cover image How the Duke Was Won

How the Duke Was Won

Lenora Bell. Avon, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-239772-0

Debut author Bell begins the Disgraceful Dukes Regency series with a winning tale in which disreputable but charming protagonists bond over a shared passion for righting social injustices. Charlene, the illegitimate and unacknowledged daughter of an earl, longs to save herself and her sister from prostitution by opening a boarding house for impoverished girls. James, a second son who unexpectedly inherits a ducal title, arrives in London prepared to marry an impeccable bride, produce an heir, and return to the West Indies to run his fair-wage cocoa farms. When James invites four women to audition for the role of duchess, Charlene is hired to stand in for her look-alike half-sister, Lady Dorothea, until Dorothea returns from abroad. Charlene’s spirited manner, martial arts skills, and instant rapport with James’s biracial daughter (whose existence and acceptance by her father are absolutely scandalous to most of the London elite) immediately put her at the top of the list, but soon James’s suspicions of trickery dampen his ardor. Meanwhile, Charlene reluctantly cedes her place to Dorothea, certain a duke would never marry an illegitimate woman. Colorful supporting characters, plentiful plot twists, and the trials of star-crossed lovers make for a sizzling and heartwarming page-turner. Agent: Alexandra Machinist, ICM Partners. (May)