Summary from Goodreads:
Wanted: Governess able to keep all hours . . .
Rebellious Julian Fortescue never expected to inherit a dukedom, nor to find himself guardian to three young half-sisters. Now in the market for a governess, he lays eyes on Jane Grey and knows immediately she is qualified—to become his mistress. Yet the alluring woman appears impervious to him. Somehow Julian must find a way to make her succumb to temptation . . . without losing his heart and revealing the haunting mistakes of his past.
Desired: Duke skilled in the seductive art of conversation . . .
Lady Jeanne de Falleron didn’t seek a position as a governess simply to fall into bed with the Duke of Denford. Under the alias of Jane Grey, she must learn which of the duke’s relatives is responsible for the death of her family—and take her revenge. She certainly can’t afford the distraction of her darkly irresistible employer, or the smoldering desire he ignites within her.
But as Jane discovers more clues about the villain she seeks, she’s faced with a possibility more disturbing than her growing feelings for Julian: What will she do if the man she loves is also the man she’s sworn to kill?
(I’ve tried four times to summarize this novel without spoiling details, but I can’t do any better than the summary from the Goodreads page.)
I haven’t read the previous Wild Quartet books (I have at least one kicking around somewhere) but since I previously read one Miranda Neville series backward (the Burgundy Club) I figured it wouldn’t hurt to start with the fourth book in this series, either. And it went very well – there were a few times where Julian would go to one of the previous books’ heroes or heroines (in this series, the tie is a group of art collectors rather than antiquarian book collectors) but just enough information was dropped in conversation to clue the reader as to backstory without an info-dump.
That was a good decision on Neville’s part because The Duke of Dark Desires is heavy on exposition for both hero and heroine. These are not happy character histories – they never are when French aristocrats and the French Revolution are in play. Jane is such a strong character and her story is both a very old one and a very modern one. The stigma Jane fears is one that many women face when forced to make choices to simply survive. Julian, too, has demons but they are less physically menacing – he’s haunted by guilt and inadequacy, made larger by the fact that his mother dumps her three unwanted-though-that-is-never-made-explicit daughters in Julian’s lap so that she might go gallivanting off with her new husband. Together, though, Julian and Jane can burn up the page – both in sexual chemistry and in character. Incidentally, Julian’s middle half-sister, Fenella, is a delight.
I am definitely going to check out the earlier three books in the series, they seem like good romances (I am miffed, though only by a very tiny bit, that my suggestion for the title – “The Duke of Denford’s Crime,” to match her Oscar Wilde theme in the series – wasn’t used. Oh well).
Dear FTC: I received a DRC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.