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Hot romance, blistering suspense in July

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A Duchess To Remember, July 2012
Ministry of Marriage
by Christina Brooke

St. Martin's Press
Featuring: Rand, Duke of Ashburn; Lady Cecily Westruther
320 pages
ISBN: 0312534140
EAN: 9780312534141
Kindle: B007FU7Y66
Paperback / e-Book
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Fresh Fiction Review

"Mystery, Mischief and Marriage?"

A Duchess To Remember
Christina Brooke

Reviewed by Jessica Dunn
Posted July 4, 2012

Romance Historical | Romance

A DUCHESS TO REMEMBER takes us to 1816 England with Lady Cecily Westruther, ward of The Duke of Montford who just so happens to be the founder and unofficial head of the Ministry of Marriage.

Cecily is young, beautiful and is betrothed to the scholarly, milk toast Duke of Norland. Cecily has caused much chaos in the past for the Duke of Montford but lately she seems too sedate, she is not only going along with this engagement but she desires it something fierce. It's not that she desires The Duke of Norland per say, just what her life will be like once she is married.

The Duke and Cecily have agreed to live separate lives and Cecily feels that with him having a son from his first marriage she isn't even required to do her duty in the bedroom Cecily longs to be independent and alone so that she can use her money to help a charity close to her heart. She believes her life will be quite content. That is if no one finds out what she has been keeping buried deep. Cecily has a secret that if it gets out will ruin her life before she has a chance to live it.

Meanwhile, Rand the Duke of Ashburn has a few secrets of his own that could ruin many lives if they get out. Up until now Rand has been happy with his circumstance; his mistresses, gentleman's clubs and The Promethean Club. Unfortunately his only heir is a youthful nephew bent on emptying his pockets. Rand begins considering marriage but wants nothing to do with the Ministry of Marriage and their practices of arranging cold yet advantageous matches for nobles. Deep down Rand believes you should marry for love but Rand feels he is incapable of love so maybe, just maybe he should find himself a wife and do his duty by working on an heir of his own.

So what happens when Rand captures Cecily breaking into his home searching for secrets? Will their secrets be discovered? Will the Ministry of Marriage stand by and just watch? What happens next is an adventure, mystery and romance to set both Cecily and Rand's staid plans on end.

A DUCHESS TO REMEMBER captures the excitement and dishes it out as the sweetest dessert. Christina Brooke's third installment in her Ministry of Marriage Series surpasses all expectations leaving you longing for her the next installment.

Learn more about A Duchess To Remember

SUMMARY

Lady Cecily Westruther is nothing if not practical. By agreeing to marry an older duke who already has an heir and a mistress, she can assume a wifely role—without the wifely duties. Only one thing stands in her way—a letter that could destroy her betrothal. Desperate to retrieve that letter, Cecily must match wits with the most dangerously seductive man she’s ever known…

Disguised as a footman, Cecily gains entry to her adversary’s house—only to be unmasked by London’s most powerful man. Rand, Duke of Ashburn, is accustomed to getting any woman he wants—and he wants Cecily. He will stop at nothing, including seduction, to make her his. But Rand holds a secret more shocking and destructive than that letter could ever be…

Excerpt

The door to the vestibule stood slightly ajar. Cecily darted a glance around her, then stole up to the door to listen.

She couldn't hear anything. No murmur of voices or clink of cutlery on plate. Cautiously, she peered into the room.

A large hand gripped her shoulder. Another hand covered her mouth. With a muffled shriek, she struggled to free herself.

She was clamped against a hard male chest. A deep, cultured voice murmured in her ear, "At last. I've been expecting you."

Cecily froze. Confound that blasted footman! He'd betrayed her.

It had all been too easy, hadn't it? But good God, how could she have guessed he'd tell the duke of her plans? How many servants would remain loyal to their masters when offered the kind of bribe she'd intended to pay?

Or perhaps the footman hadn't informed on her, and the rumors were true. Perhaps the Duke of Ashburn was omniscient.

He was certainly exceedingly strong.

All this passed through her mind in an instant. She fought him, twisting ineffectually in his iron grip, jabbing with her elbows, kicking back with her heels. If she could get free, she'd make a dash for it. She was fast when she needed to be and tonight, garbed as a footman, she didn't have skirts to hamper her.

His hold was not vicious but it was implacable. Seeming not to notice her struggles, her captor swept her into a room that was not a vestibule, as the footman had informed her, but a library. With not a member of the Promethean Club in sight.

Once inside, he released her. She whipped around to face him, her lungs straining for air.

