The Duke in Denial
by Alexandra Ainsworth
M/M Historical Romance/Regency
Sebastian Lewis never expected to become a duke. But with the sudden deaths of his cousin and uncle, Sebastian’s position changes. He is determined to fulfil his new responsibilities with grace, even if it means remarrying, and even if the attractions of women, so often lauded by poets, fail to interest him.
Captain William Carlisle, newly returned from India, is elated when he meets Sebastian. Nobody knows of his inclinations, but his harrowing experiences in battle have prompted him to reach for the type of companionship he longs for. He thinks Sebastian might feel an attraction as well, but to his dismay, he discovers that Sebastian is courting his sister Dorothea.
After a semi-arranged engagement and a disconcerting romantic tangle with William, Sebastian escapes London to look after his manor, only to face mysterious thefts, a headless ghost, and the arrival of his fiancée, her brother, and his family. Sebastian’s new estate sits on the south coast, England’s most vulnerable location, and Napoleon has set his sights on conquering the area. Amid this growing turmoil, Sebastian must sort out his feelings for his fiancée’s brother and keep his home safe . . . and determine if he has the courage to reach for his own happiness in the process.
After the death of his wife and child, Sebastian Lewis is quite content to mope about his estate in Yorkshire. He certainly never expected to inherit a dukedom, but with the death of his uncle and cousin close to each other, that's exactly what he becomes.
Being a duke means a lot more responsibilities and Sebastian decides he needs to remarry, despite not really wanting to. He enlists the help of his aunt and decides to court Dorothea, his cousin's past fiancée.
William Carlisle has just returned from action in India, where he was heavily wounded. He decides life is too short to wait around for what he wants and desires, which is not marriage, but a real relationship with a man. An errant top hat on the way to his sister's engagement ball precipitates his first meeting with Sebastian and William thinks he has finally found a man who he could happily spend the rest of his life with.
But then he discovers Sebastian is his sister's new fiancée.
This book was a delight! Spies, smugglers, a villain you'll love to hare, along with strange goings-on at Sebastian's new manor house in Sussex, is it ghosts or something else? There is a lot of story and mystery going on here, but the reader never loses sight that this is above all a love story, and not between Sebastian and Dorothea.
Sebastian is a very noble character, and he really only asks for Dorothea's hand because there are scandalous rumours about that she and her dead fiancée jumped ahead to the wedding night. Sebastian just wants to to help her keep her station, he is not in love with her and Dorothea isn't in love with him.
William falls very hard for Sebastian, but he doesn't want to hurt his sister. Sebastian is very much in denial about his inclinations, and we have a lot of insight into his thoughts regarding the matter: that it is sinful, illegal and unnatural. He is tormented by thoughts of William though and doing some of those things.
There isn't a lot of sex in the book but the sexual tension between Sebastian and William every time they are in the same room just about sizzles off the page. Because of the Regency era it is set, where everything must be very prim proper, a touch on the arm or the press of thighs next to each other in a carriage, or even just a longing glance across the room - every moment is supercharged and erotic, despite both men being fully clothed.
The main love scene takes place around 70% on my Kindle and you are really hoping for it as much as the characters are. It's like they spent the earlier part of the book in some sort of mating dance or foreplay: they've had interruptions, cold feet and just when you think they'll never get it together, it happens and you can breathe a sigh of relief.
Sir Ambrose, Sebastian's new neighbour in Sussex, comes across in part like a pantomime villain. You could imagine him in a black cape, twirling his moustache as he ties some unfortunate young lady to the railway line. I don't think I remember any redeeming features about him at all, but then I don't think we were meant to like him.
I did have a few niggles with the American spellings, the book's setting is very English, with most of it set in London and Sussex and the US spellings seemed out of place with the rest.
An engaging, romantic read with characters you want to get their happily ever after.