Duke With Benefits by Manda CollinsDuke With Benefits by Manda Collins
Series: Studies in Scandal #2
Published by St. Martins Press on June 27, 2017
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Advance Reader Copy, NetGalley
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Lady Daphne Forsyth is a brilliant mathematician with a burning passion for puzzles. When she learns that the library belonging to her benefactress houses the legendary Cameron Cipher?an encrypted message that, once solved, holds the key to great riches?Daphne is on the case. Unfortunately, her race to unlock the cipher’s code is continually thwarted by a deliciously handsome distraction she hadn’t counted on. . .and cannot resist.

Dalton Beauchamp, the Duke of Maitland, is curious as to why Daphne is spending so much time snooping around his aunt’s bookshelves. He’s even more intrigued by her bold yet calculating manner: She is unapologetic about her secret quest. . .and the fiery attraction that develops between them both. But how can they concentrate on solving a perplexing enigma once the prospect of true love enters the equation?

This is the second book in Manda Collins’ Studies in Scandal series, a series based on the premise that an eccentric bluestocking left her home to four young ladies, each the best in her field. And to each woman, a riddle or mystery. In this book, the heroine is given a cipher to find that supposedly leads to a lost treasure.

Lady Daphne’s specialty is mathematics. She may also be autistic or have Asperger’s Syndrome, I’m not familiar enough with either to tell you for certain. But she is absolutely brilliant with numbers, however, social niceties? not so much. Eye contact is near impossible, she speaks her mind, doesn’t catch hyperbole or innuendo, and even though she’s the daughter of an earl, she’s not anyone’s idea of a prize guest.

She’s socially awkward, especially in the sense that she has no filter. She’s very truthful and blunt, because to her that’s what makes sense. She understands that there are social queues, but she’s doesn’t catch them. She’s also very aware that she doesn’t understand why social niceties matter. She misses those queues quite often. Meanwhile, her father, a cash-poor earl, is a terrible man who uses her talent for numbers to win at the tables. Her upbringing was different than other ladies.

The Duke of Maitland is well, nice. He’s a nice person, just all around good guy. His father wasn’t, so he’s done his best to be the polar opposite of him. He’s succeeded to the point that when Daphne propositions him, his maidenly sensibilities are offended. He doesn’t handle it well, so the two of them spend the next few months being polite to each other and trying to avoid the crazy sexual attraction between them.

But the mystery waits for no one, and it turns out someone else is looking for the cipher as well. Someone from Daphne’s past. Add into that her father has come by because he’s blown through the tens of thousands of pounds she gave him in just 3 months. He wants to marry her off to one of his acquaintances. Maitland nips that in the bud by announcing their plans to marry. Daphne goes with it, but is frustrated as she fearing her loss of independence, had no plans to marry. Ever.

The mystery and the fake engagement allow for a lot of time to be alone, and it gave them a better chance to get to know each other.  One thing I liked was that she was at first embarrassed about not knowing certain things, but gradually realized that it was okay for her to not know everything, or to not have all the answers. Maitland was really good at reading her, and understanding what drives her. This helped her to relax around him enough to allow him to see her, to really see her.

The mystery Lady Celeste left behind is very National Treasure in its clue/scavenger hunt style. I love that movie, and I love the idea of Lady Celeste being a bit eccentric and wanting everyone else to have an adventure of their own. It was a fun and cute way to go about solving the cipher.

This book was easy and enjoyable, and I want to see what other mysteries Lady Celeste has left for the last 2 ladies.

***ARC courtesy of St. Martin’s Press