After two years of pining after Edward, Lord Wallingford, Daphne Hayward is tired of waiting and wants to force a his hand into marrying her and, when her brother-in-law, James Leventhorpe, threatens to marry her off to someone else, Daphne takes matters into her own hands and seeks out Edward in the middle of the night.
Unfortunately, Daphne ends up in a different room, on a different bed, with a different man: Ashton, Duke of Claymore -- one would think Daphne would come to regret her rash decision and consider the outcome disastrous -- except, she really felt a connection with Ashton when they were making love and she could not deny the excitement she feels when she is with Ashton.
When Ashton wakes up and discovers that he had just bedded an innocent (and not the widow he was expecting), he sets out to look for her so he could do the honourable thing. When he discovers that it is Daphne, James's sister-in-law, he becomes more determined to pursue her, despite her protestations and her insistence on marrying Edward.
In this particular love triangle, I thought the author was really stacking the odds in favour of Ashton. It did not come as a surprise that Edward was not who Daphne thought he was, considering how long he allowed her to dangle after him. Add to that, the first thing he asks Daphne during the house party was to sleep with him. What Daphne was doing was delaying the inevitable -- she knew Ashton was the better match for her. She knew Ashton was the better fit in her life. She knew that Ashton was right in every way that Edward was wrong for her, but love is blind, especially in Daphne's case and she ignores Ashton's warnings and continues to dream about marrying Edward.
I enjoyed the very frank conversations between Ashton and James about women and marriage -- and I did like that Ashton was such an honourable gentleman. (He immediately knew he needed to marry the woman he had bedded.)
"I will not run." He sat back in his chair. "I have no other option than to seek the woman out and make amends." He stirred his coffee distractedly. "How does one detect a newly deflowered virgin?"
"Quite simple," James said. "They almost always twitch for days afterward. Nothing dramatic, mind you, just a subtle twitch of the eye or lips."
- pp. 22-23
Daphne's actions and reactions are a bit suspect: it was a foolish thing to sneak into someone's room in the middle of the night and stepped on the line between decent and deceitful. Then, when Ashton confronted her, she still refused to see reason and continue her pursuit of Edward. I really wished that her epiphany (in the end) would be her own doing/decision and not be caused by something external -- but the author really made it easy for Daphne and allowed something to happen.
I could see that the author had a clear sense of pace and plot and I'm very curious how this story would work out had it been expanded to the novel format. As it is, this was a quick and enjoyable read. I will be picking up the second instalment, A Countess by Chance, when it is released next week.
A Duchess in the Dark is the first instalment in Kate McKinley's By Invitation Only series. To find out more about Kate McKinley and her books, click below: