Review: Between the Devil and the Duke by Kelly Bowen (2017)

A Season for Scandal, Book #3

Review of A Season for Scandal, Book #2

Heat Factor: Steam city!

Character Chemistry: For the first time, her skills are appreciated. 

Plot: Angelique is desperate for money, so she’s been counting cards at the vingt-et-un table at Alexander’s gaming club. (NEVER DO THIS.) When she gets caught, Alexander offers her a job. And then her brother is arrested for murder. 

Overall: This is the most romantic suspense-y of Bowen’s books I’ve read, but it works pretty well

I must admit, at the outset, that I don’t love romantic suspense. I think it’s a hard subgenre to nail, because there are so many moving pieces to balance. The author has to build both a believable problem for our protagonists to solve and give them space to fall in love. Of course, it helps that the hero and heroine are forced into close proximity as they work together to defeat the Bad Guy, but relying solely on proximity doesn’t always work. 

Bowen gets around this problem by establishing the baseline for the romance before the suspense really gets going. Angelique and Alexander spend several scenes dancing around their attraction for each other before Angelique’s brother is arrested. So when Angelique goes to hire some scandal fixers to help her figure out what’s going on, and discovers that Alexander is not just a gambling club owner, but also an investigator, it makes sense that she would trust him. 

Alexander and Angelique also have pretty good chemistry. I especially liked the space they were able to carve out as a partnership of equals. Since Alexander is not a secret noble of any kind (and because I read the book about his sister, who is a complete badass), his egalitarian tendencies and appreciation of Angelique’s unique skills really worked for me. By the way, none of the main characters are dukes; don’t be fooled by the title. 

On the other hand, the suspense is not all that suspenseful. Like, come one. If you get a blackmail note about a cuckoo, it’s pretty obvious what the shameful family secret is. I guess Angelique is more of a numbers person than a literary reference person. (There was one good surprise, but I won’t say more about it, for spoiler-avoidance purposes.) 

I’ll probably keep sticking with mystery novels when I want a good thriller, but this was a pretty solid romance. 

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Looking for something similar?

The Regency Period

My secrets bring me shame

Do we need to make a special tag for heroes who own gambling hells? If you answered yes, here are some other books:

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas | No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean

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