Zachary Black: Duke of Debauchery (Harlequin HistoricalDangerous Dukes) - Carole Mortimer

Series: Dangerous Dukes (Book 1)

LONDON'S MOST DISSOLUTE BACHELOR

 

No one knows how to sin quite like Zachary Black, Duke of Hawksmere. So when he finds a mysterious veiled woman hiding in his carriage, there's only one thing to do…carry her to his bedchamber and find out what she wants!

 

But coming face-to-face with beautiful Lady Georgianna Lancaster -- his former fiancée -- unnerves Zachary. Maybe the best way to restore his equilibrium is to hold her captive…and turn the secrets of the past into the sins of the present!

 

As an agent for the Crown, Zachary is accustomed to dealing with mysterious events, but having a veiled woman show up in his carriage was unusual. She claims to have information about Napoleon that she wants to pass on. He is suspicious, since his involvement is not common knowledge, so he takes the woman to his home to question her. There he discovers that she is none other than Georgianna, the woman he had been briefly engaged to before she ran off with a man who turned out to be a French spy. This makes him reluctant to believe anything she says.

 

Georgianna has so many regrets she wouldn't know where to start listing them. She had believed herself in love with her brother's French tutor, and when her father promised her to a man she'd never met, gladly eloped with the one she thought she loved. Once in France, he admitted that he only used her to get out of England, then shot her and left her for dead. It took her months to be able to get back to England, to face the man she had wronged.

 

Zachary and Georgianna's relationship starts out in a rocky manner. Neither one actually knows anything about the other. Last year Zachary had made an offer of marriage after only seeing Georgianna at a ball. He needed a wife to keep his inheritance, and something about her appealed. He didn't think about whether she'd be given a choice, or whether she would want to be married to him. Georgianna had only been aware of Zachary by his reputation as a cold and arrogant man. She didn't want to be stuck in a loveless marriage with him. When she returned, all he could see was this woman who had been with a known French spy, who is claiming to have vital information. In spite of believing that she is likely a spy herself, Zachary is still attracted to her, and in reaction finds himself treating her far more cruelly that he normally would. Georgianna has changed a lot due to everything she's been through. All she wants is to pass on her information and disappear, believing that she has been shamed in society's eyes. She finds she is drawn to Zachary, but his treatment of her makes her angry.

 

It was interesting seeing the relationship develop between Zachary and Georgianna. Though he starts out mistrusting her, he can't deny that he is impressed by the strength of will he sees in her. As he learns more of what she's been through, those feelings only grow, as does his attraction to her. I liked the way he began to see the mistakes he had made a year ago and wish that he had done things differently. He also appeared to have more kindness in his personality than was evident at the beginning of the book. That kindness worked against him as his feelings grew and he believed that she could never forgive him enough to give him another chance. Georgianna's attraction to him confuses her. She can't understand how she can be attracted to a man who has treated her so badly. Once they move past their initial meeting and she gets past her anger, she begins to look at him differently. She sees the man who has worked for his country and put himself in danger. She sees the one who protected her reputation and has helped her brother. And the one who makes her heart beat faster, but who she thinks will never see past what she did to the woman who has come to love him.

 

I really enjoyed the ending, and seeing how both had to get past their pride and fear of rejection before they could reach the future they were meant to have. Their declarations to each other were sweet and very emotional.