Review: Second Duke's the Charm (Her Majesty's Rebels #1) by Kate Bateman


Print Length: 304 pages
Publisher: St.Martin's Press (December 26, 2023)

From The wedding-night death of her much older husband left Tess Townsend the Dowager Duchess of Wansford—and still a virgin. Now she and her two best friends investigate London’s most scandalous crimes, and while Tess longs to experience physical pleasure for herself, she can’t risk losing her treasured independence...

Cynical shipping magnate Justin Thornton never expected to inherit a dukedom, but he’ll do his duty. When the ravishing woman he kissed at a party turns out to be the Dowager Duchess, Justin sees an obvious solution: a marriage of convenience that will suit them both.

But the passion that sparks between them is anything but convenient. As Tess works on a new case at the request of Queen Charlotte, her increasingly suspicious behavior makes Justin question her motives—and her past. The infuriating woman clearly can’t be trusted, but Justin doesn’t believe in love, so there’s absolutely no danger of him falling for his own there?


My Rating: 3 stars out of 5

This novel was solid middle of the road for me. There were parts I enjoyed, parts I didn't, and parts that I felt could have been eliminated in order to focus on things more important to the story. 

Let's start with the good. There were some wholesome moments where I felt you got to see the true personalities of the characters (for example Justin rescuing the dog, and Tess being true to from and rambling on about truffles). I also enjoyed the banter between Tess and her friends (although I have to laugh at the fact they thought interrupting her first wedding night by saying the Dowager house was on fire when it wasn't was both genius and incredibly stupid. As if her husband wouldn't have just come back incensed at the interruption and most likely have taken his ire out on his new bride). 

That being said, I never felt there was a deeper connection between Justin and Tess that went beyond anything but lust. There were so many instances where they could have talked, should have talked, but instead were distracted by their "blood heating", or they were kissing, or other endeavors that I felt like neither of them really knew who the other was. At one point (during an argument where he once again thought the worst of her) Tess even points that out, telling him that he is "confusing desire and convenience with real intimacy and emotion." And while she was absolutely right, that was another thing I had an issue with. How could they claim to be in love with each other when they didn't even TRUST each other? 

And finally, the things that I felt needed to be "shown on the page" rather than the things that were shown. One of the sub-plots in this novel involved these seemingly random "accidents" that happened first to Justin, then to the pair of them. It soon became obvious that someone was trying to kill one of them. However, when the culprit is revealed it is just sort of... casually mentioned to Tess by Justin making it feel very anti-climatic. And I still don't understand how Justin possibly thought wagering a ton of money knowing he was going to lose it would prove his love to Tess. She never cared about his money, and she knew he knew that. As grand gestures go, that one was wholly.... odd. I would have preferred to see him show his supposed love for her in another way, one that made more sense even if things did work out for them in the end. 

All of these things considering, the ending of the story perfectly set up book number two, and I admit to being just curious enough that I will probably give that one a read as well when it comes out before decided whether to finish out the trilogy. 

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.

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