Adventures of a Scottish Heiress

Because of You

The Lady is Tempted

Married in Haste

The Marriage Contract

A Scandalous Marriage

Seduction of an English Lady

Tea for Two

Temptation of a Proper Governess

The Wedding Wager

When Dreams Come True

In the Bed of a Duke
by Cathy Maxwell
(Avon, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-074058-2
After reading In the Bed of a Duke, life interfered and I didn’t get around to writing this review for over a week. It says a lot about the book that I couldn’t remember a thing about it except the heroine slept with the hero within twenty-four hours of meeting him. Subsequent re-reading confirmed what my subconscious was probably screaming: it’s not a great romance.

Phillip Maddox, the Duke of Colster, was publicly jilted by Miss Miranda Cameron in the previous book, The Price of Indiscretion. It’s no secret that Miranda’s sister, Charlotte, encouraged her to break it off and marry the man she really loved. While the widowed Phillip ponders his future, (and becomes filled with “I’ll never love again” sentiment every time he thinks of his late wife), he receives a mysterious letter from his old nanny. Seems that Phillip has a twin brother who did not die at birth, as family history would have it, but was spirited away by one Laird MacKenna and taken to Scotland as revenge in a long-standing feud with Phillip’s late father.

Phillip decides to head north and try to find his long-lost brother. On the way, his horse meets with an accident and Phillip is offered a ride by a passing carriage. Wouldn’t you know it – the passenger is Miss Charlotte Cameron! And she’s on her way to Scotland herself! To Laird MacKenna’s very estate! Since the humiliation of the Duke, society’s doors have closed on Charlotte and the Laird is the only man to express an interest in her. Charlotte, for the sake of the plot, is traveling without a chaperone.

If this sort of ridiculous coincidence isn’t enough to set a reader’s teeth on edge, what follows might do the trick. Phillip and Charlotte trade insults and snippy remarks all the way to a posting inn, where Phillip is set upon by a mob of loutish Scots loyal to the MacKenna. Phillip and Charlotte escape, end up spending the night in an abandoned barn, and after a few fiery kisses, hit the hay for a night of sex. But they are discovered and taken to Laird MacKenna anyway.

The Laird has a crazy sister who decides to hold a tournament of sorts: her favorite young Scotsman, Tavis, against Phillip. Fight to the death. This suits the Laird just fine, as he has a plan to free his people from servitude to absentee landlords. Phillip’s father was once just such a landlord, but he sold the Scottish estates and virtually abandoned the tenants, many of whom starved. Phillip’s death would help balance things out. Frankly, it was hard to root for Phillip when I felt the Laird had a valid grudge.

There are lots of secret babies, hush-hush former lovers, and a possible brother for Phillip, which could present a problem, as he’d be the rightful Duke if he were alive. The action is nonstop. Too bad the romance barely gets started. I just couldn’t buy the “I hate you, you’re insufferable, let’s make love” aspect that was presented early on, and neither Charlotte nor Phillip came across as particularly believable in their interest in one another. There is so much action that the characterization really suffers. Readers are expected to believe in the romance because the author insists these two are falling in love, but it didn’t work for me.

One thing the busy plot does is give Phillip and Charlotte a reason to band together and stop arguing, which was a relief. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who Tavis is, and who will be the hero of Maxwell’s next book, so there’s little suspense there. Overall, In the Bed of a Duke was fast-paced but forgettable. Readers who enjoyed the first book in this series may find this much more enjoyable than I did, but for the rest of us, it’s likely to be a disappointment.

--Cathy Sova

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