What a Duke Dares by Anna Campbell
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Because of his wealth and status as a duke, I thought Camden Rothemere, the Duke of Sedgemoor, was the one least affected by the rumours regarding the legitimacy of his birth, but I was mistaken. Camden was really affected by his parents' indiscretions and by the whispers that surrounded him growing up. Now that he is ready to marry, he is making sure that his heart does not clash with his head in his choice of wife. He has selected Penelope Thorne, a childhood friend, and, perhaps, the one woman whose presence he can tolerate for any reasonable amount of time. Despite being a Thorne, Camden believes he could help Penelope become the wife the Duke of Sedgemoor needs -- but he had never expected Penelope to turn him down.
In the previous books of the Sons of Sin series, Camden Rothemere always seemed like the sensible one in their group and he seemed very in-control of himself, but it seems this positive trait has a negative aspect to it. Cam is unwilling to be attached to anything emotionally. He's very good with being objective and being a distant observer -- but he's not very good at being up close and engaged with what's happening -- particularly, with what's happening to him.
Categorically he didn't want to marry a woman who made men stupid, the way his mother had made his father stupid. How insulting to his chosen bride that part of her appeal had been her lack of overt attractions.
I wondered why Pen didn't confess her feelings for Cam early on. I wondered how their story would go had she been honest with him -- but I understand her pride and I understand her need to preserve herself. It's actually quite amazing that she dared to refuse a duke, even when her family desperately needed saving -- and that she was able to create a meaningful life for herself writing books and traveling across the Continent with her aunt.
Love may be temporarily derailed or interrupted, but it can never be ended without a proper resolution -- and Fate comes in the form of Pen's dying brother, Peter, who asks Camden to look after Pen.
What a Duke Dares is a compelling story of two very headstrong characters whose pride, passion, and conversation
"...You'd be trading your family's scandals for mine, and the rumours would continue to dog you all our lives. I follow my heart before my head. I speak my mind. Before the ink was dry on the settlements, I'd do something to upset the old tabbies. You'd find yourself knee-deep in gossip and you'd hate that. You'd start to hate me."
Pen has loved Cam forever, and she knows what Cam wants in his life -- and, while he offered for her, it's both a gift and a curse for Pen: she would finally be with Cam for ever and Cam could help her family, but Pen would always be caught in the middle of wanting to please Cam (and be the kind of wife he needs) and to be herself, a Thorne. It's a strange battle within Penelope, because she's fighting different aspects of herself. Ultimately, the author's message is clear: we can never be truly happy unless we are truly ourselves. It takes Pen and Cam quite a while to realise this, but I'm glad they eventually do.
Anna Campbell also introduces a secondary love story between Harry Thorne (Pen's brother) and Sophie Fairbrother (the sister of one of Camden's political rivals) -- there's a bit of Romeo and Juliet in these two young lovers and I really appreciated seeing Harry try to reform himself. Love is a tangle, and when it is complicated by outside factors, it becomes a greater tangle as Cam, Pen, Harry and Sophie discover. Thankfully, second (and third) chances present themselves to our pairs of lovers, and, they take it. I have to give props to Anna Campbell for managing to tell a very smooth-flowing story about this very tangled web of love.
What a Duke Dares is Book 3 in Anna Campbell's Sons of Sin series. To find out more about Anna Campbell and her books, click below: