The Mad, Bad Duke by Jennifer Ashley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As I had hoped, I liked this one even more than Penelope and Prince Charming. It was hot without having the over eroticism that I found uncomfortable in the first book. It definitely helped that I became drawn to Grand Duke Alexander in Penelope and Prince Charming. He is a very good villain turned hero, utterly compelling, with a charisma that grabs and doesn't let go. I understood his motivations even then, and I gained a deeper understanding of him in this book. Megan is the perfect heroine for him. She is sweet and innocent, but no pushover. Her love is steadfast, and even though she doesn't always understand everything about Alex, her love for him and the desire to be fully joined with her husband in marriage, is the guiding force that pushes her to break through those quite formidable and rather intimidating barriers between her and her husband. I rooted for their happy ending, because they are one of those couples you really want to see have their happy ever after.
I love the magical aspects of this series, and the fantastic culture of the Nvengarians. They are so dramatic and fascinating. I loved the humorous aspects of their Nvengarians' intensity, how they are loud, proud, emotional people, and very endearing in their over-the-top ways. I think Ms. Ashley crafted these people in a way that feels very authentic, and she gained a fond admirer of these people in me. They stand out in many ways, both in their consistently blue eyes and black hair, and their ethos and their personality traits. It's interesting seeing Megan, who is very English, adapt to a life surrounded by these folk who are so very different. She will have quite a life as the Grand Duchess of Nvengaria.
This is one of those books that you read very quickly because the story draws you in and keeps you hooked. Not just for the romance, but for the whole story, including the cultural aspects and the light fantasy/magical elements. With two leads that are both lovable and compelling, sexy, intense romance, and great humor moments, there is much to recommend this book to readers of historical romance who like their stories nicely steamy, with some well-integrated paranormal elements. Another winner for Jennifer Ashley, who definitely has a master touch with historical romance. This is one of her earlier books, but it's worth looking up if you haven't read it.
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