Sophie's friendship with Georgiana and Eliza provided her a small amount of support and friendly ears when needed. But without a form of support past her 18th birthday, Sophie became an independent young woman willing to do what was necessary to provide for herself. I was impressed with Sophie's ability to maintain marginal respectability when she was supporting herself by gambling. I also admired her willingness to stand up for herself and not be cowed by the men, particularly our duke. She was a good heroine, though she does have one lapse that had me questioning her involving her willingness to believe a rumor without first communicating with our hero.

Jack Lindeville, Duke of Ware, is at his wit's end with his reckless and spendthrift brother, Philip. But his latest rescue of his brother's indebtedness brings him to the Vega Club, a secretive gaming society frequented by our heroine, Sophie. When Jack attempts to teach Philip a lesson, he finds himself stuck at his country estate with a woman who intrigues him at every turn. That being said, I thought Jack was very respectable and honorable. He didn't press unwanted attentions on Sophie and made the most of their time together. I really liked Jack as a hero... his character probably eclipsed the heroine for me. I sympathized with the responsibility he felt for his family and others, but I wished he would have stood up more to his mother who seemed to be overly managing of his person. 

There weren't really any secondary storylines in this story, so you really got to focus on the romance and relationship building. The relationship between Jack and Sophie was somewhere between a slow burn and instalove. Their attraction grew while they were at the estate and away from the world, and then it became stolen moments and sneaking around. I liked how the relationship unfolded and was glad that they didn't have too much back and forth about ending things. I felt like Jack was more invested at times than Sophie, or maybe he was just more willing to trust the outcome than she was. But that was likely a product of their class and status in society.

I would have liked to know a little more about Georgiana and Eliza, as the epilogue makes it clear who the next heroine will be. But I suppose we will learn more about their characters as the series progresses.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, Avon.

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