|Kat Martin used to be a favorite of mine but I haven’t kept up with her latest stories. Royal’s Bride was a delight and will push me to find the rest of the stories about the DeWar brothers.
Royal is the eldest and is set to inherit the title of the Duke of Bransford. His father, the current Duke, has been ill, suffering a series of strokes over the last few years. Royal has been in the Caribbean where he has been running their sugarcane plantation. Reese, the second eldest, is fighting in the war and rarely comes home. And Rule is just gaining adulthood, having been at Oxford the last few years. It is no wonder that the Duke was easy prey for a con artist, who slowly bled him for almost all of his money. When Royal returns home, it is clear just how bad things have gotten. Many of the paintings and furnishings have been sold and Bransford Castle is in need of much repair. There is only a skeleton staff of loyal servants left. Upon his deathbed, the Duke gains a vow from Royal that he will marry an heiress and restore the family coffers to their previous greatness. Royal agrees, even to the name of the heiress.
Jocelyn Caulfield is a minor relative of an Earl but her father is rich and has agreed with the Duke that the two should marry. The only thing left is for Royal and Jocelyn to meet and the particulars of the contract to be determined. Jocelyn is enthusiastic, as any young girl would be to reach that high standard of a Duchess. But she is fearful that the Duke will not really kowtow to her, something she is used to. She is also a bit brainless and definitely selfish. Her poor cousin is the exact opposite.
Lily Moran is penniless and as an orphan, has been dependent on her aunt and uncle since she turned sixteen. At that time, her uncle Jack, who was caring for her, decided he needed to give her up. Jack is a confidence man and he taught Lily everything she knows about pick-pocketing, thievery and even scamming. She often played roles. But at sixteen, her beauty was starting to draw unwanted attention. Jack did the right thing by sending her to the Caulfields. Lily has been a companion and basically a maid to Jocelyn. Lily is a beauty too, is intelligent and has a nurturing, caring nature partly as a result of the early influence of her parents and Jack’s care of her.
It is unfortunate that Royal meets Lily first and mistakes her for his future bride. When he discovers the truth within a short time, his attraction is already snared and his heart is already starting to tumble. Of course he is thrilled with Jocelyn’s beauty, but somehow he cannot get Lily out of his mind. When he discovers that his father was scammed out of his fortune, he turns to Lily and her friends from the past to help him exact revenge and gain some of his money back.
This story has a little of everything. There is of course romance and lust on the parts of many. Jocelyn starts off being a bit of dimwit, but slowly comes into her own and goes after what she wants, and that is not Royal. Royal fights his internal battles over his desire for Lily and everyone around him understands the sacrifice he is making. His friends are some interesting characters, intriguing in their own right. His brothers also play minor roles. There is adventure, intrigue and a lot of sexual tension.
The star of the show, however, is Lily. She is a determined woman who has been in the dregs of society and at its highest. She has seen the best of people from all walks of life and the worst. She knows how to take care of herself, yet yearns for security. She loved her uncle, despite what some consider his unsavory activities and she is thrilled to get to see him again when he is needed to help.
There are some clear coincidences that the reader must accept, but most can be overlooked easily. Martin’s storytelling style moved the tale along quite well and this made it easy to stay engaged in the story. It was fun to read a Kat Martin novel that lived up to previous successes. Royal’s Bride is a great start to a new family of stories.