A satisfying ending to a well-executed series. One of the hardest types of trilogies to tackle is that which the impact event happens in Book 1 (One Night in London) and interest in reaching the conclusion must extend until Book 3, without slowing down the pace or feeling as though it’s been deliberately drawn out. Caroline Linden tackles this tricky balance by having pieces of her books happen simultaneously (the first few chapters of Book 2 begin while Book 1 is finishing, and Book 3 begins as Book 2 is closing). So everything is on top of one another. Each brother is well-defined and unique, and the final solution to the Truth About the Duke is rooted deep within character flaws, that push The Way to a Duke’s Heart forward.
Charles de Lacey, heir to the Duchy of Durham and already the Earl of Gresham, has been characterized throughout the first two books as a bit of a rogue. Lovable, yes. But not one to be trusted with important details. His brothers, Edward and Gerard, are men of action and are willing to take on the problem at hand: Their father appears to have been married before he married the late Duchess, casting doubt on all three brother’s legitimacy, and Charlie’s right to the title. He was also being blackmailed. All is revealed as a deathbed confession.
Charlie was estranged from his father, and we learn why right from the start–Francis de Lacey disapproved of a woman Charlie wanted to marry, causing the young lady in question to marry another less than two months later. Charlie didn’t speak to his father for the rest of Francis’s life–a decade. Finally — the motivation for the fall into roguery is revealed.
Charlie is a fun character. He’s always been under his brothers’ shadows, despite being the heir, and never felt as though he measured up. But Charlie is also intelligent, charming and quick on his feet. All useful traits as he tracks the blackmailer Gerard found in Blame It On Bath. He finds Hiram Scott, by way of a guest in the hotel — Tessa Neville, a bluestocking widow investigating a canal investment with Mr. Scott. He suspects Tessa may be involved at first, and follows her to Frome, where the majority of the story takes place. Soon, he learns that Tessa is innocent, and is caught up in her problems.
Tessa is also a well-drawn character–she’s smart but has been ostracized in some ways because of her love of finances. With a secret in her past, she’s wary of Charlie’s attention, but he keeps putting himself in her path by charming Tessa’s adorably dotty companion, Eugenia Bates.
I really liked this book — I liked the ending, which felt reasonable and believable. Tessa and Charlie were wonderful to read, I enjoyed seeing Edward and Gerard again. I particularly liked the cameo appearance of the Countess of Dowling, Margaret from I Love the Earl, Charlie’s aunt and Francis’s sister. There’s a lot about this book that is fun, and my favorite part is that the ending doesn’t depend on action, murder, violence. It’s a conversation between the bad guy and our hero, and we realize that not everything so black and white.
A wonderful ending to an amazing series.