Taken By the Duke

Jess Michaels
Taken By the Duke
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Samhain Publishing
Release Date
July 2013
Book 1 of The Pleasure Wars
Erotic Romance, Historical Romance

Amid all the lies and scandals that fuel Society's gossip mill, one truth has always stood out: House Rothcastle and House Windbury have always hated each other.Lady Ava Windbury prays the feud will someday end, to no avail. One dreadful night, her brother accidentally causes the death of Christian Rothcastle's sister, a tragedy that leaves both men maimed.

Consumed by grief, Christian makes a grim decision. He will kidnap Lady Ava so that her family will feel the pain of loss as keenly as he feels the loss of his own sister. But once he has Ava in his clutches, desire takes unexpected hold. Even more surprising, she willingly surrenders to his every sexual whim—after haggling over the terms of giving up her virginity.

Too late, he realizes she is using her body for peace, not war. But just as their affair of revenges turns into an affair of the heart, the past rears its ugly head to take matters into its own hands…

Book Review by Bridget (reviewer)
Nov 15, 2013   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
144 people found the following review helpful
The opening of Jess Michaels' The Pleasure Wars series is a sensual, emotional tangle that transforms the bitterest enemies into the most passionate of lovers. While I personally had some qualms about the power structures at play in the course of the story, longtime fans and new readers alike will surely find a great deal to enjoy in this story and come away hungry for more.

For generations, the families of Rothcastle and Windbury have hated each other. Their feud has brought scandal and ruin, and has provided years' worth of savory gossip for the hungry Ton. But when Christian Rothcastle's sister is killed in an accident with Liam Windbury, the age-old feud becomes an all-out war.

Determined to make Liam suffer in the same way he has, Christian decides to kidnap Lady Ava Windbury, Liam's sister, and hold her in his country estate until her reputation is well and truly ruined. But he never counted on Ava herself, or the strength of his desire for her. Desperate to save her brother any further pain, Ava agrees to give herself to Christian, but never dreamed of the pleasure that Christian can teach her to feel. But just when Ava begins to hope that she may be able to tempt Christian into putting aside the war that has wrecked both their families, an unexpected enemy rises, determined to exact a gruesome revenge.

Though I wish there was more time to allow it to develop, the connection between Ava and Christian was clear and palpable from the first moment their eyes met. The stress of their families' feud and their own personal losses have changed them both, physically and mentally, but there is something so basic, almost primal between them that is undeniable. Christian's rage may lead him to dubious plots, but his pain is so close to the surface that it is difficult not to feel for him. Plus, there is something fascinating in a character who is so willfully blind, especially regarding himself. Watching him fall to Ava and learn to trust her and himself was an emotional experience, indeed.

Ava was a consistent surprise, both to Christian and to me. Her calm, especially following her abduction, upended all of Christian's plans, but also proved her to be the strong, self-assured foil that Christian so badly needed. Though the discussion about her virginity felt heavy-handed at times, there was no doubt about the stakes of Ava's negotiations with Christian. Her openness with him, and her trust was unexpected, to say the least, but it led to some fascinating interactions. As a result, the explosive chemistry between these two was immediate, intense and revealing. I would have liked to explore that connection in more depth, but there is no denying that this book is full of desire and tension.

Jess Michaels always creates interesting plots, unlikely but beautiful couples and chemistry aplenty, and this story is no different. However, I had some issues with the power dynamics between Ava and Christian. I realize that the 'kidnapped heroine' trope implies a considerable lack of freedom, but Ava's apparent passivity at times and capitulation at others felt over-simplified. She lacked agency throughout the story and that made her relationship with Christian feel unbalanced. I never doubted their feelings, but more explanation and time to develop the plot and the connection between Christian and Ava might have helped me understand them better.

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed this story and found the plot twist and unexpected villain of the piece quite a pleasant surprise. Jess Michaels knows how to bring the heat, and here she has laid the foundation for a steamy, engaging series with lots of potential. Though this book wasn't my particular cup of tea, her writing recommends itself, and I am eager to see what fate has in store for the next installment of The Pleasure Wars.
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