Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Greycourt, #1
Hero: Christopher Renshaw, the Duke of Harlowe
Heroine: Freya Stewart de Moray
Date of Publication: December 18, 2018
Started On: December 20, 2018
Finished On: December 26, 2018
Not the Duke’s Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt is her debut novel in the Greycourt series. Having expected great things out of this series after Hoyt was done writing Maiden Lane (one of my favorite historical romance series ever), it would be an understatement to say that I was excited to pick this number up.
Not the Duke’s Darling takes place in 1760 in London, England. The heroine, Freya Stewart de Moray is 27 years old, and working as an agent of the ancient secret society of Wise Women. She is on a mission when she crosses paths with the one man she has told herself she would never forgive, i.e. Christopher Renshaw, the Duke of Harlowe.
For Freya, even though Christopher is the man whom she had built her childhood fantasies of love around, life had taught her the bitter lesson of what happens when you build castles in the air. Christopher had been the man who had nearly gotten her brother (his best friend) Ran killed, and turned his back on the family when scandal had come raining down on them.
When Freya crosses paths with Christopher, he surprises her by helping her out, without even stopping to ask what it is she is running from. Even though this very fact is jarring for Freya who has nothing but hatred in her heart for Christopher, it does not stop her from planning to exact her revenge when the opportunity to do so lands in her lap.
Christopher is a man biding his time until his time on Earth is up and his life is taken from him. That is basically his very existence until a mysterious woman lands in his carriage, fleeing from suspicious circumstances, bringing a vitality into his life that had been missing for so long.
In the meantime, Freya is being hunted, for her part in the secret society she belongs to. Even that does not deter the woman she is, as she is determined to uncover what could potentially end up risking everyone she is associated with. Plus, the more time that she spends with Christopher, she realizes that she is as vulnerable towards him as she had been when she was a young girl mooning over her first childhood crush. No matter how hard Freya tries to tell herself that she remains unaffected, she knows deep in her heart that Christopher is slowly getting under her skin and into her heart.
While there were elements in the story that worked for me, for the most part, I found the whole story tiresome. I wanted that magic that is strongly present in every single book of Elizabeth Hoyt’s that I have immensely enjoyed. A very few of her titles have been “misses” for me, and I am sad to say that this one belongs in that particular shelf.
There was something elemental that was missing between the hero and the heroine, a connection from which I wanted so much more. I wanted the hero to make an equal impression on me as the heroine did, who was all about her revenge and nursing the grudge from a scandal that had marked her life in a big way.
Freya’s passion for her role as one of the Wise Women was something that perhaps was characterized so broadly to make her stand out, to show the strength of her character. Yes, it does paint Freya in that light, but I wanted to see a softer side to her character, the side that yields to the passion that Christopher unleashes in her.
Perhaps it is because this is the debut novel in the series, but I wished for resolutions and explanations on what had taken place when it comes to the scandal that is such an integral part of Freya’s character. Even though I know that an author would never reveal the full details of a scandal that is to be interwoven throughout a series, I wanted some answers to questions that would have been plaguing me once things started picking up in the story.
When the story began, Christopher made a good impression, made my heart flutter and all that. But all of that headed downhill when it began to feel as if there was no particular aim to his life, no drive to him, except when it came to Freya. Just like I want the heroine to have a life and passion outside of the hero, I want the hero to be driven and capable in his own element as well.
I also wanted more excitement in the suspense plot line in the story. I actually thought that the villain would turn out to be someone rather shocking, but sadly that was not the case. The plot involving the “villain” whose wife had “died” – that was pretty much anticlimactic too.
Given all that turned out to be a disappointment in the story, I am still happy to note that there were several intriguing secondary characters who seem like they would deliver stories worth my while. The one thing that made me glad about the story was the ending; the fact that Freya made the grand gesture and went after Christopher towards the end.
Recommended for fans of Elizabeth Hoyt. Here is hoping that the second installment wows me in all the ways that matter!
Final Verdict: The debut to the Greycourt series hopefully signals better stories in the making. This number paled in comparison to what I expected from Hoyt’s mastery over the genre.
His eyes began to narrow, but she rose on tiptoe, wrapped her hand around his fingers, and jerked him toward her in a single movement.
She ground her mouth against his.
His lips tasted of betrayal and wine. Night and childhood memory.
Love and loss.
The emotion he aroused in her was so profound she almost lost herself in the embrace.
She opened her mouth, licking across his bottom lip until his own tongue came out to tangle with hers.
Then she bit him.
She lunged again, past his guard, the tip of her sword at his throat. He felt the needle prick of pain.
She stood, panting, her hair wild about her shoulders. Her red hair—not dusty brown at all. Red, fiery curls, waving in the breeze as if they had a life of their own, and he saw her as if for the first time.
“Yield,” she demanded, an avenging fury.
His world tipped upside down. “Freya?”
Her eyes widened.
He knocked her sword tip away from his throat. Caught her wrist and twisted.
She yelped and dropped her sword.
Her lips parted—most likely to curse him.
He didn’t care anymore. He yanked her into his arms and kissed her.
She was a lioness—fierce and brave.
She took hold of his shoulders and pulled him toward her. “Now. Please, now.”
He lowered his hips, his cock skidding across her thigh. He nudged between her legs, making her widen them still farther, and his penis caught at her entrance.
She looked at him, memorizing his features in this moment. Feeling wild with expectation and triumph.
He speared her.
There was a burning pain, but she made no sound, and he retreated and drove into her again.
She fell. Sparking, bursting, filled to overflowing with pleasure.
For this man.
She opened wide her eyes and watched him fall, too.
He turned into a small passage, less well lit than the one his own rooms were in, and tapped softly at the last door.
Freya peeked through the crack in the door and then opened it wide, letting him in.
She was wearing only her chemise.
His vow to himself to guard her without touching her fled.
Her breasts were unbound, round and full, the indentation of her waist a curve to incite a man to violence.
He stared at her, his higher reasoning having conceded rule of his brain to his prick. He wanted to touch. To hold.
She was a goddess.
She stood still, watching him, her eyes mysterious and knowing.
She took off the chemise and threw it aside.
Freya stood before him proudly, like a Rembrandt nude come to life. Pink and white and red orange. And her flaming hair fell about her shoulders, wild and curling and free.
She rose up on her knees. Placed her hands against his chest and rubbed harder.
His penis slipped to the side and she whimpered at the loss.
“Here, darling,” he said, his voice rough. “Just…”
She felt his hand between her legs, the backs of his fingers brushing against her wet folds, and then something thicker.
He’d placed the head of his cock at her entrance.
His fingers had gone lax as he was suddenly seated, and she looked at him with a whimper. “Please. Please touch me.”
His nostrils flared. “Like this?” His voice was both rough and so very tender as he pinched her nipples—hard.
She arched at the pleasure mixed with pain. “Again.”
He smiled dangerously and squeezed her nipples.
She leaned forward on a moan.
“Hush,” he growled.
He pushed his hand between them and tore his falls open, uncaring at the sound of ripping fabric. His cock throbbed with pent fury and he trailed his fingers down her soft belly, rejoicing when he reached her curls and found them soaked with her desire.
He lifted his hips even as she whimpered in protest and tried to pull his shoulders back down.
His cock slid against her thigh, the touch almost enough to undo him, then prodded at her opening.