One of my most favorite regency romance series is Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series. It currently stands at 7 books (the latest came out last Tuesday). I have re-read the series multiple times because I can’t help myself. And so I am taking the opportunity of this most recent release to review each book individually:
What I Did for a Duke (Pennyroyal #5)
Published on February 22, 2011 by HarperCollins/Avon.
For years, he’s been an object of fear, fascination…and fantasy. But of all the wicked rumors that forever dog the formidable Alexander Moncrieffe, Duke of Falconbridge, the ton knows one thing for certain: only fools dare cross him. And when Ian Eversea does just that, Moncrieffe knows the perfect revenge: he’ll seduce Ian’s innocent sister, Genevieve—the only member of the powerful and wealthy Eversea family as yet untouched by scandal. First he’ll capture her heart…and then he’ll break it.
But everything about Genevieve is unexpected: the passion simmering beneath her cool control, the sharp wit tempered by a gentleness that coaxes out his deepest secrets… And though Genevieve has heard the whispers about the duke’s dark past, and knows she trifles with him at her peril, one incendiary kiss tempts her deeper into a world of extraordinary sensuality. Until Genevieve is faced with a fateful choice…is there anything she won’t do for a duke?
This review could consist solely of dialogue between Genevieve and Moncrieffe (this will also be true for the next book in the series, How the Marquess was Won). It is worth reading this book for that aspect alone.
Early on, as the two of them are walking along, Genevieve asks him, “What are your pleasures and pursuits, Lord Moncrieffe?” He feels that she is simply trying to humor him before she can catch up with her friends (one of whom, Harry, Genevieve believes she loves). In order to shock her and grab her attention he responds, “Well, I’m partial to whores.” She stumbles over the word in her questioning response and so he says:
“I . . . I beg your pardon—Horses. Honestly, Miss Eversea,” he stammered. “I do wonder what you think of me if that’s what you heard.” He shook his head ruefully. “Horses. Those hooved beasts a man can race, wager upon, plow a field with, harness to a phaeton, and drive at deliciously reckless speeds.”
She stared at him now as he walked. Those wide eyes went narrow, bringing him into focus, isolating him in a very potent, too intelligent beam of blue.
“And one cannot do any of that with whores?” she asked softly.
His turn to drop his jaw. He clapped it shut again.
At this point, you know this is going to be goooooooooooood.
Not only was this conversation pure delight but it was an important moment in their relationship because, for the first time, Moncreiffe sees Genevieve. And this side of her, this witty, pointed, intelligent side, he learns quickly is seen by almost no one else.
And the fun of it all is that Genevieve is very observant herself and she sees through Moncrieffe and his nefarious plan to seduce her as punishment for her brother very quickly. She tells him that she is onto his game and Moncrieffe says:
“Game? I don’t understand. What makes you feel there’s a—”
She heaved a sigh that all but bent a furrow in the grass at their feet.
“Oh, enough,” she said irritably. “Very clever people often assume no one else is as clever as they are. Which isn’t very clever of them, when you think about it.”
He admits his plans to her then. And then there we are with two characters who often hide major aspects of themselves from everyone else revealing themselves to each other.
[A side note: I appreciate Long so much because she did not use Moncrieffe’s duplicity as the impetus for a major showdown at the end of the story. Very often in romances, one character is lying to another about something major, they hold onto that lie for the entire book, and then the lie serves to break the happy (or almost happy) couple up. It is something to be overcome, to see if their love is strong enough. It was surprising in the best way possible that Long did not do this because it upended what I imagined would be the plot and made me realize that this would be a different story than I had expected.]
Genevieve, for all her cleverness, cannot seem to get that she isn’t really in love with Harry (and that Harry isn’t worth loving). It is so frustrating for the reader. And that is mirrored nicely in Moncrieffe’s frustration:
“Genevieve, I saw something in you Lord Harry didn’t see, can’t see, because it isn’t in him to see it. Ask yourself why this is so. Ask yourself whether this might be rather an essential oversight on his part. Ask yourself if you’ve just discovered something about yourself that you may otherwise never have known. Ask yourself why you came looking for me last night, and whether you want to know more.”
He turned to look at her now.
“Because . . . I’m the one who can show you. And you may never have another chance to learn it in just this way. With someone you can trust. And who wants it as badly as you do.” […]
“I want you badly. You want me badly. I want to make love to you. No more . . . juvenile fumblings. I want you naked beneath me. The decision is entirely in your hands.”
And almost symbolically, he released her hands then. Gave them back to her. And to think she’d once enjoyed his honesty.
He wants to teach her the art of making lurve. Of course, by this point, he is totally in love with her and we are all simply waiting for her to realize it. And boy, does it take her a while to get it. It takes her nearly making the very wrong choice to suddenly see her heart, to know within whom her future lay. As she says to Moncrieffe once she finally does get it: “I couldn’t see it because you are my heart, damn you! And how can I see my own heart if it’s beating in my own chest?” And he responds, “And so you see now.”
GO READ THIS BOOK!
One of my favorite things about Long (there’s a long list, whatever) is the auxiliary characters. In this one, it’s Millicent, Genevieve’s friend who fancies herself an artist. This is the scene when Moncrieffe first looks at Millicent’s sketches:
He slowly turned the pages, one by one. One by one. Kittens playing with a string. Kittens lapping milk. Kittens sniffing flowers.
“Do you like kittens?”
“Oh, I do!” she confided breathlessly.
He sighed, handed the sketchbook back to her, and to her astonishment promptly abandoned her and wended his way through the crowd. He didn’t dislike kittens. But life was too short to continue this conversation.
[all the chuckles]
Final thing. There is a hot moment between Genevieve and Moncrieffe before she learns of his plan to seduce her. He asks her if Harry has ever kissed her and she reveals that he did once…on her hand. In the ensuing conversation, Moncrieffe reveals to Genevieve what the perfect kiss on the mouth is like:
“A proper kiss, Miss Eversea, should turn you inside out. It should . . . touch places in you that you didn’t know existed, set them ablaze, until your entire being is hungry and wild. It should . . . hold a moment, I want to explain this as clearly as possible . . .” He tipped his head back and paused to consider, as though he were envisioning this and wanted to relate every detail correctly. “It should slice right down through you like a cutlass with a pleasure so devastating it’s very nearly pain.”
Stop, she should say. “And . . . ?” she whispered.
“It should make you do battle for control of your senses and your will. It should make you want to do things you’d never dreamed you’d want to do, and in that moment all of those things will make perfect sense. And it should herald, or at least promise, the most intense physical pleasure you’ve ever known, regardless of whether that promise is ever, ever fulfilled. It should, in fact . . .” he paused for effect “. . . haunt you for the rest of your life.”
I’d like that kiss, please.
I give What I Did for a Duke 4 out of 5 stars (only because I am comparing it to the rest of the Pennyroyal Green series and it is not my most favorite so I need somehow to distinguish…but this is an amazing book).
Purchase it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Brookline Booksmith, Independent Booksellers, IndieBound, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Politics and Prose, Powells, Rainy Day Books, Tattered Cover Book Store, Watermark Books
Up next: How The Marquess Was Won.