Rape isn't sexy, and it doesn't make a dark romance.
A Duke but No Gentleman (Masters of Seduction, #1)SPOILER WARNING ALERT! Read at your own risk.
The Duke of Blackbern and the Marquess of Norgrave are known rakes among the ton. Debutantes are warned to stay away from these two, because if they don't chances are they'll be ruined. But there comes Lady Imogene, who's been sheltered in the country side of England. It's not the first time she's been to London, but it is her first season.
She's already in trouble for helping her friend elope with a "title-less" guy, so it's to her advantage to mind her own business and stay away from anything that'd raise her dad's ire, else she may end up getting married to someone she doesn't want.
Tristan, the Duke of Blackbern, stumbles upon Imogene during a ball. Her mom catches them in a compromising position. She isn't happy and warns Imogene from Tristan. Her mom doesn't even bother introducing them. Tristan is taken with Imogene and wants to know more about her. His best friend the Marquess of Norgrave notices it and dares him to make a wager. The wager is about who claims her maidenhead first. Tristan accepts but only because if he doesn't Norgrave will still go after Imogene. They're always competing on everything.
Little by little Tristan starts wooing Imogene, but so does Norgrave, though Imogene is more interested in Tristan. It doesn't take long before Tristan beds Imogene and when Norgrave finds out he swears he'd get his revenge. His revenge comes in the form of tricking Imogene to meet him at the house where she usually meets Tristan for their trysts. Except, it's Norgrave waiting for her. Imogene fights him but Norgrave succeeds and rapes her. The scene only goes far enough where Norgrave is hitting her, forcing himself on her, touching her inappropriately, and so on. But it's when Tristan finds Imogene all beat up and disheveled that she tells him all that happened between her and Norgrave and how (even though Norgrave forced himself on her) she ended up climaxing, felt him come inside her, and blaming herself for it.
This story is confusing at its start. It's hard to tell in whose POV one is. It seems to jump from one man to the other. It's only until chapter 2 or 3 that the POVs become clear, but even then, in later chapters the POV jumps. Many a time I caught myself thinking, "How would Imogene know that Tristan did that just now? His back is to her."
Imogene is supposed to be an innocent 18-year-old, so it's hard to understand why she'd be allowed to go to masquerades, get in carriages with a man, go to a man's house, walk out on her friends at picnics and go with a man....She did all this without a chaperon! As I recall, in the 1800's all debutantes required a chaperone, how or why she got away with not having one boggles my mind.
The dialogue between Tristan and Norgrave was childish at best--perhaps they're the worst kind of rakes that could exist in the 1800's. After all they wagered on claiming "maidenheads" instead of "Arab horses" or livestock or something else. Just when Tristan started to redeem himself Norgraves forces himself on Imogene and she makes it seem like she may have enjoyed it. I stopped reading at the 70% mark because the story wasn't all that great, and with this "rape like" twist I wanted to throw my iPad to the wall. At 12:30 at night I decided this wasn't worth my time to finish.
I love regency historicals. I've read all kinds, but this one was definitely not for me. I'd never read Alexandra Hawkins before now, and I don't think I will again.