Caroline Linden has never let me down. She has great love stories that never make me angry. I never hate her heroes. I'm never tempted to toss the nook against the wall. Somehow she manages to create couples whose obstacles are not self-imposed. The characters are all generally likable and the romance, easy to root for. And this third book in the Truth About the Duke series may be my favorite of the bunch.
When we first met the hero, Charlie, back in One Night in London, he was difficult to like. He was a playboy of the highest order, leaving the family responsibilities to his brothers. But as we get to know him here, we learn there are reasons for the way he is. He made a break with his father after the man sabotaged his betrothal. He lost the woman he loved and he never forgave his father for it.
The overall arc of the series has been focused on the three de Lacey brothers as they try to prove their legitimacy and unmask the man who was blackmailing their father in the days before his death. Now that his younger brothers are wrapped up with their new wives, the duty falls to Charlie. All he has to go on is an old ledger kept by the man who married his father to his first wife... and a possible name for the blackmailer: Hiram Scott. When Charlie hears Scott's name linked to an impertinent widow staying at his hotel, he grabs on to the lead with both hands.
Tessa is woman completely uninterested in gossip or climbing social station. She is utterly oblivious to the so-called Durham Dilemma surrounding Charlie's family. She is in Bath to guide her brother in an investment opportunity with Mr Scott --an unusual task for a woman, but she is no ordinary woman. She is plain-spoken and independent. And a failed engagement has left her with no desire to find a husband. But once Charlie begins to cozy up to her and her companion, it's hard to remember why she has cut herself off from the opposite sex.
It was interesting to see how the whole blackmailing storyline finally came together. It was unpredictable and satisfying. But where the story really shined was in the romance. It was sweet, but still managed to pull off the sexy times. Charlie is a rake, but a good man. I think one of the reasons I ended up liking him so much was because he could see what a treasure Tessa really was. He treated her well. He was honest with her. And she was never coy. She didn't scheme. She said what was on her mind. They were each exactly what the other needed.
You don't have to read the earlier installments to enjoy this book, but I think it's even better after the events of the first two books. It's not overly angsty or tumultuous, but it's a pleasant read and a solid romance.
Rating: B*ARC Provided by Avon