Review: Not the Duke’s Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt

Reviewed by Jen

I am such a fan of Elizabeth Hoyt. Her Maiden Lane books are among my favorite historical romances. This new series has a bit of a different feel, though I did enjoy it. The story mixes tropes with the older brother’s best friend and enemies to lovers, set against an extortion scheme, a mystery, and a secret society. There’s a lot going on here.

Freya is a spy for a secret society, devoted to uplifting their fellow women and keeping them safe from the oppression of men. She entered the fold after her father died and a mysterious Bad Thing happened to her brother. She is determined to do right by her fellow Wise Women and as the story begins, she is on a rescue mission to help a lady rescue her kidnapped child. But in running from the men who would keep the baby from his mother, she comes face to face with a man she had hoped never to see again: Christopher Renshaw, the Duke of Harlowe. Though he doesn’t recognize her as the younger sister of his former best friend, she knows who he is on sight as the man who helped lay her brother low.

The two get thrown together again a short time later at a house party. Harlowe is only there to answer a blackmailer, though Freya is there on Wise Woman work, undercover in her position as a paid companion. Over time, she eventually confronts Harlowe, while simultaneously growing more attracted to him, despite her righteous anger. It’s right around that time, he figures out who she is, and the readers are let in on the events that lead to her animosity. Obviously, she comes to forgive him, and they fall for each other amid all the other stuff happening around them.

When I sat down to write this, I wasn’t sure exactly what kept me from loving this book, but as I try to lay out the bare bones of the plot, I realize… there was too much happening. 1) The Wise Women; 2) Freya’s undercover/alter identity; 3) her abandoned friend who resurfaces; 4) her mission to find out who killed Eleanor and attempt to thwart the Witch Act; 5) her figuring out the identity of the closet Dunkelder (which I keep thinking of as Dumbledor); 6) the courtship of Lucretia with a guy her mom doesn’t approve up (a thread which completely disappears); 7) the Bad Thing that happened to Freya’s brother; 8) Harlowe’s PTSD and what led to it; 9) Harlowe’s blackmail plot. Oh yeah, and there was a romance in there.

It’s all well written, as you would expect from Hoyt, but I think I might have enjoyed a little less happening all at once. I felt that the reason for Freya’s hidden identity was kind of flimsy. If her name is synonymous with being a witch, wouldn’t her whole family be hunted? Even those without an affiliation to the Wise Women?  And I felt like the reason for Harlowe succumbing to the blackmail was a bit weak.

But. Remember how I said I enjoyed the book? I did. I liked Harlowe. I appreciated how he owned his mistakes and tried to respect who Freya wanted to be. And I liked the fire between them, first as adversaries, then as lovers. I will definitely try the next book in the series. Hoyt has delivered for me too many times not to. Hopefully, she’ll knock that one out of the park.

Rating: B

*ARC provided by publisher

Click to purchase: Amazon

Not the Duke’s Darling
by Elizabeth Hoyt
Release Date: December 18, 2018
Publisher: Forever

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