Ashburn.

He was very dark and very tall and he had the most uncompromising mouth she'd ever seen. His strange eyes regarded her intently, sending an unwelcome chill through her body. Then he moved to close the door and lock it.

When he turned back to face her again, she refused to show him fear. Instead of quaking or begging, she folded her arms across her chest and waited.

His grim lips relaxed slightly. Holding up the ornate brass key, he said, "A precautionary measure," and slipped the key into his pocket.

That almost imperceptible change in the forbidding coldness of his expression made her less apprehensive of physical harm. But the preternaturally acute way his eyes assessed her was far from reassuring. She'd never been more conscious of the close fit of her breeches, nor of the footman's peruke wig that perched, askew now, on her head.

He was hard and lean and broad shouldered. Not an ounce of frivolity or decoration softened the harshness of his aspect. Dressed soberly in a black coat and gray trousers and waistcoat, white shirt and cravat, he wore no jewelry save a heavy gold signet ring on the third finger of his right hand. His close-cropped black hair seemed to emphasize the hawkish lines of his nose and the sharp, almost Slavic contours of his cheekbones.

And his eyes. They were a stunning golden hazel with dark brown flecks, framed by thick black lashes. Amber ringed with onyx.

Unsettling, almost feline, those eyes. She wondered if they glowed in the dark.

"Take off your wig," he drawled.

The instruction was not quite a command but it was not a request either. More a suggestion with overtones of intimidation.

Of course he knew she wasn't a footman or a page boy. The disguise was never meant to fool anyone except at a distance and in the dark of night. Besides, his manhandling had brought him into contact with the softer parts of her person. The notion sent a hot spear of . . . something through her body.

Forcing herself to give a casual shrug, Cecily lifted the peruke from her head and set it on a piecrust table nearby.

His brilliant gaze flicked over her.

She'd worn breeches enough times to feel neither shame nor embarrassment that he'd caught her in them. But somehow his impassive regard made her want to leap to the defensive, to justify her actions to him.

As the Duke of Montford's ward, she'd long since mastered control over such inclinations. Instead, she studied Ashburn as dispassionately as he studied her.

He was far younger than she'd supposed when she'd seen him at a distance. The harshness of his features, his arrogant air of authority, and the deference more senior members of the ton paid him had deceived her.

She resented that illusion, as if it had been a deliberate ruse on his part. Older gentlemen were so much easier to handle.

The silence lengthened between them until it became an object with her not to be the first to break it. She let her attention wander around the room, over bookshelves and tables, globes and maps. As if she'd appraised him, found him tedious, and now sought some other source of amusement.

"Your accomplice betrayed you," he said at last.

"I'd rather gathered that at the start of our acquaintance." She tried to make her tone cordial, but it came out with something of a snap. Now that her initial fear had abated, chagrin at her failure took its place.

Though perhaps she'd not failed entirely. She surveyed Ashburn with a speculative eye. Might she discover what she wished to know directly from him? If she was clever about it, then perhaps . . .

Drawing herself up, she donned her most regal air and waved a careless hand. "But I am keeping you from your guests, Your Grace. Do go ahead. I shall find my own way out."

Rand nearly laughed aloud at this summary dismissal. Who the Devil did the chit think she was? She couldn't be more than nineteen or twenty, but she waved him away with the careless aplomb of a dowager duchess.

"My guests go on most happily without me," he said, leaning one shoulder against the door and folding his arms. "Besides, you interest me far more than a meeting of the Promethean Club."

"I'm so happy to provide you with entertainment," she said.

Better and better.

He allowed his gaze to drift over his captive's person, lingering at the lush bosom that jutted unmistakably from her blue velvet coat, pausing again at the womanly flare of hips that made her knee-breeches stretch a shade too tightly across her thighs. He imagined her bottom would be as round and female as the rest of her and experienced a sharp tug of curiosity on that account.

It really was a very poor disguise.

He regarded her face. Wide brown eyes with a slight tilt at the corners, a pert little nose and the rosiest bud of a mouth he'd ever seen. Her lips reminded him of the dimpled lushness of a cherry when the stalk is plucked. Ripe and plump and sweet, begging him to bite.

"What is your name?" he said.

She watched him without replying; it occurred to him that she scrutinized him quite as critically as he examined her. From her expression, he did not meet with her approval.

A novel experience. A not altogether comfortable one.

Breaking off her inspection, she wandered over to a set of globes that stood by the desk. Tracing the arcing frame of the celestial globe with a fingertip, she said, "If I tell you who I am, will you let me go?"


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