Title: The Duke in Denial
Author: Alexandra Ainsworth
Publisher: Sanguinity Press
Released: May 2014
Sebastian Lewis never expected to become a duke. But with the sudden deaths of his cousin and uncle, Sebastian’s position changes. He is determined to fulfil his new responsibilities with grace, even if it means remarrying, and even if the attractions of women, so often lauded by poets, fail to interest him.
Captain William Carlisle, newly returned from India, is elated when he meets Sebastian. Nobody knows of his inclinations, but his harrowing experiences in battle have prompted him to reach for the type of companionship he longs for. He thinks Sebastian might feel an attraction as well, but to his dismay, he discovers that Sebastian is courting his sister Dorothea.
After a semi-arranged engagement and a disconcerting romantic tangle with William, Sebastian escapes London to look after his manor, only to face mysterious thefts, a headless ghost, and the arrival of his fiancée, her brother, and his family. Sebastian’s new estate sits on the south coast, England’s most vulnerable location, and Napoleon has set his sights on conquering the area. Amid this growing turmoil, Sebastian must sort out his feelings for his fiancée’s brother and keep his home safe . . . and determine if he has the courage to reach for his own happiness in the process.
Video Guest Post – Alexandra Reads from Chapter 1.
The Duke in Denial? Well, denial is the keyword here at a time when being gay would mean prosecution and in the worst case it would mean being hung; then yes Sebastian is definitely in denial.
Sebastian has inherited an estate in Sussex and the title of Duke after his cousin dies in action in India. So he finds himself in London at a party arranged by his Aunt Beatrice in order to find him a wife. It is intended that he should marry the ex-fiancé of Lewis, Dorothea, in order to save her good name seeing that she was widowed before she even got married. Here Sebastian meets her brother William who also returned injured from India and the attraction at least emotionally throws Sebastian into a flat spin.
I loved how the book began and how Sebastian meets a charming stranger in the park on the way to the ball. Although his intentions are to meet and marry Dorothea, he doesn’t realize the stranger he met and was strongly attracted too happens to be his future wife’s brother. This ultimately puts Sebastian in an extremely precarious and convoluted situation. However, right from the beginning of the book you can feel that Sebastian is in true denial of his sexual orientation and sees marrying Dorothea as a means to save himself from ridicule of the ton and tries to redeem himself in his own eyes, even if this means a lifetime of unhappiness and locked into what eventually would be a loveless marriage.
“Yes, he had to get married. His mind turned to unspeakable things too frequently now. He needed to restore order, not invite speculation.”
My goodness, the fear that must of existed in those times about being gay, not only the fear of discovery but also due to this the denial of one’s true feelings. I could just feel what a tortured soul poor Sebastian is, although he likes Dorothea immensely you are left with no doubt it is obviously a platonic attraction, even if Sebastian denies it to himself it is definitely not a physical one.
“Sebastian found the whole conversation dismaying. Formerly engaged women possessed few options, and Dorothea’s and his marriage would be merely to alleviate her situation. Why did everyone assume they were in love?”
However, the hormones will have their way and his attraction to William grows to the point of no return. William has accepted his lot about being gay and therefore is a lot more comfortable within in his own skin, although having to always be on his guard about being discovered. While they are in London for the season, the burning fire of passion explodes and Sebastian leaves for his estate in Sussex unexpectedly, awaiting Dorothea to join him. This was more or less a snub to the growing feelings he has for William. William knows that and is also concerned whether Sebastian is the right man for his sister. However, it comes to light quite early that Dorothea is more concerned about rescuing her reputation and wealth than she is interested in love. Is this the proverbial love triangle? Well, not really because he hasn’t yet cheated on Dorothea in any way he has to be ashamed for, only really in his thoughts.
“From the responsiveness to the kiss last night, William thought Sebastian had rushed into his marriage, eager to prove he was something he should never have pretended to be.”
At the party in London he meets Sir Ambrose his neighbour in Sussex with the estate next to him. From the beginning of the book you know the man is a detestable character and is going to be trouble, a real snake in the grass. The first half of the book is a little slow paced as it is mainly concerned with all the politics and conventions of the times, observing etiquette, rules and social obligations. I loved the way conversations would have been conducted then, I feel Alexandra got this just right too. Always the meaning behind the words. It was never boring, but also typical for that time, as it was equally important to see how the attraction and heat level builds up between Sebastian and William until it was like a dam waiting to burst…..and oh my did it just do that!
In the second part of the book when Sebastian leaves for Sussex everything really takes off, the mystery starts and begins to unfold. Once I was drawn in hook, line and sinker, there was no putting the book down, building up to a great, breath stopping climax. Again lots of great elements for that time, headless horsemen, highwaymen, highway robbery, spies and smuggling. All connecting to provide for some real entertainment and a plot that gathers pace nicely to its final conclusion and oh boy was there a surprise or two there at the end too.
I suppose the question that I always ask when reading an historical M/M romance is how the author is going to provide an HEA, but remain realistic given the constraints of the period and its attitudes. This for me is a big key for such works. Well, I’m delighted to say that the ending is most definitely an HEA, realistic and a totally believable solution for that time. I could have hugged Aunt Beatrice myself at the end as she plays a key role in their final happiness. I love it when totally unassuming characters at the beginning of a book appear again only to pack a punch at the end. I’m sure anyone who reads this will also want to give Aunt Beatrice a huge hug. Can’t say anymore though as that would spoil the surprise!
I love my historicals and the regency period always seems to be a time period that remains an evergreen for a romance, whether M/F or now M/M! I would like to think if the Bronté sisters were alive today that possibly they would love the whole idea of an M/M regency romance. Alexandra portrays a vivid and very true story for this period and weaves into it an excellent M/M romance with all its trials and tribulations that this type of relationship would have been confronted with at that time. On an emotional level it was excruciating to read Sebastian’s internal struggle and turmoil he was fighting. Also William’s feelings of rejection and hopelessness over the whole situation. Build into this a mystery of downright skulduggery and the author is on a winner for me. A fantastic debut novel and will be looking forward to more from this author for sure.
About the Author
Alexandra Ainsworth lives on the south coast of England. An ardent Anglophile, Alexandra left her home in New England several years ago to move to the real England, spurred on by promises of good tea and green countryside. She still gets a thrill from living in the same country as all her favorite regency romance characters.
Connect with The Author
Alexandra is giving away one ebook copy of The Duke In Denial. Just enter the rafflecopter draw below. Good Luck X
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