About the Book:
Title: The Return of the Duke
Author: Lorraine Heath
Series: Once Upon a Dukedom #3
Page Length: 304
Publication Date: July 26, 2022
Publisher: Avon Books
Synopsis: In the thrilling third book in New York Times bestselling author Lorraine Heath’s Once Upon a Dukedom series, the dashing son of a disgraced duke teams up with a sultry beauty to thwart an assassination plot against Queen Victoria.
When his father, the Duke of Wolfford, is hanged for an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria, Marcus Stanwick is stripped of everything. Vowing to return honor to his family, he seeks to expose the others involved in the treasonous plot and bring them to justice. His search forces him to turn to a woman he despises for her unforgiveable betrayal–a woman known as the heartless harlot.
Harboring secrets, Esme Lancaster has her own reasons for wanting to discover who’s behind the conspiracy that’s still afoot. She doesn’t trust Marcus but can’t deny the handsome devil makes her wonder if she does indeed possess a heart, one he could very easily steal.
As their hunt for the truth leads them into danger, Marcus finds Esme isn’t cold and calculating as he’d assumed but fire and brimstone, with courage and determination to match his own. Soon, they’re unable to deny their growing desire for each other. But giving into temptation comes at a cost, and they must decide if love is worth the risk of losing their one chance for redemption.
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In The Return of the Duke, the third and final book in the Once Upon a Dukedom series, Marcus Stanwick searches for the accomplices to his father’s treason. Marcus confronts Esme Lancaster, who he and the rest of society believes was his father’s mistress. However, Esme has many secrets as well as her own reasons for wanting to learn more about the people trying to overthrow the throne. As the pair work together to uncover this treasonous plot, Marcus realizes Esme isn’t the woman he thought she was. Can the pair resist their ever-growing feelings for each other? And will they solve the mystery before it’s too late?
This is a great conclusion to the trilogy! Marcus is such a dynamically developed character, and I like how much he grows over the course of the story. At the start, he is a broken man who is singular in his goal to restore his family’s name and reputation. Destroyed over his father’s treason and the subsequent loss of everything in his life from his home to his titles and friends, Marcus lives a solitary life and has pushed away the family he has left. He changes so much throughout the book, and a lot of it can be attributed to his relationship with Esme. Esme is fantastic! Bold, independent, strong, and as determined as Marcus, she is nothing like Marcus expected. She doesn’t need a man to protect her, and she proves that she is more than capable of handling herself and protecting others. He also learns that her relationship with his father was not what he thought.
The enemies-to-lovers relationship between Marcus and Esme is amazing! They have such great chemistry, and I adored their banter. There’s a lot of mistrust between the two initially, but they are so drawn to each other. Something I really like about their relationship is how they treat each other as equals. Never does Marcus treat Esme differently because she is a woman. He respects and admires her strength and intelligence as much as she respects him. I also like how they slowly open up and begin to trust each other. Both have difficult pasts, and neither lets anyone get too close, so when they show vulnerability, it’s really special. Plus, they have the best sparring matches!
The mystery of the assassination plot is so intriguing, and the author integrates some really interesting espionage equipment that was considered cutting edge at the time. I thought it was fascinating and added a lot to the authenticity of the time period. The plot is full of twists and surprises, and Esme and Marcus find themselves in danger too many times to count. It makes for a fast-paced and captivating story.
Though it’s the third book in the series, it could be read as a standalone. Though, if you did read the first two books, you’ll be pleased to know that the major characters from those have secondary roles in this one. Also, like the first two books, the epilogue takes place some time after the conclusion of the book, so you get to see how the couple’s life has progressed. I love that!
Special thanks to Avon Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.
- The romance.
- The intrigue.
We have to travel our own path rather than the one our fathers tread.
Your safety is better secured when you suspect everyone of being against you.
She stole his breath, and he feared she’d pocket it and never give it back.