A Duke Like No Other by Valerie BowmanA Duke Like No Other Series: Playful Brides #9
Published by St. Martins Press on May 1, 2018
Genres: Regency Romance
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Advance Reader Copy

General Mark Grimaldi is devoted to his service for the Crown, risking his life and giving up everything for his career. The political promotion he's always wanted is now within his reach, but he needs to convince his estranged wife to return to England and play the role of happy bride in order for him to get the position.

Nicole Huntington Grimaldi has spent the past ten years in France, not having seen her husband since she left England. But now he's on her doorstep, asking her to return with him, and Nicole sees the opportunity to get something out of this deal. So she agrees, on one condition: she wants a baby.

A Duke Like No Other is a Regency spy caper with Valerie Bowman at her best as husband and wife match wits and may just fall in love in the process.

I have only read one other book by this author, and I ended up having to table it until later due to the fact that it felt like I had missed something from the previous books. The hero and heroine had known each other for so long that I truly felt like the book could not be read as a stand-alone. This is book 9 in the same series, so I was a little wary, however I’m pleased to announce it can be read on its own.

That being said, we still have characters who have known each other for years, and it feels as if they are two different sets of people from when they met to the point the book picks up. Well, it’s been 10 years, so the point is that they are different people, however they were the same at the core.

Mark is a spy, and he’s up for a promotion, but the man in charge of giving him the promotion wants a family man in this role. It’s suggested that Mark marry, and fast. However, Mark drops the bomb that he already has a wife.

Nicole has been in France for 10 years. The night she and Mark argued was the end of their marriage. She took a job with the Home Office and moved to France to help. Essentially she’s a spy. However, she’s never actually spying in this book. She spends her time in the lavender fields and working with orphans. Which is fine, but she kind of sometimes takes mini espionage missions on the side.

Mark goes to France and shows up on her doorstep, asking her for a favor. He needs her to play the doting wife for him for a while until he gets the promotion at the Home Office. She agrees but with a condition of her own. He is absolutely shocked at her terms, but he needs her, so he agrees.

The trip back to England is uneventful, but we see some well-placed flashbacks about how they met, Nicole’s desire to become a spy, and the biggie, about that night that they had the Big Misunderstanding. Mark steamrolls Nicole’s any attempt to explain what happened, and then he spends 10 years believing Nicole her to be a sneaky liar who he never really knew at all. Then he continues spying, being tortured by the French, and spying some more.

What bothered me the absolute most is that I feel like she never was able to explain her part. She never got to say, hey, you got mad at me for X, but Y is really what happened. That is honestly the only thing that I didn’t like. I enjoyed the author’s voice, I enjoyed the plot, I didn’t even mind the Big Misunderstanding which usually drives me nuts! This book was passionate, and enjoyable.  However for a book full of spies, there’s no danger, very little spying, and very little intrigue.

***ARC courtesy of St. Martin’s Press