cover image My Dearest Duke

My Dearest Duke

Kristin Vayden. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $8.99 mass market (408p) ISBN 978-1-72823-434-2

A duke falls for a spy in Vayden’s aimless second Cambridge Brotherhood Regency romance (after Fortune Favors the Duke). Though Lady Joan Morgan’s job in the War Office would seem to promise danger, intrigue, and espionage, readers should expect no such excitement in these pages; Joan mostly reviews documents. In comparing herself to her fellow debutantes she declares, “I’m not simpering, limpid, and boring,” which—apart from being an unsubstantiated claim—will grate on readers who are tired of heroines that must be unlike other women to be worthy. Joan enjoys intellectual banter with Rowles Haywind, Duke of Westmore, at a ball and the pair quickly develop an affection for each other. But Joan fears a husband would force her to leave her profession and Rowles worries that his addled mother, whose “mind [is] fractured into shards” and who favors her dead son while treating Rowles with contempt, will curtail his future wife’s happiness. A tangled mix of unnecessary details and abruptly aborted subplots—including one about a mole in the magistrate’s office—only muddy the waters of this unconvincing romance. Declarations of devotion alone do not chemistry make, and readers will struggle to feel the emotion between this spark-less couple. This is one to skip. Agent: Latoya Smith, LCS Literary. (Nov.)