One Night with the Duke (Belmore Square)

Written by Jodi Ellen Malpas
Review by Simon Rickman

England 1816. Feisty, outspoken Eliza Melrose, 19, rails against the sexual inequalities of the time, specifically that men can choose their spouse whereas she cannot. She has been betrothed to the rich but boring Duke of Cornwall by her father, an extremely wealthy press tycoon, who relocated the family from the countryside to London’s fashionably elite Belmore Square. However, despite being resigned to her fate, Eliza falls in lust with a new neighbour, the enigmatic Duke of Chester, aka Johnny Winters, more rock god than royalty, who’s rumoured to have murdered his entire family, torched the house, and fled. So why is he now renovating that same mansion just across the gardens from her?

Eliza determines to uncover the dark secrets associated with the rakish duke, who in turn finds her outspoken attitude and stroppy stubbornness “unhealthily irresistible”. The two contrive to meet clandestinely pretty much anywhere—his place, soirées, shops, shrubberies, back alleys, you know—in a somewhat dragged-out will-they-won’t-they mutual stalkathon. Plus, smartly, she’s now suspicious of “the deal” by which she was traded away. A hectic denouement unveils several backstories of skulduggery, shaming the wrong-doers and freeing Eliza’s future.

The first-person present-tense Regency-style narrative works well, written with pace and humour, except for a few oddities such as, “Mother takes a right” (turns), “scarper” and “over the top”, which seem anachronistic. Otherwise, it’s an engrossing, compellingly amusing, fun story, certainly steamy enough to fog up any Georgian mirror.