Unmasking the Duke's Mistress is part lost lovers reunited story (one of my favorite tropes), and part courtesan story (my least favorite trope). I had mixed feelings about reading this book because of the courtesan storyline however, Margaret McPhee managed to give me a story that I really enjoyed.
It has been six years since Dominic has seen Arabella; six long years in which he has harbored a hatred for her betrayal of him. Dominic was the son of a duke and was expected to marry a girl suited to his station. Arabella was not that girl. The two fell in love and became betrothed but, in secret at the behest of his father. When it is discovered that Arabella and Dominic anticipated their wedding vows the duke's treachery tears them apart most cruelly. Dominic knew nothing of what had occurred, for his father sent him to Scotland, and by the time Dominic returned four months later, Arabella had married another man.
Arabella has fallen on hard times and a robbery has taken what little she and her mother and young son had left. Unable to find work and knowing she can't let her son go hungry, Arabella agrees to become the courtesan Miss Noir. She can't forgive Dominic for his part in her ruination, nor can she resist the lure of her heart that has only beat for Dominic. When he offers to set her up as his mistress, she resignedly agrees.
Despite this being a courtesan story, Unmasking the Duke's Mistress has very little sex in it. After the first night in the brothel, when Arabella was masked, Dominic cannot bring himself to debase her again. In fact, he tries his best to stay away from Arabella, and he mostly succeeds…until his heart just can't take the separation any longer.
Unmasking the Duke's Mistress was a surprise as I really didn't expect to like the story as much as I did. Especially since, for the first half of the book you just want to scream at them to talk to one another, and when they finally do it is a relief. Dominic and Arabella still don't have an easy time of it as the unmasking part of Unmasking the Duke's Mistress involves a mystery, and blackmail, of who is trying to unmask the true identity of Dominic's mistress.
I'm really glad I took a chance on Unmasking the Duke's Mistress, the first book in MacPhee's "Gentlemen of Disrepute" series, and I look forward to the next book.
Reviewed by: Valarie Pelissero