The Secret Duke
by Jo Beverley
Jo Beverley winds up her "Secrets" series with The Secret Duke. The fact that Captain Rose is a duke is only one of many secrets and disguises in this entertaining romance.
Seventeen-year-old Bella Barstowe is kidnapped from her home and finds herself in Dover, her life in imminent peril when she is rescued by the intrepid and dashing Captain Rose. Not knowing if she can truly trust him - or herself - after they share a sweet kiss, she winds up stealing his horse and making her escape, finding her way back home.
The four years since that experience have been hellish for Bella. Her strict father didn't believe the kidnapping story but claimed her to be a fallen woman who further disgraced her family by refusing the nasty piece of work he had arranged for her to marry. After her father's death, Bella's sanctimonious brother continued to keep her a prisoner in her own home, cut off from even the simple pleasure of new clothing. Freedom comes when her great-grandmother dies, leaving her a legacy which enables her to move to London and live independently though she takes an assumed name, as her own is a byword.
There she lives quietly until a chance meeting with one of her kidnappers brings out the true story as to why she was abducted and who was responsible. Incensed, she vows revenge but knows she needs help. She needs a hero. She needs Captain Rose and sets out for Dover to find him.
The Captain Rose Bella seeks is really the Duke of Ithorne, called Thorne by his friends. He's good at being a duke, but sometimes the duty and responsibility weigh him down and he longs for a bit of freedom. When the mood strikes, he takes on the role of Captain Rose, who is really his illegitimate half-brother Caleb, who bears a striking resemblance to Thorne. It was Thorne who rescued Bella four years ago and Thorne who comes to her aid once again. Thorne and Bella have many adventures and along the way fall in love - but just who is it that they love?
Secrets and disguises have played a major role in all the "Secrets" books, but this one takes it to new levels. Bella and Thorne have no less than three identities and they meet each other in all three guises. It really became almost ridiculous and is, frankly, a well in which Beverley has dipped far too often, in my opinion.
But still, there is a lot of fun to be had reading The Secret Duke and Bella and Thorne were both appealing and interesting characters. And, as this is a Georgian-era novel set in Beverley's Malloren world, everyone's favorite Beverley character, the Marquess of Rothgar (everyone say it with me: Rothgaaaar…) is about, doing his Rothgar (mmmm….) thing. Which is always a Good Thing.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, April 15, 2010
“Dukes and Secrets and Disguises in this Georgian set romance... oh my!”
April 2010, 432 pages
When Arabella Barstowe is kidnapped, she believes her life and virtue are forfeit—until she's rescued by the notorious rogue Captain Rose. Bella never expects to see him again. But years later she learns the wicked truth behind her abduction, and she seeks out the only man who can help her take revenge.
What she doesn't know is that Captain Rose is just a disguise for the formidable Duke of Ithorne, who is intrigued to hear from the mysterious woman from his past. Their lives are soon entangled by danger and a growing forbidden passion.