by Cindy Anstey
Published on April 11, 2017 by Swoon Reads
Genres: Adult, Historical Romance, Romance
Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father's choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.
Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won't hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert's help, Lydia strives to keep her family's good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants…
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Anstey has done it again with another fun, clean romance in Duels and Deception! I absolutely loved her previous release, Love, Lies and Spies, which is also a standalone like this one because these books are just plan fun.
To start, I love the writing style. The pacing is good, alternating between action and plot movement, and character development which slows it down a bit and gives the reader a chance to breathe. These books aren’t exactly action packed — they’re historical romances, not epic fantasies or space operas — but there is still tension between the characters. The romance, the family dynamics, the villains and the threat they pose to the protagonists, you get the idea.
All of those worked because of the main characters, Lydia and Robert. I thought Lydia was both ingrained in her role in society but also willing to step out of that role when she didn’t believe something was fair. A bit of a contradiction, that one. She remained loyal to her family despite how horrid they could be to her, including her father’s wishes to marry a baron that she had accepted but felt nothing toward. I also loved her quirk about being punctual and staying on schedule, a joke that came up pretty often.
Robert was the valiant knight from a lower “ranked” background than the baron, coming to Lydia’s rescue when no one else did. I liked that he had aspirations for a future that didn’t involve nobility. And unlike many stories in the genre, he wasn’t even a higher ranked noble which seems to be the commonality in historical romances. It made him different. Just as I remember that in Anstey’s other book, Juliana loves ladybugs, I will remember that Robert wanted to be a lawyer.
That’s the thing about these books. They are not the best books I’ve ever read. Romances almost never are. But I love reading them. I devour them. These are a bit clean for my taste in romances but the characters more than make up for it. Their interactions are spot-on and you can’t help but love the protagonists and dislike the antagonists just as you should.
In particular, I was waiting for the “big scene” in this book that’s advertised in the blurb, the event that would kick off the romance, and it came much later than I expected about a quarter of the way through the book so there was a lot of time spent on showing off each character but I wanted a bit more for that first part. Fortunately, I really enjoy this author so I had no reason to put it down because of a bit of slow pacing.
Overall, a fun read much like Love, Lies and Spies. These are entertaining, clean historical romances with plenty of witty banter and delightful characters. You can bet I’ll be picking up any future books by this particular author and adding them to the collection because they’re well worth it!