Lady Sara Emerson was jolted out of her dull provincial life by her cousin’s murder. Now that the killer seems to be targeting her, Sara seeks help from the man who was once her cousin’s fiancé, Gabriel Ferguson, Duke of Rossmoyne. With his towering frame and fiery personality, Ross cuts an intimidating figure. Living under his protection, however, has its own hazards—like the sudden urge Sara feels to take their relationship in new, exquisitely inappropriate directions. Dazzled by the social graces of his betrothed, Ross never noticed her shy, blushing cousin. Looking at Sara now, though, he’s drawn to her lovely eyes and calm disposition. Funny how a year away from the hustle and bustle of the ton changes a man. But Ross has no intention of allowing a woman to interfere with his plan to return overseas. He will simply capture the murderer and set sail once again. The problem is, with her beguiling lips and heavenly touch, Sara makes him never want to leave home—or his bed—again.
My Rating: 4½/5 stars
Two years ago, Lady Sara Emerson lost her beloved cousin as a result of a brutal and unsolved murder. Her cousin was bright and vivacious, always the life of the party, and recently engaged to the gorgeous Gabriel Ferguson, Duke of Rossmoyne (aka Ross). In the blink of an eye, everything came to an end, Lady Sara retreated to the country and the Duke ran all the way to India in the service of the Queen.
In two years Lady Sara’s life has remained largely the same with her day in and day out revolving around the care of her father and avoiding anxiety-inducing social situations. Until recently, Sara has been resigned to her situation and for the most part, content. Her situation changed dramatically, however when the letters alluding to her cousin’s death began arriving. For the first time in two years, Lady Sara is going to leave the country. Her first and only stop will be the London home of the Duke of Rossmoyne.
The trip home from India wasn’t just unexpected, it was also unwelcome but when the Queen calls, her subjects, even Duke’s must answer. With only a few hours of sleep and no interest in socializing, Ross is pulled from his bed only to be confronted by the timid yet insistent, Lady Sara Emerson. Though Ross’s kneejerk reaction is boot the woman out of his home his gut tells him to hear her out. The letters Lady Sara has been receiving are disturbing, to say the least and in short order, Ross becomes quite concerned for Sara’s safety. Adding to his concern is his interest in Lady Sara and his frustration regarding her insistence at being involved in the investigation. Lady Sara is nothing like her brash and bold cousin and after two years, her quiet determination, keen intelligence, and unassuming beauty are exactly what Ross needs in his life. If he can keep her alive, maybe just maybe Ross can convince Lady Sara to become his duchess.
Lady Sara’s commitment to unravelling the mystery of her cousin’s death is solid and though she knows she should be afraid for her own safety, she trusts Ross implicitly. As the letters continue to arrive and the threat against Sara increases, so does her attachment to Ross. Ross is strong and confident, kind and intelligent, and sexy in a brooding kind of way. The only drawback to loving the Duke of Rossmoyne is his title; were Sara to allow herself to well and truly love Ross, she would have to become a Duchess and that would entail anxiety inducing social engagements. Sara’s will and determination is strong but she just can’t see herself becoming a burden to the man she loves.
The Bottom Line: The Reluctant Duchess is no easy road to an HEA but it certainly is an interesting road. From the moment she arrives in London, Lady Sara is determined to find out what happened to her cousin. Her path is clear, her focus is sharp but her feelings are a mess. Gabriel Ferguson (aka Ross) is a wholly unexpected creature and a greatly changed man from when Sara briefly knew him two years previously. Ross is a changed man and the new Ross wants Lady Sara Emerson with every fiber of his being. She is truly his match but keeping her alive and convincing her to marry him is as big challenge as figuring out who murdered his former fiancé. Cullen weaves a fine story of intrigue and romance with characters that are fully realized and most enjoyable. The threat is real, the mystery is believable, and Cullen doesn’t do that thoroughly detestable thing of so heavily hinting at the perpetrator that you know who it is by page four. In all, I breezed through this read and found Cullen’s brand of historical romance to be quite to my liking.