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Rules to Catch a Devilish Duke br> by Suzanne Enoch
(St. Martin's, $7.99, PG-13)  ISBN:  978-0-31253-453-0
*****
She's a duke's bastard. He's a bastard duke. By the rules of the ton, they should never cross paths, but neither Miss Sophia White nor Adam Baswich, tenth Duke of Greaves, are much on polite society. When the two come together over what each considers a "final-fling" Christmas party in Suzanne Enoch's third Scandalous Brides novel, Rules to Catch a Devilish Duke (total misnomer, that, by the way), sparks fly in all directions.

Sophia accepted the invitation to the duke's Christmas house party with the intention of spending her last weeks of freedom with her dearest friend, another guest.  When a bridge collapse leaves Sophia as the only guest, however, her plans have no choice but to change.  The question is: does she hole up in her rooms until the other guests are able to arrive, or show her true self to the Duke of Greaves, a man just as notorious for his caustic wit as he is for his somewhat scandalous liaisons?

Within the confining walls of the estate he has hated all his life, Adam feels lost without guests. What begins as not-quite-jest but still a bit of fun by inviting a lady of unintentional ill-repute ends up being something of a charity case when he fishes her out of the river without any of her belongings.  Adam soon discovers that Sophia is nothing like anyone he's ever met and the complete opposite of the picture that has been painted of her in Society.

Both are on a deadline: Sophia has until January 15 to make it to Wales to chain herself into a forced marriage. Adam, likewise, is being forced to marry or lose his inheritance. Both decide to make the best of this unexpected interlude.

Then the guests arrive, and the dream sequence shatters.

I'm a sucker for a Christmas story, but I have to say that Rules to Catch a Devilish Duke is not heavy on the preaching or lesson-learning like many a holiday tale.  Yes, it takes place at Christmas, and yes, the characters take part in Christmas activities, but it's not what one would consider typical for a holiday novel.  Both Sophia and the duke are, and have been since the opening of the Tantalus Club in the first book of the series, very strong-minded and passionate characters. The passion here is not just sex-related (in fact, there are remarkably few gratuitous sex scenes and even less of what contemporary readers would consider bad language); Adam and Sophia, despite their unpleasant childhoods, are emotionally passionate.  This leads to a number of good arguments that readers should enjoy.

I can't say this is a seasonal must-read due to lack of Christmas ambience, but it comes from a series that I strongly recommend and this title in particular is a must-read for historical romance enthusiasts.  I believe you will find Adam Baswich and Sophia White unforgettable, just as I have.

--Sarrah Knight


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