Good opening to the new series. These are the stories of the children of Lydia, a duchess who has been married three times, each one a duke. She has five grown children, four sons, and one daughter. The oldest son, Grey, was with her first husband, twins Thorn and Gwyn, with her second husband, and Sheridan and Heywood with her third husband. Three of those sons are now dukes, themselves. This is the story of Fletcher Pryde, 5th Duke of Greycourt.
Grey had a relatively normal life until he was ten years old. His father died when Grey was young, and his first stepfather not long after that. His second stepfather was a kind and loving man for them all. When Grey was ten, his uncle, who was named guardian by Grey's father, came to claim him. This set in motion a chain of events that left Grey alienated from his family and determined to always be in control of his emotions. The book opens as Grey receives word of his stepfather's (the Fourth Duke of Armitage) death and his mother's plea for him to come for the funeral. He doesn't want to, but despite everything, he still loves his mother, so he goes, but plans only a short stay. Those plans get derailed when he arrives and meets Miss Beatrice Wolfe, his half-brother's cousin.
Beatrice is the granddaughter of a duke, but the poor relation in this family. She and her brother, Joshua, were the wards of the Third Duke of Armitage and occupy the dower house. Joshua is a veteran of the Peninsular War, where he was badly wounded before coming home to become the estate gamekeeper. He is a grouchy loner who avoids people whenever he can. Beatrice loves her family and helped Lydia and her family learn the ropes when Maurice became the fourth duke. She stepped in to help with the funeral arrangements and is engaged in that process when Grey arrives. He does NOT make a good impression.
I loved the first meeting between Grey and Beatrice. He is very much the top-lofty, arrogant duke, and Beatrice doesn't put up with that attitude. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her stand up to him. Grey is taken aback at first, but then intrigued and captivated. It's evident that there are sparks between them, but neither one wants to admit it. Beatrice knows that there is too big a gap between them for anything to become of it. Grey wants nothing to do with anything that threatens his control over his emotions.
I enjoyed the development of Grey and Beatrice's relationship. Their plans to avoid each other are complicated by Lydia's plans to take both Gwyn and Beatrice to London for the Season. Lydia recruits Grey to assist in teaching both women what they need to know to survive a London Season. It doesn't take long for Grey and Beatrice to discover that they have much in common, from unpleasant events in their pasts to their preference for straight talk. I loved their pledge to each other that they don't hold back when speaking to each other. Both of them are very quick-witted, and I liked the banter and teasing between them. The more time they spent together, the greater the sparks between them grew, providing both sweet and steamy encounters.
However, the possibility of a future between them has complications and obstacles. Sheridan believes that his father was murdered and that Joshua is the most likely suspect. He recruits Grey to help him investigate, which puts Grey in an awkward position as his feelings for Beatrice grow. Can he discover the truth without endangering his relationship with her? There are some heart-wrenching and amusing moments as Grey, Beatrice, and Joshua work their way through this dilemma. Grey also ends up the attempted victim of his selfish and greedy aunt as she tries to manipulate him into an engagement with his cousin. The timing was especially bad, but Grey comes through with the perfect solution. In both cases, Grey and Beatrice had to decide whether they were able to trust each other. I liked that they overcame by talking to each other - once the initial hurt and anger faded. The ending was great, and I loved their big moment at the end.
I thoroughly enjoyed the entire family. It is obvious that there is a great deal of love between all the members, even though some have a harder time showing it. The teasing indicates that they don't take themselves too seriously. When there are problems, there is always someone available to help with support or advice. That's not to say there are no problems. Joshua's attitude is a prime example and makes it easier for him to be suspected of murder. At the same time, Sheridan's focus on Joshua was a bit irritating as his suspicions had no evidence to support them. The sniping and arguing between Thorn and Gwyn appears to be caused by something in their past, which I hope will be addressed in a later book. It looks like the question of the murder may be a continuing theme through the series. I am intrigued to see how that develops.