Review: The Unworthy Duke

Title: The Unworthy Duke
Author: Charlotte Anne
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Release Date: February 2021
Length: 336 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical Romance

Miss Ellen Burney doesn’t have a penny to her name. Determined to escape scandal, she flees to London and becomes Miss Smith: spinster and lady’s companion. London offers security in anonymity. So long as Ellen can rein in her overactive imagination and become the perfect picture of propriety.

Calum Callaghan spent ten years in the Royal Navy fighting Napoleon and has the scars to prove it. Now he’s a duke, but all of London thinks he murdered his brother. Heartbroken and battle weary, he’s locked himself away for four long years, a prisoner in his own townhouse.

That is, until Cal’s grandmother comes to stay with him for the London Season, her new lady’s companion in tow. A lady’s companion with a passion for life and love that can hardly be contained by even the most spinsterish of lace caps. She’s fooling nobody, especially not this grumpy duke.

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Ellen Burney is backed into a corner, with no options as an unmarried woman, despite her nobility. She does what any desperate woman would do living in an abusive situation: she assumes a new identity, procures a position as a lady’s companion, and flees to London. Meanwhile, she sends her little sister into hiding under the care and direction of dear friends of her late mother.

Ellen is a strong-willed, perhaps stubborn, young woman with a strong measure of intelligence. She’s not one of the feather-brained women of the nobility. She is going to do what she has to do to sustain, survive, and support her life as well as her sister’s.

Ellen (now Ms. Smith) follows things to a T, which is why she is shrouded in secrecy. If not, such horrible rumors will get out and compound the already existing trouble. With letter in hand, she arrives ready to assume her new life as Lady Faye’s companion.

Calum Callaghan, the Duke of Woodhal, spent a decade in the Royal Navy. During his service and on assignment together, his half-brother is lost to the vestiges of a fiery ship burning at sea. Calum, the first-born Callaghan but Scottish-raised, is eyed suspiciously by all. He is accused of murdering his brother. He is now a hermit in his own house, devoid of servants or staff, craving quiet and peace, which still only haunts him. He drowns his life in alcohol.

Upon her arrival to her post, Calum’s life is quickly turned upside down. Marching in comes his grandmother, Lady Faye, his dandy “cousin” Owen, and a scurry of servants for the Season. Lady F is a force to be reckoned with, which matches Ellen. She doesn’t necessarily err on the side of social graces. In fact, she was the one who demanded young Calum, living in Scotland, move to London and be raised by his father. His new stepmother was not on board, but it was an arrangement that her mother, Lady F, would not back down from. It continues to cause friction between the dowager and the Duke.

The friendship and relationship that builds between Ellen and Calum is sweet and sour, sugar and spice. We really get to see their flaws and live entrenched in their own living hells. It all seemed natural. One thing I was not expecting was the level of heat! This is a steamy read for sure!

I enjoyed this story with its fiery heroine, witty banter, and characters with hearts of gold.

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