Behind the mask of ice that people wear,
there beats a heart on fire…
Rudolph Yardley, valet to the Duke of Upton, hides a dangerous secret.
His real name is Sue and he’s not by any means a man. After her family’s tragic death from a fire, Sure had but one choice in order to survive: disguise herself as a man and take her later brother’s place in the Duke’s employ.
Vernon Wade, Duke of Upton, feels lost after his father’s passing. Already struggling with his newfound responsibilities, his carefully constructed mask of composure crumbles when he comes across a shocking sight: his very own valet is in fact, a beautiful young woman.
Lost in their budding feelings for each other, Sue and Vernon fail to see the viper in their midst. When a fire breaks out, a face emerges through the flames. A face that has been haunting her nightmares all her life.
First off I have to note that in the blurb for this book, it states Rudolph Yardley’s name is Sue, yet throughout the entire book the Duke’s valet is Samuel/Sue. Also the only fire occurs in the prologue as part of the past not in the present. It was a bit confusing as I began reading, as I was expecting something quite different having read the blurb.
It’s been five years since Sue fled into the night. Escaping the fire that took the lives of her parents and twin brother. In a move of despair, she gathered clothing from her father’s business and disguised herself as her brother, Samuel. He was to become valet to Vernon, son of the Duke of Upton and she would fill that position. She had no other choice if she is to survive. Her nightmare is the first thing we learn about, and that is where we learn she saw the face of the man who started the blaze she survived.
The book continues with the sudden death of the Duke of Upton and his son Vernon about to attend the funeral. His first public appearance at the Duke. As expected, he is not really in the mood to attend, knowing he would have to make an effort to entertain the people who come to pay their respects. It’s his valet and friend Samuel who helps him prepare for the day, giving him the encouragement to acknowledge he is the new Duke and is more than ready to take on the responsibilities of that task.
While many of his father’s business partners were known to Vernon, some were not. He did find some interesting conversation with one of those men. It appears Wilson Yorke, the Earl of Eallesborough, knew his father prior to his marriage to Vernon’s mother. He also found consolation in the presence of his cousin who informs him of his recent engagement to help brighten his mood.
We get our first glimpse of Anabelle Yorke at the funeral. The Earl’s daughter is more than a little eager to be noticed by the Duke. Even though she acknowledges it would be improper for any romantic overtures at the funeral. The confrontation she has with Samuel shows her true attitude and it’s not a nice one.
It’s while looking for his valet at the reception at his home following the funeral, that Vernon learns the truth about Samuel. He’s stunned to hear the conversation only knowing for sure the one voice was that of Samuel. This causes him to withdraw from his guests to think about what he’s learned. It also leads to some concern from the staff as he throws things in his chambers, leading to the confrontation with Samuel.
This is a favorite scene.
“How did you find out, Your Grace?” she asked quietly.
“How did I find out that you’d been deceiving me for years?” he asked. He laughed bitterly. “I wish I could say I had been clever enough to figure it out. The truth is that I simply overheard you. I was walking by the door to the servants’ part of the Manor and heard you speaking with someone. She called you Sue. And of course I knew that Sue must be short for Susan.”
A tear tracked down Sue’s cheek. So this was her own fault. She had known that it wasn’t safe to talk about her true identity with Flossie out in the open, even in the back of the Manor. But she had allowed herself to do it anyway. And now she had been found out.
“Just tell me why you lied to me,” the Duke said.
“What were you trying to accomplish?”
“Nothing,” she said. “I needed work. Nothing more. I swear it.”
“You could have found work as a young woman,” the Duke said. “I have plenty of women in my employ. You didn’t need to lie.”
She shook her head. “When my family was killed, my brother had already accepted a position working in your household,” he said. “He was to come to Upton Manor just days after the fire that killed him. I was alone in the world, with no place to go. I was hardly more than a child. And the only thing I could think of was to come here, to say that I was Samuel and that I was here as your new valet. That Susan was the one who had died.”
“I suppose I can understand that,” the Duke admitted. “You were alone in the world, and frightened.”
“Yes,” she said. “But you continued the lie,” he said. “Even when you had secured you position here, you never came to me and told me the truth.”
“I wanted to,” she said. “I thought of telling you many times.”
“Then why didn’t you?” he asked.
“Because I didn’t know what would happen,” she said. “What if you became angry with me? What if you turned me away?”
He shook his head. “I can’t believe you’d think that of me,” he said. “Even today, you were prepared to leave the Manor when you knew I had discovered the truth. Is that how you see me? As a cruel person who would turn someone out of my home like that?”
“I didn’t think of it as cruelty,” she said. “You thought you had hired a young man to be your valet. I’m not a young man. I’m not what you need. It’s that simple, isn’t it?”
