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At his birth, Charles ‘Charlie’ Cedric Spencer Fitzhenry de Lacey, the eldest son of the Duke of Durham, was given his father’s second highest title, the Earl of Gresham. So he was held to a higher standard than his siblings. Charlie’s mother had always been able to lighten the atmosphere, but with her death, his father became even more critical. Then Charlie met Maria and fell in love. But his disapproving father made sure that any wedding plans were called off before they even started. Charles had even been willing to leave everything to marry her, but she would have none of it. With one final argument between Charles and his father, he left home, swearing not to return and he didn’t. In London, it did not take long for Charles to build his scandalous reputation as a scoundrel.
Eleven years after leaving home, Charlie receives word that his father is dead, but he cannot bring himself to feel bad about it. However, not being present did not make his father’s betrayal of his sons any less damaging. On his deathbed, his father confessed that as a young man he had married an actress and when they no longer got along, he had left her without divorcing her. He did not know if she was dead or alive, but a year before his death, he had started receiving blackmail letters and had not told his sons. So now Charlie stood a chance of not inheriting the dukedom if it could be proved that he was the illegitimate son of a bigamous marriage. If so, he and his two brothers would be ruined, but they still have not even been able to agree on how to handle the situation. Eventually, his two brothers had dumped the whole mess in his lap. However, since Edward had confided in his fiancée, who had sold the story to the scandal sheets before jilting him, their situation had become known as the Durham Dilemma. To make matters worse, their cousin, Augustus, is about to file a competing claim to the dukedom, citing their illegitimacy. Charlie needs to find the answers before the House of Lords hears the petition. Charlie fears he will fail, but fortunately, before dumping the problem on Charlie, Gerard had discovered the name of the blackmailer, Hiram Scott, who was last seen in Bath.
Tessa Neville had had her heart broken beyond repair once before and had no wish to repeat the mistake, having vowed never to be misled by a man’s flattery and attention again. Her brother has been considering investing in canals, but has been unable to make up his mind. So he sends Tessa, who has an uncanny ability to get to the truth and the mind to make wise investments, to check things out. She is to meet with Hiram Scott, part owner of the iron works near the proposed path of a canal that her brother was considering investing in, who has been recruiting investors.
Arriving in Bath, Tessa was tired, hungry and only longed to be given a room so she could retire to it. But although she had arrived moments before the earl, the proprietor left her standing to accommodate him. Making an uncomplimentary remark about the earl, Tessa was shocked to discover he had overheard it. But he only seemed amused, taking it as a challenge. He was extremely attractive, but Tessa had learned to beware of such men. Thanks to the circumstances and her past heartbreak, she hated the earl, even though she had never met him. Not wanting any recognition which would reflect poorly on her family due to her behavior, she decided to steer clear of him.
Hearing that Tessa had received a letter from Hiram, Charlie decided to make her acquaintance and obtain an introduction to the man he believed was blackmailing his family. But as he sought the truth, he found himself falling for her. Finally, they team up to obtain the answers he needs, but suddenly she becomes more important than his task. Can he break down the walls she has built up around her heart and convince Tessa to take a chance on him?
With THE WAY TO A DUKE’S HEART, the third and final book in talented author Caroline Linden’s THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DUKE trilogy, Ms. Linden has successfully brought a satisfying closure to this exciting trilogy, tying up all of the loose ends in the process. It is not necessary to read the first two books in this series to understand and enjoy THE WAY TO A DUKE’S HEART, as it can be read as a standalone. However, for further insight into this series as well as additional enjoyment, I advise also reading ONE NIGHT IN LONDON, BLAME IT ON BATH and the novella, I LOVE THE EARL. As Ms. Linden delves into the blackmail, readers will find themselves avidly turning the page to discover the outcome. It was a delight to watch as Charlie and Tessa’s relationship grew and he slowly coaxed her out of the bitterness, which had resulted from her past heartbreak. By combining passion, scandal, blackmail, complex characters, witty banter, mystery, romance and true love, Ms. Linden has penned a story that will captivate you. I recommend it highly!
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