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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Review: A Duke but No Gentleman by Alexandra Hawkins

Oh boy. This is one of those books that is going to have people who either really love it, or really hate it.

Format: .mobi (A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of an honest review. )
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: June 30, 2015

In the last opulent days of the eighteenth century, a friendly wager turns into a heated feud that spans decades…and a love affair like none other.

What does it take to tempt a lady…

London, 1792. The Duke of Blackbern and the Marquess of Norgrave are boyhood friends who will still compete at anything. Racing, drinking, gambling, even seduction--until Lady Imogen Sunter crosses their path. Achingly beautiful, and innocent, she has no understanding of the jaded gentlemen who are courting her for favors--of how far they are willing to go to get what they want…

In this game of seduce and destroy?

Fighting for Imogen's affection should have been no more than their usual spirited rivalry. But when Blackbern discovers his feelings for Imogen have deepened, all bets are off. Norgrave, driven by his own demons, won't forsake his pride--and with one shocking act of betrayal that threatens Imogen and Blackbern's newfound desire, Norgrave will set the course for a generation of Regency bad boys who will go down in history as the Masters of Seduction...in A Duke But No Gentleman by Alexandra Hawkins.

Boyhood friends Tristan Bailey Rook, the Duke of Blackbern and Cason Brant, the Marquess of Norgrave have always highly competitive streak with just about anything. Not caring who was damaged or destroyed during their “games,” the two built quite a reputation among society.

But when Lady Imogen Sunter enters the picture, Blackbern and Norgraves’ games take on a different tone. The two agree to compete for Imogen’s affections as part of a new game to ease their boredom. When Blackbern begins to develop genuine feelings for Imogen it triggers a dark response in Norgrave that pushes him to try and win at all costs. When Norgrave’s actions lead him to commit the ultimate betrayal, all bets are off and the two friends become sworn enemies, with Imogen caught in the middle.

Don't let the cover fool you, it's the only easy going thing about this book. Dark, gritty and unapologetic, A Duke but No Gentleman takes manipulation, revenge and passion to a whole new level. I was surprised at how shallow and callous the two male leads were! They toyed with people's lives and emotions as if it were all a game. I frankly couldn't find a damn thing to like about either one of them! It's important to me to connect with the main characters and I just wasn’t feeling warm and fuzzy about either one of them.

The Duke of Blackbern and the Marquess of Norgrave were a train wreck waiting to happen. It was crystal clear from the very first pages of A Duke but No Gentleman that these two were a volatile, toxic combination not only for anyone unlucky enough to catch their attention but for each other. I just knew that when, not if but when they turned on each other it was going to be explosive and yet, I just couldn’t look away.

That’s not to say that I didn’t despise Blackbern and especially Norgrave. I couldn’t stand these SOBs! In fact, I’m not sure I still don’t dislike Blackbern. He was the weaker of the two, always going along with whatever harebrained scheme Norgrave came up with, easily manipulated and frankly, he didn’t grow a spine until after he started to fall for Imogen. As much time as Blackbern spent with Norgrave, I couldn’t believe that he (Blackbern) didn’t know what Norgrave was capable of and how far he would go to win a stupid bet. It’s not like Norgrave ever gave any indication of being a rotten human being! So I’m going to have to add that Blackbern wasn’t very bright or at least, was woefully unprepared to fight Norgrave and protect Imogen.

Imogen, dainty flower that she was, didn’t play much of a role in A Duke but No Gentleman other than to be the bone for which Blackbern and Norgrave fought over. I wish she had had an actual role in this book other than eye candy for the two men because what she experienced in the second half of the book could have brought forth a stronger version of Imogen but no. She essentially sat back and let Blackbern fight all her battles and soothe her wounds.

While I did read A Duke but No Gentleman in about a day, I didn’t fall in love with the characters like I have in the past with author Alexandra Hawkins’ previous books. True, her heroes are borderline irredeemable villains but sometimes I felt like there wasn’t a darn thing worth redeeming about Blackbern. I felt that the relationship between him and Imogen needed more time to become solid and realistic. For that, they needed time outside of bed because I just didn’t connect to them as a couple.

In terms of the level of villainy, I’m going to give A Duke but No Gentleman high marks. I really didn’t think Blackbern and Imogen were going to survive Norgrave’s machinations. His greed, pride and vanity nearly destroyed the two lovers’ chance at happiness and left him more alone than ever. I do have to wonder though if that’s the last we’ll see of Norgrave or will he appear in future books and in what capacity?

Final Verdict: If A Duke but No Gentleman sets the tone for this new series by Alexandra Hawkins then I predict many ups and downs for the series and while this book wasn’t one of my favorites, it still had interesting moments and I will check out future books in the series out of sheer curiosity.

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