|Beauty and the Duke is a beautiful love story set in the terrible, lovely wilds of Scotland. It’s one of the most highly evolved, deeply characterized books I have read in a long time, and I definitely recommend you go out and pick up a copy for yourself.
Christine Sommers is an intelligent, pretty lady who has followed her father all over the globe in his archaeological pursuits and learned a great deal along the way. The only time in her life that she was taken away from serious scholarly studies was during her brief, passionate affair with Erik Boughton, Duke of Sedgwick. She started the affair, he ended it and then married her cousin Charlotte as planned. Christine now teaches at a ladies’ school in London, while carefully planning out the rest of her life goals. She plans to become a famous paleontologist, and prove her theory that great beasts once walked the earth.
Erik Boughton is a great beast according to the dark cloud of rumor that surrounds him. A hundred-year-old family curse says that the Duke of Sedgwick will never know love, and will die by his thirty-fourth birthday. So far, the last few Dukes have fulfilled this prophecy. Erik’s marriage to Christine’s cousin lasted only two weeks, and he was blamed for infecting her with scarlet fever. Erik remarried an old family friend, Elizabeth Maxwell, thinking that they would have a comfortable match. He couldn’t have been more wrong. While something good came out of their marriage - their daughter Erin - the rest was full of fighting and ugliness. Just over six years ago, Elizabeth disappeared and now everyone whispers that Erik must have murdered her and hidden her remains.
Erik’s sister Becca has shown an interest in fossils of late, and found something startling on the Sedgwick estate: a large tooth that must have belonged to a gigantic unknown creature. This brings Erik to London’s Fossil Society, where he sees Christine again.
Instantly, they are hyper-aware of one another and they both feel intense emotions - lust, anger, regret, and a strong connection. Erik presents Christine with the tooth fossil, and a human jawbone, convinced that he has found Elizabeth’s remains. After seeing Christine a handful of times, Erik carefully offers her a lure: if she marries him and gives him an heir, as well as investigating the human bones on his estate, he will allow her to explore the Sedgwick land, and find the great fossil she believes in enough to subject herself to ridicule. There is a lot of darkness surrounding Erik, and Christine needs to figure out what she believes as she starts to realize that she may have deeper dreams than just discovering a mythical beast.
Christine is passionate, vibrantly alive and provides an intelligent, witty character for the reader to relate to. Her dreams of an amazing career and recognition in her field don’t necessarily translate to the peace and happiness she desires, but she hopes that she can find a measure of contentment when she finally achieves success. The doorway to her dreams lies in Erik, who truly hurt her. Christine’s internal dialogue fully explains how she feels as she finds Erik again, and he begins to court her. Her trepidation, unease, and desperate hope clash while she starts to trust him again. Christine is a heroine to be admired, real and endearing to the reader.
Erik starts out as a dark, sensual figure, mystery and danger fairly rolling off of him. Underneath, he’s a calculating, lonely, untrusting man who tries to protect those around him. He doesn’t think he can love, which isn’t surprising, considering his past. When Christine comes back into his life, he’s shocked to feel the depth of emotion he felt ten years earlier pull at him again. She becomes a balm for his battered soul, providing relief and comfort that he hasn’t felt before. Erik becomes more emotional and passionate throughout the story. While he starts out as a very mysterious shadow, he is quickly fleshed out and becomes an outstanding, unforgettable hero.
The chemistry between Erik and Christine is strong, and their dialogue is as refreshing as it is revealing. There is a beautiful, intricate cast of background characters that add depth to the love story. The Scottish backdrop is harsh, and wonderfully described, almost serving as an extra character.
Now, I have only described a very small amount of the story in this review, but please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this stunning tale. You owe it to yourself to discover the rest of Beauty and the Duke.