Duke Most Wanted (Heiress Brides, #3) by Celeste Bradley
Series: The Heiress Brides #3
Also in this series: Desperately Seeking A Duke, The Duke Next Door (Heiress Brides, #2), Duke Most Wanted (Heiress Brides, #3)
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Publication Date: April 29, 2008
Genres: Historical Romance
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Sophie Blake’s grandfather willed his fortune to the first of his granddaughters to marry a duke. Since her cousin, Deirdre, will seal the deal any day now, the quiet, bookish Sophie can sit back and enjoy her time with the only man she truly adores: Graham. No matter that the part charmer, part scoundrel has absolutely no designs on her! Sophie is content to engage Graham in lively conversation, beat him at cards. . .and probe at the darkness hiding behind his rakish smile.
Then Graham unexpectedly gains a title, an estate in near ruins and a mountain of debt. If there is any chance of survival he must find a rich wife—quickly. As his hunt for a bride begins, Sophie realizes that she isn’t even in the running. Suddenly no longer content to be a wallflower, Sophie gets a stunning make-over and becomes the belle of the ball. Lots of heads are turning…including Graham’s. But this beauty has secrets of her own. Will she be his salvation or seal his fate?
I was browsing my library for an audiobook to listen to on my commute and came across Duke Most Wanted. If I’ve read Bradley before, I don’t remember it. It’s the third in the series, but I don’t feel like I missed anything by skipping the first two. I really enjoyed this book. It was a lot of fun. It even had a plot twist at the end I didn’t see coming, something that rarely happens with me.
Sophie Blake’s grandfather secretly willed his entire fortune to the first of his granddaughter’s to marry a duke. Unlike her cousins, Phoebe and Deirdre, Sophie isn’t interested in finding a Duke, or really any husband at all. First, she’s too plain to ever catch the notice of one. Second, she’s hiding a pretty big secret. Third, she doesn’t want to be married. She’s just enjoying her first taste of freedom. And if she happens to have a slight..infatuation…with the youngest son of a Duke? Well, no one has to know. It’s not like he’d be interested in her, anyway. When one of the most sought after designers in London decides to take her under his wing and transform her, she decides maybe it’s time to do something for herself. It would be too much to hope Graham would notice her, but maybe she could find herself a husband after all.
Graham is doing his best to live up to his responsibility as the youngest son….he drinks, he carouses, he….enjoys spending time with a wallflower. He doesn’t let that one get out, but when his father and three older brothers are killed and he suddenly inherits the title, along with a mountain of debt, Sophie is the only one he wants to tell. Too bad he has to find a rich bride instead of indulging his sudden feelings toward Sophie.
This was such an unexpected gem. I was in the mood for something light and fun, and this hit the spot. I really enjoyed the banter and chemistry between Graham and Sophie. I also liked how blunt and unconventional she was, even through all her shyness with men (except Graham, who put her at ease when they first met by telling her he’d never marry her. While it may sound harsh, it actually relieved her mind so much she was able to relax with him and be herself). I also really enjoyed Graham’s growth over the course of the novel. He’s content to be a philanderer and a rake, until he realizes all the responsibility for their tenants now rests on his shoulders. That isn’t to say he immediately transformed into a paragon of society, but I felt his struggle to do the right thing was very real. Because I felt they had a pretty solid friendship before his father dies, I felt their separation was kind of contrived. It wasn’t really necessary for Sophie to become “someone else” in order to catch is attention (she didn’t do it for that reason, nor did he “notice” her simply because she wore different gowns, but even so, it felt like there was no point in it).
Toward the end there’s a revelation I saw coming, but the way it was related pulled me out of the story. It just seemed to land on the page out of nowhere. I thought I had the entire thing figured out, but there ended up being a major plot twist I didn’t see coming.View Spoiler »Sophie reveals she isn’t truly Sophie, but instead she’s Sadie, a servant in the household. Turns out the real Sophie died some time ago, though no one was told. When the letter arrives inviting Sophie to London for the season, Sadie steals the money and arrives in London to take her place. That part wasn’t a surprised. It’s sort of hinted and I had a feeling that was the direction the story was heading. I figured Sadie was really going to be Sophie, however, and she was treated like a servant because her mother is awful. That didn’t end up being the case. « Hide Spoiler
While parts of the story were problematic for me (namely Sophie’s transformation, the secondary plot featuring the bumbling idiot who manages the trust, the lack of comeuppance for Tessa the evil chaperone, etc), I can’t deny the story was engaging and fun. I really enjoyed Sophie and Graham.
4 out of 5