This time out, I have Celeste Bradley's The Duke Next Door (St. Martin's), the second in her 'Heiress Brides' trilogy. This time Deirdre Cantor has set her sights on Calder Marbook, Marquis of Brookhaven--the man her cousin just jilted, the man Deirdre has been daydreaming and fantasizing about for years. To escape her wretched stepmother, she boldly proposes marriage to him, and he accepts. After all, how many opportunities will the Beast of Brookhaven get to marry a respectable young woman who doesn't appear to fear him? But he doesn't tell her one teeny, tiny detail about his life until after the wedding, which throws a real monkeywrench into his honeymoon plans for his lovely young wife. Deirdre had hoped their marriage might be a good one eventually, if not the fantastic thing she daydreamed about, but having his past so rudely thrust upon her as they arrive at his home on their wedding day makes her think again about that. But she really does want her husband. So she devises a plan to make her wishes come true, and perhaps to teach him a lesson along the way. This one struck me as a book you really needed to read in series order, with the wicked stepmother, and the scheming accountants who're in charge of the money the three cousins stand to inherit upon marriage to a duke or heir to a duchy. Sure, there are plenty of steamy encounters between Deirdre and Calder, but there's only so much teasing a reader can take before they get a tad annoyed. Then there's the fact that the only real problem between them could be solved by just a little communication between them. That left me more than annoyed. I'm afraid I didn't love this one. I can see where its cuteness in places will make some readers happy, but if you're looking for something with depth, you might look elsewhere. This one's earned only two and a half of Cupid's five arrows.
Until next time, happy reading!