Absolutely do not pick up here if you haven’t read the first two books in the Duke Dynasty series, because the overarching plot about the deaths of Lydia’s three husbands is finally starting to get interesting, and if you haven’t read the previous two books, you’ll be quite lost.
If you HAVE read those two books, you’ll enjoy the way things are finally starting to come to a head, with the heroine of this book a chemist recruited to test the remains of one of the dead dukes to determine if his death was due to suspected arsenic poisoning. Sabrina Jeffries writes the best heroines, capable, confident women, and Olivia fits in perfectly here. A lady chemist, she is utterly disinterested in taking part in the marriage mart… even though she once turned down a proposal from none other than the Duke of Thornstock after being caught scandalizingly kissing him at a ball.
I loved Olivia, but Thorn… well, Thorn behaved absolutely horribly. From their first meeting where he made assumptions about Olivia despite the evidence being right in front of him that she was precisely what she claimed to be, to in the present day him making MORE assumptions about her basically so he could tell himself she was the one in the wrong, I thoroughly disliked him. Yes, he eventually did a grovel, but I couldn’t understand why, long before that, Olivia was even tolerating his presence, never mind allowing him to take all sorts of liberties with her.
There were parts about their relationship I liked; though Thorn doubted Olivia’s skills at first, once he recognised she really did know what she was doing, he respected what she said and didn’t question her. The scene where she ordered him out of her laboratory was one of my favourites, though it did mean we didn’t get a scene where he watched her work and admired her skills, something I always like to see when there’s a heroine with special skills in a story.
I was also slightly bemused with the sub-plot of Thorn being a playwright; I feel like this is something that’s going to prove important in the next book, but here it was just a distraction. There’s just a bit too much going on and we really needed the focus to be on less things; the romance between the two, Olivia’s chemistry skills, and the murder plots was plenty.
I really enjoyed the first two books in this series but I’m honestly a bit disappointed in this one. Several of the sex scenes felt shoehorned in at the expense of necessary plot and character development. I’ll keep reading because I’m invested in knowing the answers to the murder mystery, but I’ll hope for an improvement in the next one. This isn’t BAD - I don’t think Sabrina Jeffries knows how to write a bad book - but it’s not up to her usual amazing standard. I’ll give it four stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.