The Duke is Wicked by Tracy Sumner
This is the third book in the League of Lords series about aristocrats (mostly aristocrats) with paranormal abilities in the Victorian era. I haven’t read the previous two, but it was reasonably easy to pick up the general context and rules of the world, and the characters who had obviously featured in previous books were given a light introduction so we had their backstory. I think it stands fairly well alone.
The Duke of the title is Ashcroft, Sebastian as we know him for much of the book, who has certain abilities with fire - and a problem of control. Despite his issues, he knows he needs to marry, and preferably another member of the League, so selects a suitable young lady. Meeting brash American Delaney Temple upends all his plans, however, since he is stung by a bee at their first meeting and she promptly saves his life - with mouth to mouth resuscitation, causing a massive scandal.
There’s a curious subplot here where Delaney is being blackmailed for… I’m still not precisely sure what. Information, I assume, since that is her talent; she has a mental ‘attic’ where she stores inconceivable amounts of information she can then access at her leisure, and she has memorized the League’s codex of information on paranormal abilities - which is why they can’t let her go. The thing that’s a bit odd is that the blackmail plot is never really followed up, though it seems it may be in the subsequent book.
Delaney and Sebastian as a couple are fabulous, striking literal sparks as two strong personalities clash. I definitely bought into the romance between them (and enjoyed the bedroom scenes which are quite steamy) but at times it did seem to come at the expense of actually explaining overly complicated plot devices. Delaney, for example, is asked to help decipher some codes for the League - but we’re never told what the codes are all about or why they need deciphering. They’re a throwaway device to show that she can be useful to them, which was ridiculous because her abilities made her usefulness obvious.
I kind of like this idea of a team of Victorian-era superheroes, but I’m just not sure where the author is going with it, because there doesn’t seem to be any sort of overarching mission or adversary for them. I’ll give it four stars, because I did like the romance part very much and I like the concept, but some of the plot falls a bit short for my tastes.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.