The Naked Duke

The Naked Earl

The Naked Gentleman

The Naked King
by Sally MacKenzie
(Zebra Books, $6.99, R) ISBN 978-1-4201-0255-0
The Naked King is the last in Sally MacKenzie’s Naked series, and it winds up the tales with a hilarious bang.

Stephen Parker-Roth is known around London as the King of Hearts. He’s recently broken off a boring affair with a wealthy widow, and is stumbling drunkenly down the street. He runs into a pretty lady in a horrific dress and ugly bonnet that he’s never met before. He enjoys a quick conversation with her, and after a quick flare of lust, he kisses her, only to be seen by one of the most notorious gossips in London.

As a gentleman who has been thinking of settling down due to his mother’s nagging and his age, he explains that they are betrothed. Even though Stephen knows that the rumors of their sudden betrothal will be all over town by afternoon, he also knows that it’s better than the alternative.

Lady Anne Marston is the daughter of an earl, and she should be married with children by now since she’s twenty seven. However, her earl father is known as Crazy Crane due to his obsession with antiquities. She’s been busy running the family estate and helping to raise her twin ten year old half brothers. Now, her father and stepmother have dumped Anne, the twins and her eighteen year old sister Evie at the London townhouse under the care of their odd, uninvolved cousin Clarinda, for Evie’s come-out.

The last thing that Anne expected was to run into the dashing, charming King of Hearts that she’s been following in the newspapers for a respite from her dreary life.

Lady Anne agrees to continue with the sham betrothal until the end of the season to avoid a scandal with Stephen ruining Evie’s come-out. She doesn’t know that Stephen intends to actually go through with the plan, as it seems like a reasonable course of action. Lady Anne’s hiding a serious secret that will change everything with Stephen.

As they get to know each other better, lust flares between our leading couple. Stephen begins to suspect that Anne is hiding something, but he doesn’t know how to get it out of her. Then, some of Stephen’s acquaintances begin dropping nasty hints about his betrothed. Anne knows that she has to confess before her secret is revealed by others, but she wants to hold onto Stephen’s companionship a little longer. Suddenly, she is backed into a corner and has to tell all, and lose all.

The Naked King was a good read. It had humor in all of the right places, the story ebbed and flowed with very little drag, and I enjoyed it.

The story started off fairly slowly for me, I didn’t fall in love with the characters until partway through the book. Their sudden meeting at the beginning of the tale was jarring, as the couple don’t know each other at all, and the reader doesn’t know them either. This made for a bit of an uncomfortable meet and greet for the first few chapters. Even when we get to know the quite delightful Stephen and Anne, their vaguely explained motives behind their sham betrothal and subsequent relationship are murky and questionable, which makes them a little superficial.

I did like the story more the deeper I got into it, the background characters – good and evil – were entertaining, and Stephen and Anne’s relationship became stronger and more believable as time passed. I also enjoyed Stephen’s group of friends contribution to the story.

I liked MacKenzie’s fun, light writing style, it was easy to read.

The Naked King is a good summer read, but don’t expect a deeply emotional, moving tale from this breezy, unexpected story.

- Amy Wroblewsky

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