For years Serafina McPhee has been engaged to marry the heir to the Duke of Hartholm and for almost as long, she has been struggling to find a way out of that engagement. When he suddenly dies, she does not mourn but thrills at the idea that she will be free. Unfortunately, best laid plans go awry when the next in line for the title, her intended’s cousin, Raphael “Rafe” Flynn is forced to take over the engagement. But Serafina knows Rafe’s reputation as a libertine and wants nothing to do with him, either, even if he is devastatingly handsome.
She proposes an arrangement: she will agree to the marriage and provide Rafe with his heir and spare. Once she has done her duty, he will let her go. Rafe is intrigued both by her beauty and by her utter disgust with the idea of being his bride. Women normally fall at his feet, not cringe away from him. However, since their arranged marriage is not something he can escape, he agrees to her terms.
But when he finds out on their wedding night the truth about her torture at the hands of his predecessor, he finds himself driven not just to fulfill his bargain with his new bride, but to introduce her to desire. While they move closer together, surrendering to wicked pleasures, dangerous emotions may violate every agreement they’ve made.
THE OTHER DUKE is the book in Jess Michaels's the Notorious Flynns series.
BN: **link to follow**
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I was in a bit of a reading rut through the Christmas holidays and had started and stopped reading a number of books before settling on Jess Michaels's The Other Duke. When Cyril, the current Duke of Hartholm died suddenly, Serafina Mcphee thought she had escaped her terrible fate, only to discover that the contract binds her to whoever holds the title of the Duke of Hartholm. She's out of the frying pan and into the fire, because her new fiance is a man she's never met, but has heard of. Rafe Flynn's reputation precedes him. He's part of the Notorious Flynns, and live on the fringes of polite society -- and, now, he must step in the middle of the ton to take on the responsibility he inherited. He must also deal with the fiancee he has inherited.
"I never even liked Cyril,: Rafe managed to bark out, directing his comments toward Crispin, who was his closest friend as well as his brother. "Why should I be forced to inherit his life?"
- loc 135
I like the set-up of the story: Serafina had been expected to marry a duke -- it's a highly covetable arrangement that most ladies would aspire for, except that Serafina never wanted it. And neither does Rafe, who isn't impressed by the dukedom or of Serafina's wealth and beauty. They are two people stuck in a situation that was out of their control, and now they must make the best of it.
There are some unique details that keep this plot fresh: the reason why Serafina wasn't happy about marrying the previous Duke of Hartholm is foremost. For most of her life, Serafina has been overpowered and bullied by father and then she had to contend with the lascivious attentions of Cyril. Perhaps being passed around from one man to another was the straw that broke the camel's back because I'm not so sure what it was about Rafe that pushed Serafina to finally step out of the shadows and take charge of her future, but I'm glad she did. I thought it was a powerful moment when she approached Rafe with her proposal.
The other detail I really liked is how Rafe struggled with his new position in society: I love how Jess Michaels expounds on the expression "be careful what you wish for..." -- being a duke is an enviable position, but Rafe never wanted it and doesn't really know what to do now that he is one. Serafina offers to guide him, and, as I read through this, it raised the question: What does it mean to be a duke? -- Rafe tries to be the kind of duke society expects him to be, but it's obvious that he can't remake himself. I especially liked the moments of self-doubt that comes upon Rafe, where he (and Crispin) wonder their new life (and
"I suppose I worry that you may get caught up in this ludicrous life that has been fitted over your own. That you will lose yourself."
- Crispin to Rafe, loc 2200
I've said in previous book review of Jess Michaels's works how well she writes love scenes, and The Other Duke is no exception. I will add that Jess Michaels always keeps the physical and emotional aspect of the story closely tied together. It was wonderful to see Rafe and Serafina grow to love one another and to appreciate one another. I lingered a bit on this exchange between Rafe and Serafina:
"You want to explore?"
She nodded. "I do. Does it make me a wanton in your eyes?"
His face twisted in displeasure. "It makes you human. Ripe and filled with desire. That is nothing to be ashamed of, Serafina."
- loc 2553
It's quite sad how automatic we are to label people, things and actions. Rafe stands as the voice of reason, pulling Serafina away from the spiral of shame and guilt that she has been feeling for most of her life.
The Other Duke is the first book in Jess Michaels's the Notorious Flynns series. I'm really looking forward to reading Annabelle's and Crispin's stories. (I'm also very curious about Serafina's friend, Emma.) To find out more about Jess Michaels and her books, click below:
Disclosure: I received a review copy from the author. Thank you, Jess Michaels, for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.