Review

Review: A Devil of a Duke by Madeline Hunter (2018)

Decadent Dukes Society, Book #2

Review of Decadent Dukes Society, Book 1

Heat Factor: Too. Much. Sex.

Character Chemistry: Does a relationship based on a lack of respect for boundaries and too much physicality ever work?

Plot: Honest thief meets horny duke

Overall: I cannot with the seducer / don’t want to be seduced dynamic

Amanda is trying to be respectable, but it’s hard when her mother is held hostage by an unknown who wants to make use of her special training. Specifically, she is trained to be a very good thief. Her mission as the story begins is to break into a house and steal a buckle… or else for her mother. The house she needs to break into just happens to be next door to the abode of the Duke of Langford’s younger brother. What’s a young woman with a certain set of skills to do? She sets out to take advantage of the younger brother.

Gabriel, the Duke, is very protective of his younger brother. Said brother has just been friend-zoned by a love interest, so Gabriel insists he attend one last social function before running out of town, just to show a stiff upper lip. Alas, at this masquerade, Little Brother is positively hounded by a strumpet. Big brother the ladies’ man to the rescue! One man is as good as another when you’re a seductress, right? Especially if man two is God’s gift to women, amiright? He’s not cocky about it or anything. It’s just the honest truth.

The story is supposed to be about Amanda being forced to behave in a way she doesn’t want to (resorting to the thievery she’s been avoiding since she realized other kids weren’t like her) because she loves her imperfect mother. Along the way, she manipulates Gabriel to get what she wants, and Gabriel makes all kinds of assumptions about their relationship without considering, like, any of Amanda’s wants or needs.

One of the reasons I enjoy historical romance is because there’s a bit of license to engage with a fantasy of behavior that would be off-putting or possibly even repellent in the present. Macho heroes. Social tensions about equality or sex (or both). I’d even look for different qualities in heroines in historicals than I would in contemporaries. That being said, the only reason this book was not a DNF for me was because I started reading book three of the trilogy and wanted to get a better idea of what had happened in book 2 before I dug in. Except where his brother was concerned, Gabriel’s behavior for pretty much the entire first half of the book was revolting.

Amanda’s attracted to Gabriel and she’s not a virgin, but she is not interested in risking what she has just for sex, especially after being betrayed by her first lover and most especially when the man trying to get under her skirt is clearly only interested in sex. From the beginning, Gabriel’s mind is on one thing, and it is not Amanda’s intellect. She manipulates their first interactions to steal the buckle without having sex…he has a snit and blackmails her to meet him again…she refuses sex again, but they do some other stuff and she disappears…he has another snit. They run into each other at the theater, and let me give you a feel for why this relationship is so problematic:

“You slipped away from me once too often, Miss Waverly. I count the last time as an insult. Or another challenge.”

“I did not seek to intrigue you further by leaving. Surely you cannot believe such a thing. Look at my situation…I would be ruined, and I have no family to take me back like your sort of ruined women do. If I am seen as disreputable, I will end up destitute.”

“I would never allow that to happen.”

“You have no power to stop it.”

“I will find a way. I will make arrangements.”

“I do not want arrangements. I want you to leave me alone.”

“Do not reject what you have not heard.” He kissed her lips. Heaven help her, she rose into it, stupid woman that she was. “See? You do not really want me to leave you alone. You are glad I found you.”

Gross. After which: they commence an affair and he has his footmen follow her, for her protection, of course. She tries to disappear to save her mother. He finds her because he has absolutely zero respect for boundaries. They have all the sex because why wouldn’t you do that with a super hot, sex god Duke who has basically no interest in you other than as a sex object and challenge to overcome? I can’t imagine how that would fail to be a satisfying relationship that forms a solid foundation for a happy, lasting marriage.

If you can get past all that outrageous and off-putting behavior in the first half of the book, and if you are not bothered by extremely (unnecessarily, one might argue) frequent sex throughout the book, the ending is… fine.


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