Byrne is an author who delivers stripped-down characters – pitting their best selves against their own darkest parts. This book doesn’t back down from controversy, from the raw and gritty, from the vulnerable and damaged.
From behind the elegant veneer of the illustrious duke, cousin to the queen, herself, peered the eyes of a predator. Calculating. Hungry. Lethal.
Collin Talmage, Duke of Trewyth starts as a soldier in this story, newly gaining the title after the loss of his father and brother, and he’s floundering, looking for salvation. He finds it for the night in Imogen’s bed.
Imogen Pritchard is in protection mode. Her father left their family swimming in debt, and Imogen strikes a deal with their debtor. She’ll waitress in his establishment as Ginny as long as he doesn’t sell her companionship for the evening. Her luck runs out the night she meets Trewyth. He’s gentle and compassionate that night – sharing his burdens – and it stays with her.
Years later, Trewyth shows up at a hospital – the hospital where Imogen works as a nurse. He has been tortured, left with one arm and narrowly escaping death. Imogen’s premonition about his condition saves him, but Trewyth didn’t want to be saved. Nor does he recognize his nurse. The pain Imogen feels when he wakes up and hates her tore me apart. And what she loses in the process…
Both of these characters are so damaged; not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, and my heart bleeds for them both. Trewyth changes, likens himself to an animal, and his only saving grace in all this is his night with the mysterious Ginny.
This beast was no longer dormant within him, but prowling beneath the surface of his skin, wanting to mark his territory.
There is also the added conflict of someone being after Imogen, but I thought the story simply didn’t need it. These two are so broken as individuals that seeing them heal each other – slowly and with each resisting to the end – is enough.
Every second I held my breath wondering when Imogen will reveal herself and what Trewyth would do when her identity came out. The charade goes on a little longer than I anticipated, but it kept me on the edge of my seat!
That being said, the tension between them is on point. Though Trewyth likens himself to a base animal, Imogen sees beneath the veneer, and her reaction always surprises Trewyth. You can’t scare her, Duke!
This story stuck with me and Byrne is on my auto-buy shelf – right next to Julia Quinn and Lisa Kleypas – because of it. Any lover of historical fiction with a taste for a darker romance should pick this one up. Stat!
*The Duke is the fourth book in Byrne’s Victorian Rebels series, but it can be read as a standalone. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are 100% my own*
Pick up your copy here!