Review: Never Deny a Duke by Madeline Hunter (2019)

Decadent Dukes Society, Book #3

Review of Decadent Dukes Society Book 1, Book 2

Heat Factor: Understated but present

Character Chemistry: Also understated but believable

Plot: Exploration of the past helps us grow into our future

Overall: Sometimes subtlety is satisfying

After reading The Most Dangerous Duke in London, I really, really, really, really, really wanted the Duke of Brentworth’s story. There is nothing like a starchy prig with altogether too much reserve to pique my interest. I was not disappointed.

The third (and least decadent) of the Decadent Dukes, Brentworth was raised by his father, a paragon of dukishness, to be basically the perfect Duke. Brentworth is polished, he’s circumspect, and he’s extremely powerful. So when he hears that Miss Davina MacCallum is in town to petition the crown to return her (Scottish – read Culloden) family’s lands to her, he reasonably advises the King’s adviser to give them back as the path of least messiness…until he learns that they’re part of his inheritance. Then the charming and intelligent Miss MacCallum he’s recently met becomes a grasping female out for her own interests.

She’s not. In the first place, Brentworth doesn’t want to be responsible for losing any family holdings because he was raised to be the perfect Duke, and perfect Dukes don’t reduce the size of their holdings, they increase them. But more importantly, Brentworth has a Secret, and it is closely tied to the estate in question. Also, Davina is not trying to hide anything, so she comes across as an honest and sincere individual, and Brentworth does recognize that, at least subconsciously.

There is a lot of writing without a lot of specific action–the plot is not action-based, so when Brentworth and Davina get to Scotland, we’re already halfway through the book, but we’ve been in Brentworth’s and Davina’s heads enough to understand that there’s a burgeoning interest between them. Up to this point, however, Brentworth’s Secret as well as his upbringing prevent him from acting on an interest in an Respectable but Unsuitable woman. For her part, Davina has never really considered a long-term relationship, so she doesn’t think much about it.

As Davina unknowingly pushes Brentworth to confront his past during their quest for her future, they both realize the future they thought they’d have wasn’t really the future they wanted. It’s a slow burn, and it’s great. This is not a book for someone looking for a lot of hot sex (the prose is more purple than explicit). It doesn’t have sweeping, climactic declarations or overt swoon-worthy moments. Brentworth is so calm and matter-of-fact that it might be easy to miss how he feels if you’re not paying attention. This is the sort of story where actions and gestures rather than quivers and sweeping declarations tell us a romance, and it’s understated and lovely.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

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