Forbidden to Love the Duke - Jillian Hunter

Series: Fenwick Sisters Affairs (Book 1)

Lady Ivy Fenwick is desperate. Since her father's fatal duel, she and her sisters have sold off every valuable possession to make ends meet. With the manor stripped bare, Ivy has one last resort: Apply as governess to the Duke of Ellsworth's wards.

 

James should have known better than to hire the desirable lady who had fallen on hard times--and who tempts him at every turn. As her employer, he tries valiantly to remain noble and not let a kiss they shared as strangers years ago entice him. Yet the more he learns of Ivy's secrets, the more he wants her. And when another suitor proves aggressive, James is confronted with a challenge: Surrender Ivy or fight for the woman he's come to love against all odds, knowing that it takes a scoundrel to trump a scoundrel.

 

Good book. James and Ivy had met briefly five years earlier at the first ball she attended. James was a soldier, headed off to war the next day. They shared a kiss that neither has ever forgotten. Life intervened and they hadn't seen each other since.

 

Now, Ivy and her sisters live in seclusion at Fenwick Manor. The night of the ball her father was accused of cheating at cards and was killed in a duel. Since then, Ivy and her sisters have been scrimping and saving to pay off his debts. They have finally succeeded in that, but if they are going to keep their home they need some income. Ivy decides that she will find a position as a governess.

 

James recently returned from the war with a career ending injury. After his father's death it's up to him to fulfill his ducal duties. He's not quite ready to marry and have kids, so he decides to invite a potential mistress to his home and live  it up for a few weeks first. On his way to his estate, he passes Fenwick and decides he wants to buy it, whether the owner wants to sell or not. His encounter in the garden is pretty amusing. When he arrives at his home, he discovers his niece and nephew in residence. His brother is still at war and the children's mother has run off with her lover. He doesn't want to change his plans with his mistress, so he decides to hire a governess. His first interview is with Ivy who he recognizes and decides to hire. 

 

The attraction is still there, but they initially plan to ignore it, even though a shared kiss is inflammatory. Ivy needs the money and James still wants his time to play. But resistance is futile and James soon decides that Ivy would be the perfect wife for him. He just needs to woo her to his way of thinking. The chemistry between them is hot, and they discover that they can't keep their hands off each other. Another man shows up, wanting to court Ivy, which gives James more motivation to claim Ivy as quickly as he can.

 

The other man, Oliver, actually has more on his mind than winning Ivy. She is just the means to an end. He has heard that there is a treasure hidden at Fenwick and he wants it. Though he is pursuing Ivy, he also wonders if he'd do better to go after one of the other sisters instead. Though his reasons for being there aren't the best, he does have some redeeming qualities. There's also a surprise connection to the prospective mistress. In the end, Oliver ends up on the right side of the issues. I have a feeling he'll be playing a larger role in a future book.

 

I liked seeing the relationship develop between Ivy and James, though I sometimes felt that he was relying too much on the physical to win her. I enjoyed his protectiveness as the strange happenings at Fenwick Manor became more dangerous. I also liked the way Ivy took care of James when his war injury flared up. The epilogue was great and shows good promise for their future.

 

The mystery of the Fenwick treasure ran throughout the book. Oliver certainly created some real problems for them with his pursuit of it. I didn't feel like there was a real resolution with it, so I expect that it will show up again in later books.