She Tempts the Duke
by Lorraine Heath
(Avon, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-006-202246-2
***
As children, Mary Wynne-Jones was a constant companion of the three Easton boys on their estate named Pembrook. At fourteen, twins Sebastian (the heir) and Tristan (the spare) were just showing signs of the young rakes they appeared destined to become. Their younger brother Rafe followed them around and tried to emulate his brothers, as only a ten year old can. But when their father died unexpectedly and their uncle David sent them to the tower in the castle-like structure, the boys grew up fast. It was only daring on Mary’s part that they were able to escape the death their uncle was promising.

It is now 12 years later and the “Lords of Pembrook” are presumed dead. David has waited this long to try to have them declared dead so no one would suspect his role in their disappearance. His story was that he was punishing them and they ran away. No bodies have ever been found, although the rumors of their demise knew no bounds. At the ball David hosts to announce his intentions of finally claiming the dukedom, three men enter the room announcing that they are the Duke of Kewick and his long lost brothers.

Sebastian has suffered grave injuries leaving him with scars and the loss of one eye, which he covers with an eye patch. Tristan is strikingly handsome, maybe more so since he and Sebastian used to look so much alike and has the obvious swagger of the sea captain he had become. And Rafe carries the aura of danger, which goes along with his carefully hidden identify of the owner of a gambling hell and bordello. Mary is the only one in the room who would have recognized them from anywhere and she is thrilled to see that they have survived. She is newly betrothed, but that doesn’t stop her heart from remembering her friendship and her feelings of love for the three brothers.

Of course, just announcing your identity does not ensure that the ton will embrace you, especially when the first words from your mouth are to kick your uncle from the home and lands of the duke. This is the story of lost love, lost lives and the inevitability of finding one’s destiny. There is still the threat from the uncle, the distrust of society, the anger and urge for revenge from the three men, the uncertainty of the feelings between the three and then there is Mary…what is her role now with the three people she helped save all those years ago, when she heard their uncle tell someone to take them into the woods and kill them.

I wanted to rate this tale higher on the one hand, because of the depth of the characterizations and the strength in their characters. All are fairly well developed and understandable. I would love to see Rafe and Tristan have their own tales – with Tristan showing his emotions through the carefree acts of a rake with no worries and with Rafe portraying himself as a dark, brooding man with no redemption available to him for all he has seen and done. Sebastian and Mary are the key players in this tale and both are likable and at times, lamentable. They have times when they over worry and over think or they are rash, causing situations that could have been avoided. There are times when the tale drags due to their inability to act.

Yet, the tale is one that kept me coming back because I could sense there was a good story in this book and it ultimately came out. My only suggestion is to keep with it and I think you will find She Tempts the Duke to be a satisfying experience. But it could have been much more.

--Shirley Lyons


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