The Durham Dilemma continues to plague the three sons of the late Duke of Durham. In this installment, Gerard, the youngest of the brothers, is on his way to Bath to investigate the source of the blackmail letters.
But first, he must respond to a very interesting proposal:
Katherine Howe needs a husband who will safeguard her inheritance and to liberate her from her pitifully plain and austere life with her late husband's heir. Katherine sees this as her last chance at happiness and so she asks the man she loved twelve years ago.
Gerard doesn't know Katherine and is surprised at her offer so he can't readily say yes. But he can't say no, either -- with his future in peril, Katherine's money provides him with security and stability as he pursues the truth about his father.
Gerard and Katherine try to convince themselves that they are fine with their convenient arrangement: By day, Gerard scours through Bath for clues and Katherine busies herself with local Bath society but, at night, they cannot deny the passionate desire that sparks between them when they are together.
I really wanted to love this story and it starts off strong, but the story quickly loses steam as it loses focus and direction.
First, there is the blackmail story: Gerard has retraced the origins of the blackmail letters to Bath and has found some information about the sender.
There's an interesting bit on "code-breaking" where Gerard and the clerk from the post office examine the handwriting and uncover new clues about the letters.
And then there's the very tedious bit on searching where Gerard and his friend Daniel Carter are in a ramshackle barn. (Chapters 22 to 25)
Then there's Katherine's transformation story: Katherine has suffered from her mother's heartless attacks on her self-esteem. She is dowdy and plain-dressed. Her personality is just as severe and as tense. And she never smiles.
With Gerard's gentle encouragement, a new wardrobe -- and Bath -- Katherine blossoms beautifully. She finds her spine and her voice -- and the courage to tell Gerard how she really feels about him. I loved seeing the heroine come alive under such a nurturing environment. I loved it when she finally stood up to her mother.
Finally, there's the love story between Gerard and Katherine -- or the lack of one. I didn't really see their relationship deepen. They were apart for most of the day and only had time for dinner, parties and sex in the evenings. Gerard does undergo an epiphany when he realizes that he is treating Katherine more like a soldier than his wife, but I didn't really see the two of them fall in love with each other. Lust, yes. A lot of it. And it felt odd when Gerard used sex to coerce Kate into admitting something. (Chapter 20-21)
Caroline Linden is very good at moving the blackmail story forward. I'm glad to see Charlie, the current Duke of Durham, finally stepping in and taking charge. (Though the change in his character wasn't really explained.)
The ending was also flat -- there was nothing tumultuous to resolve and nothing overly chaotic to settle -- this story felt more like a transition (or filler episode) between Edward's story, One Night in London and Charlie's story, The Way to a Duke's Heart, which is due out in August 2012.
This is Book 2 in Caroline Linden's The Truth About the Duke series.