Duke of Shadows

 
At Your Pleasure         
by Meredith Duran
(Pocket, $7.99, R)  ISBN 978-1-4516-0695-9
****
Meredith Duran's latest, At Your Pleasure, takes place in an England where Catholics are seen to be Jacobite rebels and those who have abandoned the old Church are not given a much higher status.  Adrian Ferrers, the formerly Catholic Earl of Rivenham, had clawed his way to the top of Queen Anne's court.  When her death left a German on the throne and supporters of James Stuart brewing rebellion, he is given a test to prove himself: arrest his neighbor, Jacobite David Colville.

No love is lost between the two men; however, when upon his arrival at Hoddenby Rivenham discovers David's widowed sister Leonora, he has two choices: make a fool of himself and potentially lose everything for which he has worked, or buckle down and treat the Marchioness as he would any other prisoner.

A past that is both lovely and terrible has haunted the six years since Rivenham and Nora have spoken, though each has been aware of the other's presence at Court.  Through a series of heartbreaking encounters, this history is revealed, as are the misconceptions that have dogged the former lovers.

Regardless of the rebirth of her feelings for a man who should be her enemy, Nora continues to protect her brother despite the fact that he has abandoned her to a grave danger.  To protect her, even at his own risk, Adrian will go to great lengths, even going against her will and her beliefs as well as his own.  But it may very well be too late to save any of them.

Always a fan of social unrest and societal issues, Meredith Duran has hit us with another great story that is intense not only romantically but politically and threaded with suspense.  Readers may take a bit to warm up to Nora, but that seems to be the idea: she's a homebody at heart, and Hoddenby is everything to her.  The attempted usurpation of the Hanoverian line is something we don't often see in historical romances, and it was an intriguing angle into a time many Americans probably aren't even familiar with.  This is no light-hearted romp, though; it won't be your fun beach read.  Expect to suffer the doubts, fear, and shame that work against Nora and Adrian, and be forewarned: you will also frequently have the urge to smack one or both of the main characters upside the head.

--Sarrah Knight


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