As the fourth book in the Duke Dynasty series about the children of a three-time Duchess, absolutely do not start here. You won’t have a clue what’s going on in the overarching mystery plot about who murdered Lydia’s husbands, and both hero and heroine have been introduced (and struck sparks off each other) in earlier books. This is a series you REALLY need to read in order.
With that said, it’s a series I have absolutely devoured and this fourth (and pretty final, though there is a novella upcoming which ties off a side character’s story, oh and there was another novella for Heywood’s story I haven’t read - so maybe it’s actually 6 in total) installment lives up to the promise of the earlier books. We get a great romance between Sheridan and Vanessa, and we finally get the answers to the mystery we’ve been tracking all along.
The last third of the book does suffer a little from having too much to do; we have to find out the who and why of the mystery, tie off a bunch of storylines AND get the conclusion of Sheridan and Vanessa’s romance arc. I think it’s the romance arc which loses out a bit, and I’ll be honest that the sex scene where Vanessa was just completely clueless about what to expect in bed did not ring true. She’s not an ingenue, she’s in her mid-twenties, she’s got a bunch of friends who are married. The whole ‘what’s THAT?’ schtick just made her looks stupid, which she isn’t. And then there’s a VERY weird scene afterwards with the hero’s mother basically inspecting the blood on the sheets of the marital bed which made me cringe. That was wildly unnecessary.
Overall, this is such a superb series. I really like the mystery which played out across all the books and tied them together so strongly; I liked that all the players were on the scene from early on (except Olivia, but there was good reason for that). The red herrings and false trails were beautifully laid, with plenty of not very nice people as perfectly valid suspects, the actual murderer there from early on, and just the motive being the final puzzle piece needed to understand what was happening. As an entire series, I would definitely give it five stars… BUT… this last book had weak points the others didn’t, and those wedding night scenes were cringeworthy enough I’m afraid I’m going to mark it down a star. I’m not disappointed with the conclusion of the series, but the romance here was the weakest link in the chain. Four stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.