I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Duke (Victorian Rebels, #4) by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Victorian Rebels #4
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on February 7th 2017
“Life, with all its perils and torments, still belongs to the living. We have a responsibility to live it. You should not waste it by giving over to bleak despair.”
FINAL DECISION: Once again a wonderful exploration of the darkness that lies in men’s souls and the possibility of love and hope to heal. A battle between two strong characters make this a worthy addition to the Victorian Rebels series.
THE STORY: Three years ago, the life of Collin “Cole” Talmage, Duke of Talmage, seemed charmed until his family was killed and he ended up betrayed by one he trusted and imprisoned for a year in a Ottoman cell. What kept him sane during that year was his memory of his encounter with “Ginny” a sweet prostitute with whom he spent his last night in England. When he is returned to England, emaciated, recovering from torture, and missing hand, he almost dies until an impertinent nurse Imogen Pritchard risks her position to get him the treatment he needed. Now two years later, Cole has learned to live with his missing hand but his spirits reside in darkness. He has been searching unsuccessfully for Ginny. He has also been watching the widow next door, Lady Anstruther, who managed to convince an elderly man to marry her with him dying soon after. Ironically, Lady Anstruther is the nurse who saved his life. What Cole doesn’t know is that Imogen is also the “Ginny” for whom he has been searching.
OPINION: Another fabulous entry in the amazing Victorian Rebels series, Byrne continues her exploration of the darkness in the human soul and how that darkness can be softened with the power of love and hope.
“I’ve spent so long searching for her, and yet I fear that I’d pass her in the street and not recognize her.”
As the book opens, Cole has just begun to take the hits to his golden boy status. He inherits the title because of the death of his family. When he meets and beds Ginny, he doesn’t recognize her as the frightened and desperate woman she is, but he does find something peaceful and comforting with her. Enough such that a year of torture and hellish conditions made her his touchstone. He has never forgotten her and is determined to find and rescue her. Perhaps because the memory of Ginny was what helped Cole keep his sanity. The year in prison changed Cole. And he is still suffering from the emotional after effects of his horrendous experiences.
“He didn’t need the help of the devil. Case in point, these fits of wrath and unreasonable terror that made Cole want to do unspeakable things. These moments when what he feared the very most was himself…He was barely keeping himself together. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt peace or pity. No, that wasn’t true. He could remember. It has been precisely three years ago. With Ginny.”
Although people see the physical results of Cole’s time as a prisoner, it is the emotional damage that is the most significant. He has been keeping himself together by way of “regulation, convention, and order.” It is ironically Imogen who threatens to break Cole’s will. She challenges him by shaking his control. Cole first attacks her because he believes her a villain for marrying a sick and elderly man. She is a woman who should not be living next door to him at all. She seems to be flaunting the very rules that Cole wants to rely upon. While she shakes his control, she also is giving him purpose and a sense of hope even as they argue and engage in combat.
“But the countess Anstruther met his dark look with a mulish one of her own. God, it had been a long time since he’d felt so frustrated, so infuriated. It was…rather glorious.”
I loved Cole. He is a good man who was drawn far into the darkness. He has struggled to survive and doesn’t know how to begin to live again. Although he has relied upon order to control his anger and pain, he really is an unconventional soul who responds to Imogen’s own unconventional nature. What he really needs is for Imogen to gather him into her arms and comfort him…he just doesn’t know it.
I usually love the heroes most in a romance, but in this book, I think Imogen was my favorite character. She begins the story by allowing herself to be a victim, but gains strength and purpose as the events of her life spiral out of control. By the time she and Cole meet again, Imogen has found a purpose in her life. She is determined to do all she can to help those who need a hand up — especially vulnerable women and children. Acutely recognizing her own savior in her deceased husband, she will use everything she gained as a result of her marriage to help others. But, that comes with a cost. She must keep secret from Cole her beginnings as Ginny because she fears that the revelation of her secret will destroy all her good works. Because she must keep her secrets, there is no chance for her and Cole to have a relationship, no matter how much she wants one.
Imogen has managed to keep hold of her hope and lightness despite the pain and travails of her life. It is her kindness and gentleness that calls to the pain in Cole and it is his pain that calls to her to comfort him. From their first meeting, she feels his pain (which only increases due to his capture and torture). Her spirit is called to him to heal and protect. But I also loved that Imogen is no pushover. She is determined to do her charity work (even if it costs her Cole). She is stubborn and artistic and fierce. She will do what she must to protect those she loves.
“if she believed in everything, it was that everyone deserved a second chance.”
The journey that Cole and Imogen take involves chance. The chance to reveal their true damaged selves to one another. The chance to move from darkness into light and hope. These two need three chances to actually find their happy ending, but by the time it comes, the two have earned their peace and happiness.
This was a beautiful romance and a great addition to a series that I have loved. I was also gratified to see all the couples from the previous books make appearances here. There is a real community of people developing and I hope that this trend continues in future books.
WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of Inspector Morley, there are indications that his story is turning in new directions.
CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DUKE is the fourth book in the Victorian Rebels series. This romance is self contained although there are overlapping characters.
STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.