Anything But a Duke: The Duke’s Den
In this second installment of Carlyle’s Duke’s Den series, which follows the fates of three men who run a gambling club in Victorian London, Aiden Iverson decides he needs a titled bride to gain access to the Great Exhibition being organized by Prince Albert. Diana Ashby, the lady inventor who makes a bid for financial backing from the Devil’s Den men, isn’t titled, but she is determined to secure Aiden’s investment in her household pneumatic cleaning device (she’s designed a vacuum cleaner). The immediate attraction between them builds from a previous encounter in an alley, where Diana saved Aiden from cutpurses as he was investigating his mysterious birth. In return for helping her find buyers for her device, Aiden demands an introduction to Diana’s high-born friends, which makes for several amusing scenes as this much-loved trope unfolds in predictable ways. When the bold and clever Diana decides to act on her attraction, it’s up to Aiden to convince the lady to commit to marriage. Their developing relationship holds emotional richness as Diana helps Aiden come to terms with his past, and Aiden respects Diana for her intelligence as well as beauty. All in all, a satisfying romance.