on June 27th 2017
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Difficult and defiant as a child, Bran Crowther, Earl of Knighton left England as a young man to pursue independence and adventure. He never expected to inherit the title and when duty calls him home, he still finds Society’s codes constricting and others’ expectations oppressive. Nevertheless, he needs a wife to be a mother to his young daughter, preferably a woman of intelligence and warmth who is, above all, immune to his idiosyncrasies—and to falling in love.
Widow Joanna Shaw isn’t interested in a second marriage, not after the loveless, passionless union she endured. She’d much rather dote on her young niece and nephew since they will likely be the only children in her life...until she meets a precocious girl, in desperate need of a mother. But her father, the so-called Duke of Defiance, is as peculiar as he is handsome, and Jo won’t take another risk with her heart. Their rules, however, are made to be broken, even when the consequences could destroy them both.
She sank into a curtsey. “Good morning, my lord. My sister wishes to convey her deepest apologies, but her son is ill, so she asked me to come in her stead.”
Bran registered the tidy upsweep of her dark brown hair and the green-brown of her earnest eyes as well as the simplicity of her modest slate-gray gown. She was rather monochromatic, except for that hint of green in her eyes, and the tiny gold flecks that danced near the pupil. He recalled that she was widowed, which perhaps explained her somewhat dour appearance. Or maybe it was just that he was used to warmth and vibrancy and colors that defied possibility in England. Barbados seemed like an imaginary world now.
“I see. Do you have children of your own?” he asked.
Pale swaths of pink highlighted her cheeks. It was the barest bit of color, but he caught it. How could he not against the dull palette she provided?
No, that wasn’t an apt description. Her attire was dull, her hair a bit too severe, but she possessed an attractive, feminine form. Indeed, her breasts were perhaps spectacular. And she was pretty, with long, dark lashes framing her eyes and rose-colored lips that were just a bit too full. Not too full, he amended.
“I do not,” she said, drawing his attention back to his question about whether she had children.
“Then how can you be qualified to help me with this endeavor?”
“My sister sent a list of characteristics and requirements you should seek.” She straightened her shoulders and looked him in the eye. “She also sent me with her express confidence.”
He liked her fortitude. “Well then, I suppose you will suffice. Come along.”
Her nostrils flared slightly, and her eyes widened just the tiniest bit, the gold flecks seeming to brighten. As he turned to lead her to his office, he considered that he might have just offended her again. He had called her abilities into question, but why wouldn’t he?
He strode toward the back corner of the house, where his office was located. It was a large chamber with a wall of bookshelves and windows that looked out to the garden. He moved behind the desk and indicated for her to take a chair on the opposite side.
She slowly sat, her gaze wary and her mouth tight.
He frowned. “My apologies if I insulted you.”
“If you’d rather I didn’t stay, you have only to say so.” There was a steely set to her shoulders and a clipped edge to her tone as she spoke. “Nora wanted to help you, but I’ll understand if you decide I won’t suffice.”
He dropped into his chair. She had cheek to go with her fortitude. He liked that too. He’d been prepared to deal with milksops and featherbrains when he’d returned to England—people like his mother and brothers. Not that they really were milksops or featherbrains, but they liked to put on as if they were, thinking it was somehow attractive. He supposed it wasn’t fair to assume an entire population shared the same characteristics as his family.
“I’m afraid I must also apologize for the other day. I meant no offense. Sometimes… I speak without realizing how my words might sound.”
One of her dark, slender brows arched. “Forgive me for saying so, but I’ve found that’s a trait shared by most men.”
$25 Amazon Gift Card + a Signed copy of The Duke of Daring
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~~Reviewed by AnnMarie~~
The Duke of Defiance is the fifth book in The Untouchables series by Darcy Burke. Although part of a series it can easily be read as a stand alone book. But, if you are anything like me, you will want to read all the others as well after reading this one!
Bran Crowther a third son to his parents, was brought up always being made to feel that his life was of little consequence. His brothers bullied him relentlessly, and his parents weren’t much better. Eventually he had enough and he just bought passage on the nearest ship at dock not caring where he ended up, anywhere was better than England. He ended up in Barbados where he made his fortune owning a sugar plantation. He married and had a beautiful daughter, and despite losing his wife to the fever, he was content with his life. It was with horror that he is told that his brothers and father have all died and that he has to return to England and take up his place as the new Earl of Knighton. It’s the very last thing he wants to do, but it’s his duty, so he packs up his home and moves back to England with his young daughter.
Joanna Shaw is a widow, her husband, a vicar, treated her abominably, and made her feel useless and a waste of his time when she couldn’t fall pregnant over 8 years of marriage. It was no small relief when he died and she could escape to her sister Nora. Nora has 2 children and another on the way. Jo dotes on her niece and nephew and although she feels guilty living with her sister and her husband, feeling like she should be finding a place of her own, she’s not too motivated because she loves being with the children.
Nora’s daughter Becky has made a new friend and they are as thick as thieves. Both little girls are 5 years old, the other little girl being Bran’s daughter, Evie. He is so grateful that the girls get on because it is helping Evie settle into life in England. She’s been terribly homesick, especially after having to leave her ‘nanny’ behind. On one occasion when Bran picks Evie up from Nora’s, he meets Jo. At first sight he thinks her quite dull, especially as she is wearing drab mourning clothes. But the more he sees her, the more he realises that she is a very beautiful woman, both inside and out. Evie loves her, and for now he accepts that he very much lusts after her. He needs a new nanny, a new governess, and a new mother for Evie. All things point to him asking Jo to be the latter. After a passionate kiss, he does ask her to marry him and is upset when she turns him down. He needs an heir, and she knows she can’t provide him with one and she tells him that. Eventually she decides she does need to be part of Evie’s life, so she agrees to become her governess.
There are some very passionate moments for Bran and Jo, and despite not wanting to, each of them find themselves falling in love. It can’t go anywhere, Bran must do his duty, but oh the ecstasy they find in each others arms and beds. It’s all so perfect, but Jo knows that one day Bran must find a Duchess, and her heart will be broken. Maybe she needs to cut and run before she has to witness that happening. Losing both him and Evie will be more than she can take.
This story was so beautifully written, and it hooked me from page one. I couldn’t put the book down and just had to read it in one sitting even though it meant reading into the wee hours of the morning. I loved how both Jo and Bran had such a hard time in their pasts, and how each helped the other overcome the bad memories. I loved reading about Evie and Becky and what great friends they are. I will admit that at times the children seemed much older than their 5 years, unbelievably so, but it didn’t stop me loving reading about their antics. As for the best part of the book…..the way it ended, well I won’t give spoilers, suffice to say, I put the book down with a big smile on my face. Now I have to read all the other books in the series because if they are all as good as this one then I will have many more late nights to come!