The Accidental Duke (The Mad Matchmaking Men of Waterloo, Book 1) by Barbara Devlin, introduces us to heroes who are disabled war veterans grappling with re-entry back home and the struggle with an overwhelming impact that few have formally diagnosed. These early post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) cases affect the soldiers, families and loved ones. It’s hard to imagine a world where friends, family and strangers did not fully understand the impact the stress and strain of war had on the body. Or, the cruelty of “professionals” who thought they could cure the imperfection and get rid of the ghosts haunting those afflicted.
Every day struggles are insurmountable when no one understands the emotional toll on the returning soldiers. The painful memories emerge without warning, the impact for some can lead to life altering changes. For many, the ability to perform a simple daily task is almost impossible. Thanks to Barbara Devlin, we meet soldiers who are heroes on the battlefield, and return home to rediscover they are worthy of love if given the chance.
From the moment Anthony returns there are obstacles to overcome, overwhelmed from the pressure of family expectation and obligation unfolding. When the spare becomes the heir, all duties must be honored, including carrying on the family name and marrying. Anthony would rather be left alone, instead he will discover that despite all odds, his fiancé will be the one person whom he can rely on. If he can open up his heart to trust in Lady Arabella, her strength and courage will save him from the past and prove he is worthy of love now more than ever.
Lady Arabella is betrothed to a man she hardly knows and the urgency from family for this union is layered with deception. Assumptions that both the bride and groom will just go along with the plan and do as instructed is expected. In a world where women have no voice, Arabella will unlock hers fiercely. As with any great romance, she will uncover the real reason for Erasmus hesitancy and resistance. Will she call off the wedding or risk her life to be with him? Our heroine will prove her strength and willingness to stand up for what is right as she becomes an ally to a man who was convinced he’d never be accepted. Lady Arabella is a woman ahead of her time, one not to be challenged, and a blessing for Erasmus.
As with every Barbara Devlin book the devil is in the details, and it’s those details that keep you seated in your comfy chair from start to finish. From a delicate tryst, to bringing to light the earlier cases of cruel and sometimes inhumane treatment of PTSD, this story is captivating and full of everything you love in a historical romance. I’m looking forward to this new series, a brotherhood of war heroes where obstacles are overcome, betrayal is vindicated and friends fights for love.
All of our heroes have gone through unspeakable pain and trauma. The heroines who will give of themselves to the proud men are remarkable and worthy of your time reading these adventures. British Army Major Anthony Erasmus Hildebrand Bartlett and Lady Aarabella love story is one where innocence blossoms into a fiery passion, patience lends to new discoveries, and wisdom in uncovering the truth reveals a love like no other. A remarkable story and I am thrilled that this will make it’s way into readers e-books soon. I look forward to the next installment and hope you will too. This spicy read is best enjoyed with your favorite iced-beverage, a cozy chair, and maybe a fan.
I received an advance readers copy from the author for a fair and honest review.
The Accidental Duke by Barbara Devlin releases April 14, 2021 and I have a sneak peak.
“Ah, the dessert arrives.” Papa clapped twice and stood. “Serve Lord Rockingham and Lady Arabella, first. And I will have a brandy.”
“Yes, my lord.” The butler set two glasses of syllabub and a plate of almond shortbread on the table.
“Feel free to dunk the shortbread in the syllabub.” To set an example, and put Anthony at ease, Arabella did as she bade him. “It is delicious, is it not?”
“Indeed.” When he leaned forward, she mimicked his movement. “But I prefer your sweet lips. Ah, you blush, and I adore that about you. Perhaps, now, you might tell me why your father stares at me as if I am a loose munition about to explode.”
“My lord, you seek to shock me with your bold statements, when I invited you here to show my parents that you are not mad, so please behave.” He halted mid-chew, and she gulped. “I do not mean to offend you, but should His Grace enact his dubious scheme, we may need my parents’ support. Given His Grace told my father that you are mentally unsound, I must prove otherwise. They must see for themselves that you are no different than anyone else.”
“And here I thought it was my estimable company you desired.” The frown returned, and she bit her tongue, because she did not want to hurt him. “You should have told me I was to perform, tonight. Pray, how am I to acquit myself, Lady Arabella?”
“Act natural, and do not be vexed, my lord.” She set down a piece of shortbread and reached across the table. To her relief, Anthony touched his fingers to hers. “Just be yourself, because your inclinations always do you credit, and we do this to ensure our future.”
“I can manage that, and you are wise beyond your years.” His professed confidence did not fool her for a second, given his pained countenance, and she longed to hug him. “But I submit this would be unnecessary if I still had my other arm. No one would question me. No one would view me as unfit, in any capacity. But because I am less than a man, I must be mad.”
“My lord, you must stop looking to the past, because your history is written and cannot be changed, but that does not mean that your destiny is set in stone and you are done on this earth.” Arabella chose her words carefully, because she honestly believed Anthony underestimated himself. “There is more to you than a single limb, and I would caution you not to define yourself by what you lack, because you are a better man than you realize. You need only stop looking over your shoulder and turn your eyes to the present and what looms on the horizon, to grasp the reins and charge forth.”
