Marianne Radley is the near-impoverished niece of Gloucestershire's magistrate. Secretly, and under a male alias, she writes as a correspondent for the Times. At her uncle's behest, Marianne, along with her mother and traumatized cousin, return to Gloucestershire. Marianne assumes that the man she met during a brief outing is the Duke of Aylesbury's steward. She quickly learns her error when her uncle introduces the man as Lance Hemingford, the Duke of Aylesbury. Lance is intent in his pursuit to prove to her what a truly wicked man he is, and he surprises Marianne by proposing marriage. She learns belatedly of her uncle's coercion in her nuptials. In recompense, Marianne aids her husband in finding evidence to free him of suspicion of his brother's death.
I love the romantic whimsy of Lancelot's name. It is not a name generally found outside stories about King Arthur. I found myself falling prey to Lance's naughtiness. Trouble liked his company but that only added to his irresistible allure and appeal. For all of his wanton ways, Lance shares an easy comradery with his two younger brothers. The three brothers' interactions often had me giggling. I sympathized with Lance on his childhood, being the unwitting victim of an older brother's pettiness and jealousy. I like how Marianne's presence curbed some of Lance's penchant for borrowing trouble. Marianne gives Lance's wickedness a new outlet without overly changing his person.
Marianne is a delightfully fun and interesting heroine. Strong-minded, I admire her willingness to stand up to her uncle when it comes to her cousin's wellbeing. Marianne always thinks first of Nora's needs before her own. I love how she does not conform easily to her mother or uncle's views when they object to her own. I like that Marianne is content with her life with no aspirations or interest in bettering her social standing like her uncle. She knows her place in the social sphere and knows when to give the nobility their proper courtesies without behaving like a sycophant. Marianne may be innocent in the wickedness of men, yet I love how she secretly enjoys Lance's brand of naughtiness, encouraging him behind closed doors after they wed.
THE WICKED DUKE is book three in Madeline Hunter's WICKED TRILOGY. Sadly, I have not read the previous two books in the trilogy, something I plan to correct very soon. THE WICKED DUKE can easily stand on its own; however, I recognize that to better understand the Hemingford brothers, it is necessary to read the first two books. I like how Madeline Hunter reminds me what it is about this genre I miss reading.
THE WICKED DUKE is a sweet yet scorching story that proves even the naughtiest of men can find love. Madeline Hunter did a superb job involving luring me into her characters' situations and world. The author makes me want to find and read the previous two books in this series.