When his father dies, Lord Adam Bateman refuses to succeed to the dukedom which rightly belongs to his missing elder brother. Whilst performing secret and sensitive missions for the Duke of Wellington, he continues his efforts to find his twin. The search has become Adam’s all-consuming passion, leaving no time for affairs of the heart.
Miss Lucy Mercier is also seeking answers. Her father, a tailor, had been used to make hot air balloons for various noble patrons, including Lord Adam’s sire. Believing the deceased Duke of Wardley had been involved in her papa’s failure to return from the Continent, she takes employment in Lord Adam’s household in order to discover the truth. Then she accompanies him on an important commission for the Allied Army, and finds herself having to guard against a growing attraction for a man she knows she can never have.
Are the two disappearances connected and will two heads prove better than one in the pursuit of answers? Will Adam and Lucy find true happiness together or will the past – and their different stations – rise to keep them apart?
Although part of a loosely connected series, this Regency novel can be read on its’ own.
Book nine in the Heart of a Hero series sees Ms King take up the reigns as we once again step into Regency world of heroic heroes. This one is very much along the lines of your more traditional regency Romances with the added thrills and suspense that we have come to expect from this series and, it’s still intriguing but with a charming Bronte-ish feel to it. Which I adore.
Our story starts in 1788 where the young Robert and Adam Bateman sons of the powerful Duke of Wardley are taken out on a day trip by their maid come nanny; Mary. A nice afternoon enjoying cheesecake and good company turns sour as Robert, the elder twin and heir to the dukedom suddenly goes missing. After an extension search, all they find of him is his little hat, but Mary swears that as they were making their way to the park they were being watched by two unknown men. But, as no one else saw these men and Mary was newly hired her account of what happened isn’t entirely believed and she is soon dismissed. The search carries on but Robert is never found.
Fast forward twenty-six years and Adam Bateman hasn’t given up on his brother, he truly believes that Robert is out there somewhere. Adam is adamant that his brother is alive, he keeps saying that if his brother had died then he would know. Being a twin, he has a sixth sense that tells him Robert is out there somewhere. He has been searching for him all his life and until he gets absolute proof that his brother is dead Adam will not stop looking. On the death of his father Adam became the Duke, but he refused to take on the title as it still belongs to his big brother. He decides to do as the Prince Regent has with the King and merely look after things until his brothers return.
“Turn with me,” he muttered “e, two, three….” he could feel the warmth of her skin through her thin ball gown where his hand rested in the small of her back. The sensation, coupled with the scent of orange blossom from her hair, was intoxicating. “I did not intend to shame you…”
But even though he is powerful in his right, there are still places and resources that elude him, so six years before he made the journey to Ireland and he became one of Wellingtons secret information agents. In doing so he can utilise the groups resources to take his search for his brother even further than he could have alone. In return, he does a few little jobs for Wellington the latest is to convey the Italian opera singer and former mistress to Napoleon Madam Grancini to France in a very secret mission, that only himself, Wellington and Adams secretary Lucian knows about.
Lucian Mercier is undercover, acting as Lord Adam Bateman’s secretary to gain information, but Lucian isn’t just acting as a secretary he is a she. Lucy Mercier’s father went missing at the same time as Robert Bateman, Lucy has always thought that the old Duke may have had something to do with it as her father was stuck in between the Duke and his enemy. The only way she can find the proof she needs is to infiltrate the Bateman household and look through the old Duke’s papers and the only way a woman is going to be able to do that; is dress as a man and pretend to be a secretary.
What should have been an easy get in the old Dukes office and look through his files and journals plan, turns into something else. She finds herself in the middle of something else, something darker and more dangerous than she could have ever expected. As she realises that Adam isn’t just the handsome as sin, rake that she had always though him to be but he is a secret agent for Wellington and now with association with Adam she is in the middle of a deadly game of cat and mouse.
“When I look at you, I wonder at the ease with which you received me.”
“I daresay you did not penetrate my disguise because you did not expect me to be anything other than a simple secretary”
“ if I am sure of anything , my live, it is that you were never a simple secretary…. ”
Lucy is a resilient and stubborn woman who knows her own mind, once she has got an idea in her head she doesn’t let up. She is like a dog with a bone. Her father has raised her not conform to what woman usually must be in the regency era and I like that, she has a brain and being from working class stock she understands the ways of the world so much more than most ladies of the era and yet, I think she is quite naïve too and in certain times throughout the book you get a sense of that naivety. I still really like her though, she is just an ordinary family orientated woman who trying to do her best and find out what happened to her father.
When Adam finds out that his quiet but intelligent secretary is a woman and he is sent an innocent into the spider’s web, his protective and heroic instincts kick in and he soon makes his way over to France too. Once there he meets this, beautiful and enchanting young woman who is as far removed from the quiet secretary, he is instantly transfixed with her.
It is when he finds out who she really is that you really see what a great man Adam is, he is brutish masculinity personified with a steely intelligence. His mind works faster that a bolt of lightning, he can work out puzzles as well as fight with his hidden sabre in his cane. He’s not exactly what you would come to expect from an aristocrat, he far darker at times when he is focused on finding his brother he seems so far away and that’s where Lucy’s kind heart comes into its own, she helps him far more than she could ever imagine.
They instantly connect and their fiery personas mix and entwine, they bounce off each other. As they get to know each other for who they are, as an attractive man and woman and not just lord and servant their difference in station does pray very heavily on Lucy’s mind, even though he has assured her that she is a silk merchants daughter and working class he insists that, that doesn’t matter but she knows society will think differently and it her reluctance and internal conflict that really makes him work harder to prove that this relationship can work. Amongst the danger and the passion and the pent-up conflicts will our hero and heroine finally give in to what they both want? And more importantly will they find their loved ones?
“One thing you need to understand about me, my lord,” she answered sweetly, “ is that I do not take kindly to being arbitrarily forbidden to so support and protect my family.”
He felt his lips twitch “ Not even when it’s for your own safety?”
She smiled, a teasing bewitching twinkle of mischief. “Most assuredly not, then!” she answered at once.
Her expression Dared him to gainsay her masquerade. What sort of baggage had he fallen for?
I do love this it is very different to the other’s in the series but I like King’s writing, she has a flare with words and a voice that echo’s the great Bronte sister’s. There is just so much to like about The Missing Duke, the plot ties seamlessly in with the rest of the series and as ever you get to see some of the past heroes like the cunningly intelligent, master spy Joanna Devlin from the prequel Novella. The characters are strong and well-constructed that you instantly like them, as ever with Historical Romances what I always look forward to is the detailing and the history and I can say that King’s got all aspect’s spot on.
A real winner and a great episode in this series that keeps getting better and better and I whole heartedly recommend it, what I like about The Heart of the Hero series is that each book can be read very as a standalone. For those that haven’t read this series, yet you can start anywhere in the series, and I really like that.
This was an ARC via the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Missing Duke can be found at Amazon.