Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical romance
Series: Wildes of Lindow Castle #4
Published by Avon on June 25, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org
One little wager will determine their fate—a daring escape or falling into temptation with a rakish lord.
Lady Betsy Wilde’s first season was triumphant by any measure, and a duke has proposed—but before marriage, she longs for one last adventure.
No gentleman would agree to her scandalous plan—but Lord Jeremy Roden is no gentleman. He offers a wager. If she wins a billiards game, he’ll provide the breeches.
If he wins…she is his, for one wild night.
But what happens when Jeremy realizes that one night will never be enough? In the most important battle of his life, he’ll have to convince Betsy to say no to the duke.
The Wildes of Lindow Castle are all very, very wild. Or, at least the Wildes that have featured in the previous books in this marvelous series, Wilde in Love, Too Wilde to Wed and Born to be Wilde certainly have been very wild indeed. But the Wildes of the previous books have all been men.
The story in Say No to the Duke is the story of Lady Boadicea Wilde. Who would rather be called Betsy. Not just because Boadicea is rather a mouthful, but because Betsy fits much better with the persona she projects to the world. Lady Betsy gives the outward appearance – and performs all the public actions – of the perfect lady that she pretends to be.
Only one man seems to see through Betsy’s never-ending stellar performance. Jeremy Roden may seem to be in his cups nearly all the time, but his performance as a drunken wastrel is just as perfect as Betsy’s – and just as fraudulent.
Not that Jeremy doesn’t seem to drink like a fish – but he doesn’t get drunk. He wishes he could. Get drunk. Or sleep. Or do pretty much anything to keep his demons at bay. The ghosts of the men he lost during England’s vain attempt to get her rebellious North American colonies back.
It may be that it takes one to know one. Jeremy pretends to be drunk to keep his well-meaning friends away while he stews in his own regrets and remorse. Not to mention his misplaced guilt, his all-too-real fears and his PTSD.
Betsy pretends to be a lady because her mother manifestly was not. And because the “mean girls” at her boarding school spent all of their gossiping time speculating on just when her mother’s lascivious nature would manifest in her daughter.
Betsy can’t get their cutting words and nasty whispers out of her head any more than Jeremy can stop the voices of the men who followed him to their deaths. So Jeremy drinks and Betsy projects the perfect image of a perfect lady, while underneath she is torn between “winning” her debutante season by being perfectly respectable every single moment and collecting marriage proposals from all the high-ranking bachelors participating in the Marriage Mart – or being the person she really is.
Because what Betsy really wants is an adventure – just like all of her brothers. She wants the chance to go out and do the things that men do without either thought or consequence. Not anything truly scandalous – or not exactly. She’s not really looking for a romantic dalliance. What she wants is the opportunity to play pool in a club, go to an auction and bet on something – on her own. She wants a day without having to be a perfect lady every minute and watch every second of her own behavior – because men never have to.
Betsy is every bit an unconventional as every single one of the Wildes – even the ones who are adopted. And she wants one adventure of her very own before she says yes to that duke.
But just as she’s beginning to edge her way towards that “yes”, Jeremy finally realizes that he wants her to say “no” – even though that duke is a good man and one of his best friends. And that as much as Jeremy himself wants Betsy, he knows that he is much too damaged to be good for her – even if she’s perfect for him.
Escape Rating B+: There are a lot of things that I really enjoyed in Say No to the Duke, and just a couple that made me go “huh?” and kept it from being a Grade A book.
One of the great things about this one, like all of the books in the Wildes series, is the quality and quantity of the banter between the characters. All of the characters in this series are both interesting and intelligent, and they all talk to each other, about each other and frequently over each other with wit and style and verve.
Another thing that worked really well is that even though this story sounds like it might veer into the dreaded “love triangle” territory, it actually doesn’t. The heroine does have to make up her mind between the duke and the (pretend) drunkard, but there’s no “torn between two lovers” angst.
Not only is her decision-making logical, she also has the option of choosing neither. She does not have to marry either one. Unless she wants to. Or unless she thinks she ought to for some reasons that didn’t work too well for this reader.
I also liked that this one did not fall into the dreadful trope of being forced to choose between a dreadful but financially stable marriage and a happy but poor one. The Duke in question is a decent man, and will make someone an excellent husband. He’s just the wrong husband for Betsy and she’s the wrong wife for him. But there’s nothing wrong with him. Nor does he pursue once he knows his suit will not be accepted. A decent chap all the way around.
There were just those couple of niggles.
I liked Betsy as a character a whole lot more after she stopped nattering on about stamping out any hint of anything less than ladylike behavior for fear that she would be seen as just like her rather wayward mother. I understood why she kept up that veneer in public, but her inability to let herself be herself in private didn’t quite ring true – particularly with the wild reputation of the Wilde family – both male and female – to bolster her.
The other issue revolves around the villain of the piece, Jeremy’s completely vile cousin. As a character he was over-the-top and his part of the puzzle ended up feeling unresolved. When his hamfisted attempts to either get Jeremy killed or remove him from the line of succession to his father’s marquessate fail, it felt like the punishment phase was left unresolved in rather glaring fashion. And the whole farrago just didn’t feel necessary to add tension to the story or to put roadblocks in the way of Jeremy and Betsy’s relationship. They were perfectly capable of adding plenty of obstacles without outside assistance.
In the end, Betsy and Jeremy fall for each other not just because they complete each other, but because they truly understand and accept each other – as they are – warts and impulses and demons and all. And it’s lovely.
Betsy Wilde may have said “No” to the Duke, but you’ll want to say “Yes” to this book. If you love witty historical romance, you’ll be glad you did!
~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~
To celebrate the release of SAY NO TO THE DUKE by Eloisa James, we’re giving away a paperback copy of Wilde in Love by Eloisa James to one lucky winner!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of Wilde in Love by Eloisa James. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Books. Giveaway ends 6/28/2019 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Books will send the prize to the winner directly.