Sunday, February 5, 2017

Review: The Duke by Kerrigan Byrne

The Duke by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Victorian Rebels, Book 4
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781250118240
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

He is noble, notorious, and takes no prisoners…

Strong as a Viking. Handsome as Adonis. Rich as Midas. Collin "Cole" Talmage, Duke of Trewyth, is the stuff that legends are made of. He's the English Empire’s golden son—until fate has its way with him. Cole’s family is killed and his closest comrade betrays him on the battlefield, leaving him gravely injured. But Cole is not one to dwell on misfortune. He is a man of duty, honor—and desire. And now he’s ready for the fight of his lifetime…

Imogen Pritchard is a beautiful lass who works in a hospital by day and as a serving maid at night. Years ago, when she was young and penniless, she ended up spending a scandalous night with Cole, whose tormented soul was matched only by his earth-shattering passion. Imogen entered a marriage of convenience—one that left her a wealthy widow—but she never forgot Cole. Now that her long-lost lover has turned up in her hospital, injured and with no memory of her, Imogen is torn: Is it a blessing or a curse that their past remains a secret to Cole, even as his new passion for her leaves him wanting to protect and possess her…at all costs

The Duke is dark, intense, and completely addictive. Imogen and Cole captivated me from the very beginning and did not let go, no matter how rocky the road to happily ever after got. Kerrigan Byrne has a gift for penning intriguing, imperfect heroes and heroines, and Imogen and Cole are no exception.

I absolutely loved Imogen. She’s lived a hard life, has known starvation and violence, yet she doesn’t break. She looks for the sunshine in the clouds, and I loved her optimism almost as much as I loved her desire to help those less fortunate. At the beginning of the story, Imogen is a nurse who must spend her nights serving alcohol in a brothel in order to pay off her father’s debts. One night changes everything when Cole, the newly-minted Duke of Talmage, walks in and she finds herself seduced by the handsome, heartbreakingly sad man. Fast-forward to the present (so as to avoid giving spoilers) and Imogen is now a wealthy widowed countess who works hard to give others a second chance and a safe environment. She’s determined to make the world a better place, even though society may scorn her for it.

Surprisingly (for a romance), Cole is one of her detractors. He grew up privileged and was raised with the prejudices typical for his class, and on top of that war and imprisonment have shown him the uglier side of humanity. Even though he’s in the wrong, I liked that Ms. Byrne showed where he was coming from, how his upbringing and the trauma of war (and his PTSD in the aftermath) have affected him. Yes, Cole could be frustrating because he’s so scarred and angry that he can’t see what’s right in front of him. But even though Cole isn’t the perfect hero, I really liked watching him grow as a character and become the hero he should be.

Despite its sensual beginning, the romance between Cole and Imogen is slow to burn. He’s fixated on finding the woman he spent one night with, and it’s no spoiler to say that he doesn’t realize that “Ginny” is Imogen. Thus their love story is more of an enemies-to-lovers one, and it was nice to see them actually get to know one another as they (however reluctantly) fell in love. What took this story down a notch for me was the fact that I felt we didn’t get much time with Cole and Imogen as a couple. With Cole being such a harsh character, I would have loved a few more heartfelt moments between the two, something to give me the sense of tenderness or happiness from a couple in love that I’ve come to expect to see in a romance.

In addition to the love story, there’s a level of suspense in The Duke thanks to a plotline involving Imogen’s stalker. I liked the added element of danger, but as with the romance, I felt the resolution was rushed and I would have liked just a bit more to it to leave me fully satisfied. Even with these few issues, I thoroughly enjoyed The Duke overall. Ms. Byrne is a fantastic writer and I love the complex, interesting characters she creates. Every Victorian Rebels book has swept me away, and The Duke is no exception. I cannot wait to see what Ms. Byrne has in store for readers next!

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.