“You expect me to forget what I was once, because you flatter me?” His scowl indicated she angered him, when that was not her aim, so she sought to soften her response, at the first opportunity. “I am to ignore the life I enjoyed before the war?”
“My lord, you mistake me, given I suggested no such thing.” She quieted and smiled, when her father peered in her direction. For Anthony’s sake, they had to maintain the image of a normal, happy couple. “Please, I would not set myself at odds with you, when I am not the enemy. If we are to defeat His Grace, we must combine our efforts. As a partner, you should know that I would never stop fighting for you, should His Grace take you from me. Regardless of what he promises, no fortune, townhouse, or rank will sway me from my purpose, which is to defend my husband and the family we create.”
Again, he held her stare, and she could almost sense him tugging at her. Indeed, he wanted to hold her as she yearned to hold him.
“Formidable.” Narrowing his gaze, he shook his head. “You are formidable, Lady Arabella. If only we had your fortitude in France, we might have been home much sooner.”
“Do you mock me?” She was more than a little hurt at his perceived jest. “Because we are in serious trouble.”
“I thought so, when I arrived this evening, and I apologize for that.” Reaching for her, he toyed with her fingers. “But I am not so afraid, anymore. In fact, I believe we will be just fine.”
“How can you say that, when you know what His Grace intends?” Surreptitiously, she glanced at her parents, but they were diverted by their dessert. “Must confess the situation keeps me up at night, and I am consumed with your wellbeing.”
“Well, at least you are thinking of me, while you rest between the sheets.” Anthony waggled his brows. “There is that. But you need not worry, because I will speak with my father and sort out the matter.”
“How I wish I had known you, before the war.” Once again, the invisible but nonetheless potent connection drew her to him, and she studied his blue eyes, the clarity of which never failed to steal her breath. “When I am alone, I imagine such grandiose notions of you, not that you are any less a man, now, because I would argue quite the opposite. I think you brave and strong, every bit as formidable as you believe me.”
“Praise, indeed, my lady.” The mantel clock chimed the hour, and he pushed back his chair and stood. “It is late, and I should depart.”
“Must you?” She didn’t want him to leave. She wanted him with her, so she could protect him. “But you didn’t finish your syllabub, and you didn’t take a brandy with Papa.”
“I had quite enough, Lady Arabella.” To Mama and Papa, Anthony said, “Thank you, so much, for a lovely evening. Indeed, I cannot recall enjoying such a pleasurable meal and most excellent company.”
“We are honored you consented to join us.” Papa crossed the room and shook Anthony’s hand. “Your coach is parked at the curb, and I will see you to the door.”
“Oh, no, Papa.” Arabella shot to the fore. “Please, allow me to escort Lord Rockingham, given it is my duty.”
“I can deny you nothing, my dear child.” Papa chortled. “Perhaps, Lord Rockingham might accompany us to the Promenade, tomorrow.”
“What a wonderful idea.” Arabella bounced and peered at Anthony. “Say you will, my lord, else I shall be disappointed.”
“What man could resist such a request from his beautiful betrothed?” She gripped his arm, and he clucked his tongue. “Of course, I shall be too happy to escort Lady Arabella.”
“Then it is settled.” She drew Anthony into the hall. “I shall return in a moment, Papa.”
In the foyer, her fiancé glanced left and then right, before pulling her close. The kiss, hard and fast, did not appease her, and she held tight, while she made improper advances on his person. She didn’t think he would complain, given his encouragement.
When he ended the glorious tryst, she clung to him. Shaken and vulnerable, she held tight to the lapels of his coat and gasped for breath, as did he.
“You know, I am beginning to wonder why I ever objected to our marriage.” Anthony caressed her cheek with his thumb. “If I knew you could kiss like that, I should have insisted on hasty nuptials.”
*Excerpt approved by Barbara Devlin*
A proud Latina, USA Today bestselling, Amazon All-Star author Barbara Devlin was born a storyteller, but it was a weeklong vacation to Bethany Beach, Delaware that forever changed her life. The little house her parents rented had a collection of books by Kathleen Woodiwiss, which exposed Barbara to the world of romance, and Shanna remains a personal favorite.
Barbara writes heartfelt historical romances that feature not so perfect heroes who may know how to seduce a woman but know nothing of marriage. And she prefers feisty but smart heroines who sometimes save the hero before they find their happily ever after.
Barbara is a disabled-in-the-line-of-duty retired police officer. She earned an MA in English and continued a course of study for a Doctorate in Literature and Rhetoric. She happily considered herself an exceedingly eccentric English professor, until success in Indie publishing lured her into writing, full-time, featuring her fictional knighthood, the Brethren of the Coast.
Currently, Barbara lives with her retired firefighter husband in the mountains of North Carolina. Connect with Barbara Devlin at BarbaraDevlin.com, where you can sign up for her newsletter, The Knightly News.