The Duke of St. Jules plays to win. In life, and at the card table. This game goes much deeper than the evening’s entertainment. This game has a purpose - to ruin Frederick Lacey, Earl of Dunstan. Few at the table sense the intent, and when they do they withdraw. Until it is the two of them. Until the final hand, and it is finished. Lacey has lost everything. Jack Fortescu, St. Jules, has prevailed. His ultimate revenge is nearly complete.
When Jack travels to the country to claim the Lacey property, he has only one goal. To complete his revenge he must also attain Lacey’s sister. Left homeless by her half brother’s rash actions, Arabella Lacey has few options. When she is offered the duke’s protection, she assumes the worst - carte blanche from a notorious gambler and inveterate rake. Jack quickly sets the record straight. He is not looking for a mistress - he has one. It is time he settled down. He wants a wife.
Under these dubious circumstances author Jane Feather opens her latest novel, Almost a Bride. What follows is an engrossing story of two unlikely people who were destined to be together. From the English countryside to the horrors of post-Revolution France, Arabella and Jack learn about each other and the undeniable attraction that grows between them.
I was very impressed by two aspects of this novel. One, the skillful way that Ms. Feather was able to take a completely unlikable character and give him substance and heart. Jack is a rogue of the first order and appears to be without conscience at the outset. Still waters run deep, however, and Jack is very complex. My second commendation centers on Arabella. She is a fine heroine. She may have lived in the country for a number of years, but she is no rustic. Her independent nature is a fine match for the machinations of the devious man who controls her fate. Their encounters are fiery.
Almost a Bride has everything a romance reader is looking for - complex characters, a well-tuned plot and plenty of passion.