The Duke Heist by Erica Ridley

Chloe has become an expert at blending into the background. When the one man she’s always had her eye on finally sees her, she starts to wonder what a lifetime in his embrace could be like.

What’s it About?

Chloe Wynchester is completely forgettable — a curse that gives her the ability to blend into any crowd. When the only father she’s ever known makes a dying wish for his adopted family of orphans to recover a missing painting, she’s the first one her siblings turn to for stealing it back. No one expects that in doing so, she’ll also abduct a handsome duke.

Lawrence Gosling, the Duke of Faircliffe, is tortured by his father’s mistakes. To repair his estate’s ruined reputation, he must wed a highborn heiress. Yet when he finds himself in a carriage being driven hell-for-leather down the cobblestone streets of London by a beautiful woman who refuses to heed his commands, he fears his heart is hers. But how can he sacrifice his family’s legacy to follow true love?

First Impressions

This is definitely one of those novels where it feels as though we’ve been dropped into the fun mid-story. There are a slew of characters who are difficult to distinguish from one another, each one with an exuberantly over-the-top personality. It seems like we’ve already missed the introduction to who they all are, as well as their dynamic with not only the Duke of Faircliffe, but also the rest of society at large. It was tricky to determine at the outset if Chloe and her rag-tag group of misfit orphan siblings were dedicated to helping those less fortunate in British society, or if they were just extremely talented con-men. While it’s kind of a blend of the two at times, rest assured that it’s more the former than the latter. I was so thrown by the missing backstory that I even double-checked a time or two to see if this was in fact the first book in the Wild Wynchesters series, or perhaps if this was a spin-off series of another which may have provided that missing introduction I was hoping for.

It wasn’t until I finished the whole novel that I discovered there’s actually a novella called The Governess Gambit which takes place before this first full-length book of the series. In simply reading the synopsis of that prequel it seems like it probably contained all of the important foundational details that this book needed. And I must say, it was a pretty frustrating discovery! Either there needed to be a full summary and re-introduction of the key players first thing in this book, or that novella should have been more clearly labeled as book one. While I think it would have helped matters significantly had I read that book first, I don’t believe it would have changed the fact that this read presents us with a rather slow-moving start. Even the primary feature of the synopsis which piqued my interest in the first place, the fact Chloe kind of unknowingly kidnaps a Duke, plays out fairly quickly and isn’t really the basis of the plot in any way. It’s not until roughly the half-way point where things really start to come together as Chloe and Lawrence become more fully entrenched in each other’s lives.

The Orphan and the Duke

Chloe and Lawrence may have spent more of this novel apart than together, thinking and pining after each other rather than engaging directly, and yet their impact on each other’s lives cannot be ignored. Their growing connection and attraction forces them to look inward, and contemplate how they’ve both arrived at this point in their lives. For Chloe, we hear about her background growing up on the streets of London, abandoned by her family before being adopted by a lonely Baron who wanted to provide a better life for orphans who society had turned away from. In order to survive on the streets, Chloe had to blend into the shadows to survive. As a pickpocket, and even after her adoption, she continued to live life without drawing unnecessary attention to herself. By spending more time with Lawrence, she has to emerge more into society so that she can further infiltrate his world. This slowly evolving visibility makes her realize that deep down she’s always craved the possibility of being seen and fully embraced by her peers.

Lawrence’s revelations are also connected to his past and complicated relationship with family, in particular his troublesome father. For years Lawrence has tried to remedy the reputation of his family name following the countless debts his father plunged them into. Only by marrying a wealthy woman can Lawrence guarantee that all his debts will be paid off, and his future children might look upon him proudly rather than with shame. However, the misfit Chloe starts to make him question if he can give up all of that security to have her permanently ensconced in his life, especially when he considers how the rest of society refuses to accept her and her untraditional siblings. We ultimately see a vital struggle of pride versus money and love, and we can’t help but wonder which one will win out in the end.

Series: The Wild Wynchesters, book 1 (technically, but not really). I’m not 100% sure I’ll continue with this series, although I will admit the premise of the next book is intriguing seeing as it focuses on a f/f relationship in history.

Final Impressions: It took a bit too long for the story to really get going for my liking. When it finally did I appreciated the inward reflections that Chloe and Lawrence both spent on their own lives, though having more opportunities for them to connect naturally in society rather than constantly via hijinks and deceptions would have benefitted the overall development of their relationship. The ending of this book is stronger than the start as we see the Wynchester clan learn to accept another into their fold who they once considered an enemy, and it will certainly leave a smile on your face.

Smut Level: It takes a while to get there, just like with the rest of the plot, but once we do things certainly don’t disappoint! We see plenty of steamy detail to make up for the wait.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 353 Pages.