Duke of Scandal

Duke of Sin

My Darline Caroline

When It's Perfect

Winter Garden

Someone Irresistible

Stolen Charms

The Duke’s Indiscretion
by Adele Ashworth
(Avon, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-061-12857-0
The Duke’s Indiscretion is the third in a series, following Duke of Sin and Duke of Scandal. Colin Ramsay, Duke of Newark, is infatuated with a coloratura opera singer named Lottie English. For three years he has attended nearly every one of her performances, and when the story opens, he is dressing for yet another night at the opera. This night, he vows, he will finally meet the elusive Lottie, and even better, he’ll make her his mistress. After all, women fall at his feet; how hard can it be to convince the beautiful Lottie to fall into his bed?

Colin, of course, is in for a surprise. Lottie does talk with him for several minutes in her dressing room, enough to inflame his lust. He makes his offer and she agrees to consider it. Then she returns to the stage for the next act, and at the end of the show, Lottie disappears. Furious and disbelieving, Colin returns home to ponder his next move.

Lottie is really Lady Charlotte Hughes, sister to the Earl of Brixham. During the day, she’s a plain spinster, hiding behind spectacles and a mousy wardrobe. At night, she’s Lottie English, living the life of her dreams. Her disapproving brother is pushing her to find a respectable husband and give up the opera before she’s discovered and scandal envelopes them both. Lottie, who has been interested in Colin for quite some time, sees a way out of her situation. She approaches Colin, reveals her identity, and offers him a deal: marriage. He can have “Lottie,” if he’ll fund a tour of Europe for her.

Colin agrees, and they are wed. Certain that the sultry “Lottie” represents the real Charlotte, and unwilling to give up his fantasy of bedding his beautiful opera singer, he gives her a tasteless and insulting wedding gift, then botches the wedding night, badly. Charlotte, completely disillusioned, now wants little to do with him.

Much of this story didn’t work for me. I never warmed up to Colin, who marries an intelligent, courageous woman and wants her to act like a whore for him, then is disappointed when she won’t play the role he’s mentally assigned to her. Lottie sees marriage as a way out of her situation and a chance to get everything she’s ever wanted; while marriage may have been the only avenue of the time, it still felt cold and calculating, especially since she knows exactly what Colin wants from her. “I’ll be your hot little plaything, even though I don’t like it and it’s not really me, as long as you take me on a tour of Europe to show off my singing voice” isn’t a soul-stirring motivation.

Because I couldn’t warm up to the characters, their predicament bored me. When a reader doesn’t really care if the characters solve their problems or not, it’s not a good sign. I do give kudos to the author for the wedding night scene, however. She sets the stage with a massive blunder on Colin’s part, and that scene stuck with me. I can honestly say I’ve never read one like it before. It took some guts to make the hero into a near-cad in that particular way.

The Duke’s Indiscretion didn’t hit the mark. If you’ve enjoyed the other two books in the series, you might want to check it out, but otherwise I’d give it a pass.

--Cathy Sova

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