Must Love Dukes (Tricks of the Ton) by Elizabeth Michels
I must admit that I was intrigued by the slightly surreal opening of this novel.
Devon, the Mad Duke of Thornwood, being stalked through the streets of London by a determined young woman into areas no respectable woman should wander!
A desperate act indeed. So we are thrown into a situation that begs for further questions and prompt enlightenment.
Which of course the rest of the story sets out to do. What is involved is a pocket watch and a young woman's purposefulness.
Lillian Whitby as it unfolds was that woman. At home she is the one that holds her family estate together whilst her brothers sell off all that's worthwhile with nary a thought for her. Two of her brothers, the Bad brothers, at the Baddest Brother's urging, decide that the only thing left of value to sell to the highest bidder is Lily. Certainly BB (Baddest Brother) Solomon makes the suggestion to bad brother, Joshia.
Lily is sent to London for a season (without the benefit of a wardrobe, I might add) to meet a succession of ghastly suitors that Solomon, for his own nefarious reasons, parades before her. All Lily wants is her freedom from the bullying men of the family and in marriage. 'Where is the third door?' she ponders.
Naturally, it's at a London society ball that Lily re-meets Devon. Having not being able to rid himself of the memory of Lily, Thornwood recognizes her and then blackmails her into carrying out a variety of misdeeds. Along the way strange mishaps start to occur to Lily's suitors. Her brothers become suspicious.
Devon is cast by society as the Mad Duke. A role he has over time decided to embrace with alacrity.
As Devon says, 'It's the ton's self-appointed job to degrade and cast out those who step out of line...I've spent a great deal of time stepping out of line...I have the winnings of a nice little bet...to assuage my anger.'
Meanwhile, Devon's mother, the Dower Duchess of Thornwood, is trying to coax her son into marriage. Mmm!
Regency times when seen through the filter of this story has some very strange starts indeed!
Certainly this a love story with a difference. Suspend belief and enjoy!
A NetGalley ARC