Published by Avon on November 28th 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Not all dukes are created equal. Most are upstanding members of Society. And then there’s the trio known as Their Dis-Graces.
Hugh Philemon Ancaster, seventh Duke of Ripley, will never win prizes for virtue. But even he draws the line at running off with his best friend’s bride. All he’s trying to do is recapture the slightly inebriated Lady Olympia Hightower and return her to her intended bridegroom.
For reasons that elude her, bookish, bespectacled Olympia is supposed to marry a gorgeous rake of a duke. The ton is flabbergasted. Her family’s ecstatic. And Olympia? She’s climbing out of a window, bent on a getaway. But tall, dark, and exasperating Ripley is hot on her trail, determined to bring her back to his friend. For once, the world-famous hellion is trying to do the honorable thing.
So why does Olympia have to make it so deliciously difficult for him . . . ?
Early morning of 11 June 1833
The Duke of Ashmont was not a very good duke—rather an awful one, actually. And so nobody could be in the least surprised to see him, drunk as an emperor—that was to say, ten times as drunk as a lord—staggering down the steps of Crockford’s Club on the arm of one of his two best friends.
This one was Hugh Philemon Ancaster, seventh Duke of Ripley. Where Ashmont was fair-haired, blue-eyed, and angelic-looking, Ripley was dark. Unlike Ashmont, he did not appear to be spun of dreams and gossamer, and women did not follow his movements with the moonstruck expressions they accorded His Grace with the Angel Face.
On a good day, someone had said once, Ripley’s face resembled that of a wolf who’d been in too many fights.
Furthermore, though his slightly older title ranked him a notch or two higher in precedence than Ashmont, Ripley was merely as drunk as a lord. He could still distinguish up from down. When, therefore, His Grace of Ashmont showed an inclination to stumble in the downhill direction, toward St. James’s Palace, Ripley hauled him about.
“This way,” he said. “Hackney stand up ahead.” “Right,” Ashmont said. “Can’t miss the wedding.
Not this one. It’s me doing it. Me and Olympia. Have to be there. Promised.”
“You will be,” Ripley said as he led his friend across the street. The wedding had been news to him, the choice of bride a shock: Lady Olympia Hightower, of all women. She was the last girl on earth he’d thought would marry Ashmont—or any of them, for that matter.
Not that Ripley knew her very well. Or at all. They’d been introduced, yes, years ago. That was in the days when respectable persons still introduced Ripley and his two friends to innocent girls. But those were not the kinds of girls the ducal trio wanted. Gently bred maidens were for marrying, and marriage was supposed to be years away, sometime in the dim, distant future.
Apparently, the future had arrived while Ripley wasn’t looking.
First the Duke of Blackwood, the other of his two boon companions, had married Ripley’s sister over a year ago, a few days before Ripley left for the Continent. Now Ashmont was doing it. Ripley had heard the happy news mere hours after his return to London yesterday.
No, he’d returned the day before, because today was yesterday now. He’d come to Crockford’s because he wanted a decent meal, and Crockford’s Ude was the next best thing to Ripley’s own chef, Chardot, who’d come down with a foul cold sometime during the Channel crossing.
Chardot went with him everywhere because he was amply paid to do so, and Ripley liked his comfort. Having been forced, for no sane reason, to live like a pauper during his boyhood, he lived like a king now.
Ripley was debating with himself whether, on the whole, he’d better have stayed abroad, when four men spilled out of a narrow court, one crashing into Ash-mont, with force enough to dislodge him from Ripley’s light grasp and push him into a shop front.
Ashmont bounced back with surprising energy. “You clumsy, bleeding, half-wit! I have to get married, you bloody arsehole!” At the same moment, he drove his fist at the fellow’s face.
One of the man’s friends tried to butt in. With a sigh, Ripley grabbed him by the back of the collar. The fellow swung at him, obliging Ripley to knock him into the gutter.
What happened after that was what often happened when Ashmont was about: a lot of filthy language and filthy fighting, and men rushing out of the clubs, shout-ing bets, and a female or two screaming somewhere.
Then it was over. Their foes lay strewn about the pavement. Ripley didn’t wait to count or identify them. He collected Ashmont from the railing he’d slumped against and trudged to the corner with him. He signalled, and the first in line of the hackneys plodded their way. He threw Ashmont into the decrepit coach and directed the driver to Ashmont House.
Servants waited up, as they were accustomed to do, for Ashmont. They bore him up the stairs to his bedroom and undressed and washed him without fuss.
To celebrate the release of A DUKE IN SHINING ARMOR, Avon is giving away one paperback copy of the book. (USA ONLY)
To enter just click HERE
~~Reviewed by AnnMarie~~
A Duke in Shining Armor is the first book in the Difficult Dukes series by Loretta Chase.
Hugh Philemon Ancaster is the seventh Duke of Ripley. He’s back in England after being abroad for a year and is just in time to be the groomsman for his best friend, the Duke of Ashmont. Celebrations the night before the wedding see Ashmont well and truly drunk and he’s still quite out of sorts on his wedding day. Out of sorts, but definitely ready to marry his bride.
Lady Olympia Hightower is the bride. She’s spent 7 seasons without a proposal, she’s been a wallflower at all the social events and has even had the cruel title of the most boring girl of the season given to her. She is astounded when Ashmont takes an interest in her and although not madly in love with him, accepts his proposal. He’s one of the most eligible men in society and he wants HER! On the morning of the wedding, dressed in all her finery, she has pre-wedding jitters. A lot of brandy later and she decides she can’t marry then runs away.
Ripley happens to be in the garden when Olympia runs through it, he even helps her with her escape, only to realise that he should actually be stopping her. The chase begins then with him determined to at least keep Olympia safe until she comes to her senses and returns to get married.
What follows is a fun, passion-filled story of our couple. Olympia and Ripley have some laugh out loud moments during the escape, but they also both end up soul searching because the more time they spend together the more they realise that their attraction to each other is much more than a physical one. They both know that they can’t be together, not without hurting Ashmont, but how can they stay apart when they so desperately need each other?
This was an absolutely enthralling story, one that I couldn’t read quickly enough. Ripley could have easily been portrayed as the bad guy in this story, but the author managed to let the reader realise just what turmoil he went through when he realised that his life couldn’t be complete without Olympia. It would have been so easy to take sides, but we were left loving both Ripley and Ashmont, and I for one was very happy with how the situation was resolved. There was never a dull moment in this book, the runaway bride made for an exciting read, and the will they won’t they aspect between Ripley and Olympia kept me hooked. When they eventually shared a passionate kiss I just wanted to cheer despite not knowing if they would both regret it! I loved this book and I fully intend to read the rest of the series as soon as they come out!
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced readers’ copy of this book.