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Gaelen Foley is an American who lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and dog and is a New York Times bestseller. She writes in the Regency England period although not all of her books are set in England. Her first book, The Pirate Prince (part of the Ascension Trilogy), was released in 1998.
The Duke is the first book in this series and it all starts with Robert Knight, the eldest of the siblings. Recently, the woman who he thought was the love of his life, Lucy, died and he is determined that it wasn't an accident. He wants revenge. Robert is quick to suspect Dolph, the heir of Lucy's husband and he thinks that he motive was jealousy. The only way he is going to find out the truth is to get help from someone he cares about.
After Dolph had her father put in jail, Belinda Hamilton has had a pretty hard life. With her father's fee at £3000, she has to do something to help him be free. Belinda ends up selling oranges in the street just to make enough money to live but after a run in with the warden of the prison, she realises that it will take her too long to raise the funds so she goes to Harriette, a courtesan. Harriette shows her the ropes and while her friends take numerous protectors in order to make their fortune, Belinda swears that she will only ever have one, the one that will really take care of her. Known as La Belle Hamilton, Belinda has most of the men of the ton talking and they all want to get to know her better.
One night at a party, Robert goes to see what all the fuss is about, knowing that Dolph is really into her. He challenges her to a game of cards and if she wins, she gets his ring but if he wins, he gets a kiss. When Belinda loses and pays up, she instantly knows that this is the man who she wants as her protector. Being completely honest with Belinda, Robert makes a deal with her and tells her the story about Lucy, thinking that he will never love anyone as much as her but with Belinda living under his roof, things start to get complicated.
As I've said before, this wasn't the book in this series that I started with but it is my third favourite. Of course there is normally conflict is a novel of this genre but I thought this one was a little different. Usually the conflict overpowers the romance of the story but this one seemed to lie in the distance most of the time. While the beginning started off strongly, telling us most of what we needed to know about Robert's reasons for going to Belinda, it then goes off to follow how Robert and Belinda fall in love. (This isn't really a spoiler, anyone who reads this genre will know this always happens)
Both main characters were strong and complex and I wanted to know more about them both. Poor Belinda has a pretty hard time as the result of something which wasn't her fault. On the surface, she comes across as confident but underneath she is extremely vulnerable although she tries her hardest to cover this up. I couldn't help but admire the things that she did so that she could help her father and because of this I loved her.
Robert has quite a few conflicts of his own throughout the story. To start with, he has Lucy's death on his mind and he needs to know what happened to her but also, once he and Belinda gets closer, he doesn't really know how to deal with his feelings for her. He tries to be strong at all times but Belinda slowly breaks down the walls in his heart and he doesn't know what to do about it. He keeps trying to tell himself that he can never love anyone as much as he did Lucy but he seems to not be able to control himself. Swearing to protect Belinda, due to their deal, he finds himself adding more meaning to it than he wants. I really enjoyed Robert's personality and the way that he treat Belinda. Although he didn't instantly do the right thing by her, he did try to explain his reasons for doing certain things. At the end of the book, Robert becomes a real hero (I wont ruin the surprise) and if it had been a movie, I would have applauded.
There is quite a lot going on in the story from beginning to end and it kept me hooked all the way through. I loved that we get to hear a bit more about the courtesans although I would have liked this to be included a little more because it was so interesting. Memoirs of a Geisha showed a lot about the rituals and services that they performed and I would have liked to have learned a little more about what happened at their parties, apart from the obvious sex parts.
We are also introduced to Jacinda and Alec, two of Roberts siblings and although they aren't in it that much, they did make for a good chance of pace at times. Like Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series, I like the way that the other siblings are written into each others stories because it makes them blend together very well.
Overall, this is a great start to the series and I kind of wish I'd read them in order now. Highly recommended.
Knight Miscellany books
1. The Duke
2. Lord of Fire
3. Lord of Ice
4. Lady of Desire
5. Devil Takes a Bride
6. One Night of Sin
7. His Wicked Kiss
Driven to uncover the truth about the mysterious death of the woman he loved, the Duke of Hawkscliffe will go to any lengths to unmask a murderer. Even if it means jeopardising his reputation by engaging in a scandalous affair with London's most provocative courtesan - the desirable but aloof Belinda Hamilton. Bel has used her intelligence and wit to charm the city's titled gentlemen while struggling to put the pieces of her life back together. She needs a protector, so she accepts Hawkcliffe's invitation to become his mistress in name only. He asks nothing of her body, but seeks her help in snaring the same man who shattered her virtue. Together they tempt the unforgiving wrath of Society - until their risky charade turns into a dangerous attraction, and Bel must make a devastating decision that could ruin her last chance at love.