I absolutely adored The Companion’s Secret, the first in this Rogues and Rebels series, and I’ve been eagerly looking forward to reading The Duke’s Secret, wondering what Susanna Craig would delight me with this time.
And she gave me (drum roll…)
An ADHD heroine.
Of course, since the book is set in 1799, Erica’s condition isn’t diagnosed, but the descriptions of her actions, feelings and the way she thinks and talks about herself make it very obvious to someone with ADHD exactly what the author was describing.
The hero is a duke who didn’t expect to be; Tristan was more than happy serving his country as a major in the army, a spy to be precise, but the untimely deaths of his father and brother mean he’s now Duke of Raynham. Delaying in his journey home, he encounters Erica quite by chance as they both take shelter from a rainstorm, and ends up inviting her to his home because she’s separated from the rest of her party and stranded.
It’s strongly implied that Tristan’s sister Lady Viviane, a precocious 12-year-old, is more than a little on the ADHD side herself, and Erica with her scientific mind is able to relate to Viviane far better than the conventional governesses the girl has been terrorizing with her antics. This alone would probably endear her to Tristan, but he’s a rather OCD type who’s fascinated with Erica’s quick mind and her unconventional approach to, well, just about everything. The fact that she’s a beautiful Irish redhead probably doesn’t hurt, either.
There’s something of a comedy of errors going on as Tristan is playing host to a number of houseguests, including a young lady his brother was supposed to marry, and there’s also suspicion of a traitor in the house who could unmask Tristan as a spy. Unfortunately, Erica’s Irish background puts her squarely in the crosshairs of that investigation, and when Tristan breaches her trust things get very, very awkward.
Erica, however, takes control of the situation admirably. She’s the opposite of passive, refusing to let things happen without her consent, and indeed she’s the one who instigates intimacy with Tristan, leading to a very hot sex scene followed by the two of them proving what a good team they are as they combine to unmask the real traitor.
Susanna Craig writes amazingly well-rounded characters in beautifully researched scenarios, and this book is no exception. Five stars for a story I didn’t want to end.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.