Title: Last Night with the Duke
Author: Amelia Grey
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: March 2017
Length: 297 pages
Series?: The Rakes of St. James #1
Genre: Historical Romance
Could finding love be his greatest scandal of all?
The Duke of Griffin has never lived down his reputation as one of the Rakes of St. James. Now rumors are swirling that his twin sisters may bear the brunt of his past follies. Hiring a competent chaperone is the only thing Griffin has on his mind–until he meets the lovely and intriguing Miss Esmeralda Swift. In ways he could never have expected, she arouses more than just his curiosity.
Esmeralda Swift considered herself too sensible to ever fall for a scoundrel, but that was before she met the irresistibly seductive Duke of Griffin. His employment offer proves too tempting for her to resist. She can’t afford to be distracted by his devilish charms because the stakes are so high for his sisters’ debut Season. . .unless one of London’s most notorious rakes has had a change of heart and is ready to make Esmeralda his bride?
Esmerelda Swift is an enterprising businesswoman who runs Miss Mamie Fortescue’s Employment Agency for women. She has run the agency and cared for her younger sister for some time, but things are becoming extremely tight. They need incoming jobs for Miss Mamie’s to continue its employment services….and keep their home. She has everything to lose.
When the Duke of Griffin whirls in and demands Esmerelda chaperone his twin sisters for their introduction to the ton, he won’t take no for an answer. After earning his nickname as one of the “Rakes of St. James” for his own behavior with young ladies of the ton during his younger days, he is now concerned for his own sisters’ safety and protection during their debut as rumors swirl. Especially when “Miss Honor A Truth’s” weekly scandal sheet is released…and the Duke and his sisters find themselves the center of Society attention.
A strong but friendly chaperone is the perfect answer. Esmerelda throws up a myraid of excuses and finds herself, her sister, and their dog living at Griffin’s home and ushering the argumentative twins to events while keeping the peace.
Esmerelda (Esme) – disowned granddaughter of a noble, quietly operates a servicewomen agency and cares for her sister
Josephine – Esmerelda’s 12 year old sister
Griffin – Benedict Mercer, Duke of Griffin, named one of the Rakes of St. James
Lady Vera – the forceful and cantankerous twin
Lady Sara – the sweet twin
Rust Rathburne – Duke of Rathburne, Griffin’s friend and another of the Rakes of St. James
Sloan Knox -Duke of Hawksthorn, Griffin’s friend and another of the Rakes of St. James
If there was a yelling and a shove when they both wanted to play the pianoforte, what would happen when they both started vying for the same young man’s attention?
The Highs and Lows
- Esmerelda. Her past is important and often Essie turns to in her own thoughts. She is the granddaughter of a viscount, nobility in her own right. However, since her mother chose to love an Irish poet against the wishes of her father, Esmerelda’s mother was disowned. Both her mother and stepfather have since passed on, leaving Esmerelda to care for her 12-year-old sister who is a mix of bratty and sweet. Esmerelda’s life went from governesses to becoming one, and she worked her way up to now own Miss Mamie Fortescue’s Employment Agency, a small company that places servicewomen with high society families. Essie is an enterprising, hard-working, independent, and stubborn woman. I admired and revered her for those qualities, but at times they also seemed like a facade. Essie is hired for her strong backbone, but at every turn in her new employ she is ready to rush and pack her bags, knowing she will be fired. Her independence and confidence were like the spikes and drops in a diabetic’s blood sugar.
- The Attraction. I didn’t find there to be any romance in this “romance” novel. Benedict Mercer, the Duke of Griffin, is inexplicably attracted to Esmerelda the moment he hears her voice while eavesdropping on her reprimanding an employee. And again when he sets eyes on her. The insta-lust remains that throughout the entire book. There is no real development of their relationship, no growth. They spend very little time together, and their “romance” is some secretive kisses and make-out sessions in the library that can’t go too far. Essie’s commoner “miss” status draws Griffin like a moth to a flame, and ultimately what he also uses to push her away. A Duke can’t marry a mere commoner, but he can dally with one. Flirt, tease, bemoan the fact that he needs to settle down with a “proper” lady. It was a bit of a farce watching Griffin’s intentions completely change as soon as he learned of her family heritage and nobility status. It didn’t seem authentic or believable.
- The Goofs. Historically, this is not quite accurate. In no Regency world would a single, virginal employment agency administrator with a teenage sister and a rascally dog be a live-in partial chaperone. Essie doesn’t conduct the full duties of a chaperone, only the public facing ones. All of the planning and orchestrating has been done by Griffin’s aunt, who can’t go out due to a skin condition, which seemed engineered on her part to force Griffin toward a woman. Not to mention how a Duke would not be entering a women’s employment agency. No, there are servants for that – even the housekeeper at worst would have been sent.
- The Twins. While the twins are quite snotty and catty, they show some development. They fight over everything left and right, and there seemed to even be a slight streak of malice in one of them, aimed at the other. They are high-spirited and high maintenance. However, their undying love for the same man is soon overcome and resolved, and Sara ends up finding her own love. Once the twins got past their tit-for-tat, I enjoyed their characters immensely and hope they make more than just cameos in the remainder of the series. In fact, I wonder if Rath or Hawk will wind up falling for Vera.
- The Mysterious Revenge Plot. The entire plot of the story revolves around blind Sir Welby’s first-hand accounts of a group of young men bent on ruining Griffin’s sisters. Reputations and perceptions are the powerhouse of the ton, and even the slightest mar is a death threat for a young woman – just like the dozen women Griffin, Hawk, and Rath innocently damaged a decade prior when each young lady appeared at a clandestine location, unchaperoned, in the middle of the night to meet their secret admirers. While there are rumors continuing to abound, Griffin and Esmerelda are suspicious of every young man who shows too much attention or none at all! When the Season is half over with no attempt of harm, they begin to question the validity of Sir Welby’s claim. The mysterious revenge plot drug on…and then dissipated. It was quite anticlimactic.
Amelia Grey (aka Gloria Dale Skinner) grew up in a small town in the Florida Panhandle. She has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over twenty-five years. She has lived in Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire and now lives in Florida.
Amelia has won the coveted Romantic Times award for Love and Laughter, the prestigious Maggie award for best historical and Affaire de Coeur’s best American historical award. She has been a finalist for the Golden Heart and the Holt Medallion awards which are given by Romance Writers of America and numerous other awards. Her books have been sold to many countries in Europe, Russia and China.
Amelia likes flowers, candlelight, sweet smiles, gentle laughter and sunshine.