The Duke shook his head. “Nothing about this is simple, Sam— I mean, Susan.” He rubbed a hand across his face, and Sue could see how tired he was from the day’s stresses. “This is going to take some getting used to,” he said.
“Your Grace,” she said, “you have to know that everything else I have ever said to you has been genuine. I lied about my identity because I needed to. But in every other way, I have been honest with you these past five years. I haven’t pretended to be someone I’m not. You know my personality. If you’ve trusted me… well, perhaps you still can.”
It seemed too much to hope for, and yet she waited with bated breath, hoping anyway. Was there any possibility that he would give her a second chance to earn his trust?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know whether I’ve ever known who you are.”
“You have,” she said. “When you confided in me about your grief at the loss of your father— that was me. The trust you felt in me was real. My ability to relate to what you were feeling was real. The only thing that was a lie was my name.”
“The most fundamental thing of all,” the Duke said.
Sue couldn’t argue. He was right.
The Duke sighed. “I don’t want to lose you,” he said. “I don’t want to lose our friendship. I don’t want to hire a new valet. Samuel was the best valet I ever had.”
Her heart fluttered. “Do you mean that?” she asked.
“Of course I mean it,” he said. “You surely know the quality of your own work. You saw firsthand how helpful you were to me, how often just your presence was enough to ease my burdens. It was especially true after Father died, of course, but even before that, the pressures and responsibilities of a gentleman’s life could be overwhelming, and it was always good to have somebody I knew I could confide in.”
“I was glad to be that person,” Sue said.
“But Samuel was never real,” the Duke said. “That’s the part that hurts the most. My trusted confidant— my friend— was never a real person at all.”
“Samuel was real, Your Grace,” Sue said. “He was my brother. And when I came here in his name, I was real, too.”
“I don’t know how we’re going to explain this to anyone,” the Duke said. “The disappearance of Samuel, after so many years of my favoring him. The addition of a new maid to the household without involving the butler or housekeeper in her hire.”
Sue waited quietly. Perhaps he was deciding that keeping her on was too much trouble, that she wasn’t worth it. Perhaps he couldn’t forgive the lies she had told.
Whatever he decides, I will accept it with grace.
But if he sent her away, she knew the problems would be more than just those of how to survive.
Her heart would be broken.
She had already lost one family. But here, in the household of the Duke, she had found a second family. If she lost them, too, she would be devastated.
And if she lost the Duke himself…
No. I never had him. He should push me away.
“I want you to remain my valet,” he said at last. “I don’t want to give you up.”
“If I reveal myself as a woman, I can’t do that,” she said. “But…” she hesitated. Would he accept this offer? “If I continue to live as Samuel, you and I can go on as if nothing’s changed. The only difference will be that there will be no lies between us.”
He looked at her. “I don’t know if that’s brilliant or insane,” he said.
“It’s what I would like,” she said. “If that makes a difference.”
“You would choose to continue to live as a man, Susan?”
“Call me Sue,” she said. “It’s the name I prefer, and the one my friends use. And yes, I would choose to remain your valet,” she said. “Your confidant. Your friend.”
“I must be out of my mind,” he said.
She waited. Was he saying what she thought he was saying?
“All right,” he said. “Let’s give this a try. But you must be very discreet. No one can know.”
Patricia Haverton. The Duchess Gambit: A Historical Regency Romance Novel (Kindle Locations 1147-1204). Patricia Haverton.
Although their dynamic changes, they do manage through the visit with The Earl of Eallesborough and his daughter. Samuel in spite of knowing he won’t be able to be the Duke’s valet when he marries, encourages him to court Anabelle. Although Vernon sees things he most definitely doesn’t approve of in her mannerisms.
So much happens in this book, even before the Duke needs to travel to his cousin’s wedding. More revelations, secrets although not Samuel’s. A memory that still haunts and an ending worthy of a Duchess.
5 Contented Purrs for Patricia!
5 Hisses for Content Editing of the Blurb
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Born the oldest of three children, Patricia Haverton grew up believing that she’d follow in her father’s footsteps and pursue a career in science. However, her worldview changed when she decided to explore her British mother’s roots. The trip to her ancestral lands solidified her conviction that she had found her true calling in the romanticism of the Era of Kings and Queens.
A hopeless romantic and a firm believer in the idea of soulmates, Patricia changed the course of her life and decided to get her degree in Creative Writing and Psychology. As she jokingly says ever so often, “she lives in the past now, where love shows the way and Dukes save the day!”
When she’s not weaving tales of love that prevails, Patricia enjoys spending time with her husband, roaming the British countryside, where they have been living in for the past decade.
Now would be the time to let yourself go and experience the true magic of the Regency Era! Let your imagination run wild, live amazing adventures through the eyes of brave heroes! Like the legendary wise wizard, Patricia will be your guide!