What the Duke Desires: A Book Review

Warning: As much as I try to avoid these, spoilers may be present in this book review.

And today, for a review of Sabrina Jeffries’ highly anticipated (at least by me) novel, What the Duke Desires!

Maximilian Cale, the Duke of Lyons, accepted long ago that his kidnapped brother was dead. When a cryptic note from investigator Tristan Bonnaud claims otherwise, Max seeks out Tristan’s sister, Lisette—and is infuriated to learn that Tristan has also mysteriously vanished. Have the siblings perpetrated an elaborate hoax? Or is the fiercely protective beauty as innocent as she claims them to be?

Fearful that the powerful duke will destroy Tristan’s career in his zeal for the truth, the clever Lisette convinces Max to accompany her to Paris in a joint search for their loved ones. But their journey takes a seductive twist when they pose as an ordinary husband and wife—not an English duke with a tarnished family name and the illegitimate daughter of a viscount—and discover an exhilarating passion free from the damning secrets of the past. With the line between danger and desire enticingly blurred, they discover that some mysteries, like those of the heart, are answered tenfold in the bliss of a true and trusting love.

What the Duke Desires is as much a novel about the influence of parents on children as it is a romance. Both Lisette and Max had childhoods, which although not perfect, were not entirely horrible either.

Lisette’s mother, the French mistress of an English Viscount, was loving and supportive of her children and Lisette’s father was likewise as loving, if a little absentminded. However, despite the fact that Lisette’s mother and father loved one another, they were not married. According to Lisette, it seems as if her father kept putting of their marriage for one reason or another – and Lisette (as well as myself) assumed it was because he didn’t want to marry his mistress. But the real tragedy arrives, when Lisette’s father dies unexpectedly and his heir, George Manton (the story’s main villain and Lisette’s half brother) forces Lisette, her brother Tristan and her mother off his property. Dominick, George’s brother leaves with them, choosing to support his half-siblings out of a sense of loyalty and love.

The history between Lisette’s parents has turned her against marriage and men and towards  a way to be independent – and not fake independence either, the kind where the heroine talks about independence but doesn’t do anything. Lisette had worked for the French police and now works for Manton’s Investigations – it’s clear she has a career and doesn’t rely solely on her brother’s for support. Another characteristic I liked about Lisette was her ability not to take herself, or what anyone says about her too seriously. She’s able to fend off most of Max’s accusations – and he makes some wild ones – with logic and good humour.

Dominick’s wonderful and I have a sneaking suspicion that he will get a story, along with his ex-fiance, Jane – hopefully soon. He’s a supportive brother and the head of Manton’s Investigation, renamed The Duke’s Men later in the book. As far as brothers go, I think Dominick is definitely a more responsible one than Tristan – though Tristan has his moments.

Tristan’s another interesting character, with an interesting career as an agent for the Surete Nationale (the French Secret Police). While I’m sure Tristan will have his own novel soon (really how could he not with a career like his – so much potential), I think he has a little growing up to do before he’s ready for a happily ever after.

But, since I’m sure the character you really want to know about is the Duke of Lyons, Maximillian Cale – or Max, as Lisette dubs him – I’ll get to him now. Max meets Lisette when he storms into Manton’s Investigations demanding to know where Tristan is. Tristan, as one would have it has sent Max a cryptic letter claiming he’s found Max’s long-lost, thought to be dead, brother but then didn’t show up the the secret meeting. Max afraid this is some kind of hoax wants an explanation.

Readers might remember Max from the “Hellions of Halstead Hall” series – he’s the duke that the ton considers “mad” – as in insane, not constantly angry, though if everyone kept calling me crazy, I’d think I had a right to be angry.

Max suffers from the fear that he had inherited a family madness, since both his father and great-uncle went mad. Because this is a romance, I knew that Max couldn’t really be “mad,” although I did second guess myself a lot, but I was really hoping for a good explanation – and, boy, did I get a good one. No, Max doesn’t have a magical immunity which means that he won’t go mad, but a much more scientific and believable explanation was given – and yes, I was very impressed because I had no idea something like this coud happen. (But, you’ll have to read the novel to find out what it is, because no way am I spoiling something this good.)

When Max and Lisette meet, we finally get to see Lisette’s dramatic side. She convinces Max – a duke – to pose as a commoner. As you can imagine, it’s fun reading about a spoiled duke learning to live like a commoner. One of my favourite scenes in the novel occurs when Max learns that commoner’s share bath water, between couples and sometimes between families:

“I merely thought you should know that you may have to wait a while for [your bath]. Madame insists that you have fresh water, and it will take a while to heat it. If fresh water is what you prefer.”

Now Max was bewildered. “Of course I prefer fresh water. What else is there?”

The butler rolled his eyes, as if frustrated at dealing with someone so oblivious as Maximillian. “Wives and husbands often share bathwater in France, Mr. Kale. I forgot that you English can be…fastidious.”

Several things hit Max at once. One, he’d forgotten that he was supposed to be married. Two, he’d forgotten that the servants didn’t know he was a duke. And three, people actually shared bathwater?

Along with the funny moments is the steamy romance, which is signature of Sabrina Jeffries. Max and Lisette are attracted to one another, but both are resistant to act on these emotions. Lisette because she doesn’t want to repeat her mother’s mistake by falling in love with someone above her station, and Max because he knows that he’ll fall in love with Lisette but fears he’ll go mad and she’ll suffer watching his digress. (But, of course, if you try to surress fire for too long, there’s going to be an explosion!)

One thing I loved most about this novel was that Max and Lisette were not only good at admitting their feelings, but had good legitimate reasons for why they wanted to avoid marriage – not flimsy I-don’t-want-to-marry-you-because-I’m-afraid-of-commitment kind of reasons.

But if you’re still not convinced that Max and Lisette are a couple worth reading about, watch this video for some more funny teasers:

And, finally, as always I’m impressed with the amount of historical detail that goes into a Sabrina Jeffries novel. In What the Duke Desires, we get to meet Eugene Vidocq – a real criminal turned secret French investigator who lived in the time period.

So what’s the verdict?

Go out and grab a copy of What the Duke Desires. Trust me, finding out what Max desires will be worth it.

Edited to add: Sabrina Jeffries has confirmed (in a group FB post) that the next novel will be about Max’s relative (who I assume is Victor), followed by Tristan and then, Dominick’s – she’s saving him for last.

And if you’ve had a chance to read What the Duke Desires already, what are your thoughts? Are you loving the novel as much as I did or do you think I’ve lost my mind recommending this book? (Leave a comment with your thoughts and/or ravings.)

Rika Ashton

(aka Book Reviewer Extraordinaire)

Disclaimer: All book quotes used in this review are the property of Sabrina Jeffries © 2013.

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2 responses

  1. Thanks so much for posting this review! I’ve always passed by SB’s books without ever checking them out. But now I will. Seems like the author has a good hand with character development and emotional depth.

    Like

    June 27, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    • Yup, she does and she’s explored concepts like dyslexia in one of her novels – I’m always curious to know how these concepts were handled back in the day.

      Like

      June 27, 2013 at 9:17 pm

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