Title: Not the Duke’s Dalring
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Series: Greycourt (Book 1)
Page Length: 496
Synopsis: Freya de Moray is many things: a member of the secret order of Wise Women, the daughter of disgraced nobility, and a chaperone living under an assumed name. What she is not is forgiving. So when the Duke of Harlowe, the man who destroyed her brother and led to the downfall of her family, appears at the country house party she’s attending, she does what any Wise Woman would do: she starts planning her revenge.
Christopher Renshaw, the Duke of Harlowe, is being blackmailed. Intent on keeping his secrets safe, he agrees to attend a house party where he will put an end to this coercion once and for all. Until he recognizes Freya, masquerading amongst the party revelers, and realizes his troubles have just begun. Freya knows all about his sins—sins he’d much rather forget. But she’s also fiery, bold, and sensuous—a temptation he can’t resist. When it becomes clear Freya is in grave danger, he’ll risk everything to keep her safe. But first, Harlowe will have to earn Freya’s trust-by whatever means necessary.
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Freya and Christopher knew each other as children but haven’t seen each other in fifteen years. Because of the events that unfolded so long ago, Freya struggles to see Christopher as anything but the enemy. Christopher regrets the horrific night at Greycourt and lives his life trying to atone for his mistakes. When he reconnects with Freya, he becomes enamored with her fiery spirit. Can they let go of the wounds from their past and give in to their feelings for each other?
I love the characters in this story, especially Freya and Christopher, the two main characters! Freya is a fantastic protagonist with a strong will and fierce determination to help women. I love her gumption and her rejection of the social expectations of the time. She is a woman ahead of her time, and she is not afraid to use her skills to help others. She is also difficult to know, as she is evasive and unassuming. She doesn’t open up to others, though she is generous of spirit. Freya does not need a man and does quite well without one. However, she slowly comes to realize that need and want are two entirely different things.
Christopher is positively swoon-worthy! He admires Freya and likes her strength and intellect. Christopher loves that Freya challenges him and doesn’t hold back. He is an honorable man who has suffered greatly throughout his life, and his past still haunts him. Christopher is the consummate tortured hero who is saved by the fierce woman that he loves.
He’d been reconciled to his life. Reconciled to being alone and without a family. Reconciled to never feeling completely at ease. And then Freya had burst into his life, set fire to his apathy, and burned everything he thought he knew down around him. He wanted. Home. Family. Familiarity. Freya.
Speaking of love, the chemistry between Christopher and Freya is fantastic. Freya had a childhood crush on Christopher, and it is clear that some feelings remain. Freya hides her feelings under a mask of indifference and disdain, but Christopher isn’t daunted by the walls Freya puts up. I think her passivity and disregard intrigues Christopher even more. He likes Freya for who she really is, not who she pretends to be.
The intrigue is as compelling as the characters. Freya tries to end a new law that will make persecuting women easier. While serving as a chaperone for two young women, Freya also determines to find out what happened to a woman that mysteriously died. Christopher is involved in a blackmail plot, which threatens his dead wife’s reputation. There are also mysteries surrounding the past, which connects to several other characters in the story. I enjoyed the well-layered plot and the suspenseful nature of the novel.
Not the Duke’s Darling has a complex plot with a secret society, political threats, matchmaking, arranged marriages, long-lost friendships, murder plots, PTSD, the persecution of “witches,” a love story, and more. I do wish the author went into a bit more detail about the Wise Women, the secret society for which Freya works. I also wanted to know more about the Greycourt incident, which irrevocably changed the lives of Freya, Christopher, and their families forever. However, I have a feeling these things will be explored in future books in the series. Thanks so much to Netgalley, Forever, and the author for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
- The romance, of course! Freya and Christopher have fantastic chemistry, and I loved their enemies-to-lovers relationship.
- The intrigue. There is so much mystery and suspense throughout the story.
- The characters are dynamically developed and interesting.
Family. Friendship. Home.
She wasn’t an easy woman, but she made him feel alive. More, she made him want to live.
To me, I’m not just a nobody. I am myself and I am important. In my eyes, I am a lioness beside a lion. And as such I am free to accept or reject a gentleman for any reason, including the fact that he has proposed purely for society’s sake.
This is a great book for readers who like historical romance with fierce female protagonists and swoon-worthy heroes.