Sebastian St. James, the Duke of Tempest, has a spotless reputation and is known as the Angel Duke -- and he has the looks to go with the nickname. He is in town for the Season to do what most titled men of his rank and age need to do once in his life: to find a bride.
Emma Gates of Essex is also in town for the Season to find a husband. As the eldest in her family, her parents convinced her to go -- much to her younger sister's annoyance and to Emma's great reluctance.
Because Emma hides a tainted past -- and she is constantly waiting for the proverbial ax to fall, her secret revealed and her reputation ruined.
When she arrives at her cousin Sara's house, she is surprised to see that Sara and Nicholas have another house guest: the Angel Duke.
And the attraction is instant. But Emma knows the Angel Duke is not for someone like her --
Her secret was like a disease, making it impossible for her to keep anyone close no matter how badly she desired it.
- Location 494
Sebastian is also mesmerized when he first sees Emma. Actually, when he first hears Emma.
Slowly he turned to see what defiant creature belonged to such an irresistible voice.
- Location 364
But Sebastian knows that Emma is not for someone like him. She was too full of life, too wild, too vibrant -- he didn't want to be the one to pin down Emma's wings, even though it would mean making her the Duchess of Tempest.
The two find themselves in each other's way throughout the Season -- and a shared kiss ignites the beginnings of passion -- and the beginnings of a clever plan. They will pretend to be engaged, leaving them free to observe the lords and ladies around them -- but, if by the end of the Season, they could not find suitable spouses, they will continue with the engagement and marry each other.
This book has some very cleverly-written description and dialogue. I loved the idea of idea of an Angel Duke -- a man so untarnished and spotless that everyone considers him to be angelic. And I love the contrast of their public and private personas: Emma is, in reality, the pure and untarnished one. And it is Sebastian who is tarnished.
Oh he had done his fare share of taking mistresses and sowing wild outs [sic] across the continent, he was just remarkably talented at keeping people quiet...
- Location 294
I wished the author took more time to polish her work -- there are a lot of rough edges that derails a reader's progress. Some lines took me a while to understand.
Overindulging was always the first sign of debt, at least in Sebastian's eyes.
- Location 1720
Groaning, he only released his hold on her because he wasn't sure what he wanted more. To kiss the girl senseless or utterly ruin her for anyone else.
- Location 2902
There's also a lot of telling and not showing and many times when the author decodes the ideas for us through her character's thoughts.
There are also inconsistencies in the characters: Emma seemed to swing on extremes -- she's bold and brash, daring a duke to race her -- and then her light dims and she retreats to stiffness and silence.
There's another character, Phillip Rawlings -- I wasn't certain if they wanted him to be the villain -- but if he were the villain (and Emma indicates from the beginning that she doesn't like Rawlings), why do they consent to attend his house party?
I also did not see the hero and heroine fall in love. One minute they are convincing themselves of the other's unsuitability -- and then, the next minute, love.
This is the second book in Rachel Van Dyken's House of Renwick series -- I have not read the first book and, since the characters in the first book figure heavily in this one, I think it would be beneficial to have read Nicholas and Sara's story first. See: The Ugly Duckling Debutante)
Final note: Was it a practice for lords and ladies to attend a country house party during the London Season?
While I was looking for an answer to this question, I stumbled upon a really great blog: Everything of Interest to a Romance Writer
Disclosure: I won this copy in a giveaway.