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Jilted in January is the first book (of 5) in the multi-author A Year Without a Duke series. The series has an intriguing premise: one of England's wealthiest and most prominent dukes, the Duke of Beckworth has died and there is no immediate heir, and the five books in the series explore how the Duke's death affects the various people in his life.
From a reader's standpoint, I think the first book of a new series is always the trickiest to write, because the first book needs to establish the premise and introduce the main and recurring characters in that series. Kate Pearce starts off A Year Without a Duke with Jilted in January, the story of the Duke of Beckworth's assistant land agent, and Rose Leyton, a ward of the late duke. Colin Ford is sifting through the mess that was left behind by the Duke's sudden death, and by his "predecessor's" sudden flight from the estate -- Colin discovers unpaid bills, and empty coffers, and help in the form of Rose Leyton.
Rose is waiting: Waiting for the new Duke to be found so she could discover what lies in her future. Waiting for her betrothed to return home from war. Waiting to be married after seven years of engagement. She'd never stepped foot in the land agent's offices before, but, with things in upheaval, she finds herself stumbling through the piles of papers and documents and ransacked drawers, and finds Colin Ford.
Together, they sort through the office and restore a semblance of order to the late Duke's estate -- and, at the same time, they discover a kinship: Colin is the fifth son of an Earl of modest means and depends on his occupation as assistant land agent, and Rose's life and future depends on her brother's decision, her betroth's return, and on the new Duke. Then Rose finds out that her betrothed has, not only broken their engagement, but has also gotten married, Rose is back to square zero -- and her brother isn't helping her, and has, in fact, sided with her former fiance. It is Colin who speaks up for her, defends her and stands up for her.
And in so doing, gets himself engaged to Rose.
I thought Kate Pearce did a great job introducing the series and the premise. The first few chapters do start out a bit slow, but it's because the author wants to establish the conversations and the relationship between Colin and Rose. When the complication arises with the return of Rose's brother, the reasons why Colin acts and reacts the way he does is already very clear. What surprises me about this particular Kate Pearce novel is that she decides to take another route to love: yes, there's attraction, and, yes, there's a spark -- but this doesn't have the combustible passion that one usually finds in her stories.
And I like it. I like that sex isn't the solution, but is actually part of the problem. I like that Colin and Rose are slow to figure out how they'll fit into their new lives together.
As Colin and Rose's story ends, one sees the beginnings of a tentative resolution between these two characters -- and, yes, it does feel like a cliffhanger.
After Jilted in January, I went on the read Book 4: An Affair in Autumnby Jennifer Haymore -- and, I have to say, each instalment in the series reads very well as a stand-alone, but one can see the bigger picture forming.
Jilted in January is the first book in the A Year Without a Duke series. To find out more about Kate Pearce and her books, click below: