Friday, May 19, 2017

[ARC Review]: "From Duke Till Dawn"

romance novel covers, historical romance, From Duke Till Dawn by Eva Leigh
From Duke Till Dawn by Eva Leigh
Publisher: Avon (May 30, 2017)
Series: The London Underground, 1
Genre: Historical Romance

Eva Leigh launches a seductive new series that sizzles with the dark secrets of London’s underworld...

Years ago, the Duke of Greyland gave his heart—and a princely sum of money—to a charming, destitute widow with unparalleled beauty. After one passionate night, she slipped from his bed and vanished without a trace. And just when he’s given up hope of ever seeing her again, Greyland finds her managing a gaming hell. He’s desperate to have her… until he discovers everything about his long-lost lover was a lie.

In truth, Cassandra Blake grew up on the streets, picking pockets to survive. Greyland was a mark—to be fleeced and forgotten—but her feelings for the duke became all too real. Once he learns of her deception, however, the heat in his eyes turns to ice. When her business partner absconds with the gaming hell proceeds—leaving unsavory investors out for blood—Cassandra must beg the man she betrayed for help.

Greyland wants compensation, too, and he’ll assist her under one condition: she doesn’t leave his sight until her debts are paid. But it’s not long before the real Cassandra—the smart, streetwise criminal—is stealing his heart all over again. 

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My Review:

He was a duke. She was a swindler. What would come of their association?

From Duke Till Dawn kicks off a new series from Eva Leigh. I’ve only read one other from her (Forever Your Earl) which I very much enjoyed. Compared to my first time with Leigh, this one was a bit of a letdown, falling into the most dreaded of book categories: Meh/Okay. I didn't hate it, I didn't love it, I just liked it.

The premise here is quite simple, as far as plot set ups go: Alex is a duke, and Cassandra a con artist. When the two first met (off page – more on this later), Alex was just another mark for Cassandra, and Cassandra was a widow in trouble and in need of money to get herself out of debt – or at least, that’s the story she told him. They slept together that night, and she left him before morning. Two years later and Alex still thinks of her . . . and can’t believe that he’s finally found her again, in a new gaming hell his friends have dragged him to. He wants to know why she left him like that, and if there’s any chance of starting something again. While she’s not unaffected by Alex, she can’t get close to him like that again. But when her mentor and partner screws her over, taking all their money – including what they owe to some very unsavory people – she has no choice but to beg for Alex’s help. She betrayed him once, can he forgive her and trust her now?

The sudden desire to muss his hair and tear open his clothes grabbed her. She wanted to see him completely naked, watch him lose his treasured self-control. He’d come very close when they’d had their one night together. He’d pinned her hands to the bed—to her excitement—but had released her almost at once, as if afraid of crushing them both with his need. His touch had been careful, almost humble, verging on too gentle . . . though she’d seen fierce desire in his gaze and the flare of his nostrils. Even then, he’d kept part of himself back, as if afraid of hurting her with the full force of his hungers. 

It had been just one night with him, yet she still felt every part of it, the memory never fading. Now he seemed close to letting slip the tether that bound his urges. His words were barely more than growls, and his chest rose and fell with hard-drawn breath.

Perhaps my biggest complaint about FDTD has to do with the romance. These two had that one night together years ago, and supposedly that was enough to start the building blocks of Feelings And Such, especially for Alex. But we’re not given anything from their time together to actually solidify that claim. And no, I don’t just mean the sex, but rather any sort of intimacy or communication from that meeting, etc. There’s nothing on page about their first time – even though that’s what their eventually relationship is being built upon. This means that not only did I not have enough to believe and truly root for their HEA, but I was also more than a bit disappointed. If you’re going to have a second chance romance for your couple – in any way, including brief meetings or one night stands – what’s the point if you skip over their first connection entirely? If you don’t show us why they hit it off that first time, why it was memorable and affected them, then why not just start their romance completely in the present, period?

Since this story takes place within the span of about a week -- from them meeting at the gaming hell to their HEA ending -- I had a hard time believing the romance was so deep and concrete. There just wasn’t enough there, and I can’t help but think that showing us what it was – besides the sex – that they had together two years ago would have strengthened the overall romance, made it easier for me to accept it in such a short time frame.

The story itself was . . . fine. Nothing terribly engaging or complex for me. Which is kind of the problem, actually. I found that I wasn’t fully invested in it, that I could easily put the book down for the day without dying to pick it right back up, and when I did, I definitely had moments of skimming or even zoning out. And when the book was all said and done, I wasn’t really left with anything. That is, not much stood out for me, and I feel like within a week or so, I probably won’t remember much about the book at all. It just . . . was.

It wasn’t bad. It didn’t give me rage (see: far too many books I’ve read lately). Overall, it was just meh.

Now, there were moments while I was reading that I liked. And I did share quite a few quotes, which does say something good about the book. I can't stress enough: it wasn't a bad book, it just didn't wow me.

The interactions between Alex and his two friends (and, I assume, heroes of the next books) were fun to read, and I liked their dynamics. They give him hell for his fascination with Cassandra:

“I kissed her,” Alex admitted. 

“Judging by the look on your face right now, it wasn’t very good.” 

Alex opened his mouth to speak, but his friend cut him off. 

Ellingsworth continued. “The kiss wasn’t very good—it was a thing of unequaled magnificence.”

But also this little friendship banter:

“How are we to amuse ourselves if not at your expense?” 

“I’ve heard the cure for boredom is work.” Alex folded his arms across his chest and couldn’t resist a smile when his friends both made sounds of horror. 

“Sirrah, you will recant those words immediately,” Ellingsworth declared hotly. 

“I cannot accept blame if you find the cure worse than the disease.”

While I wasn't fully invested in the HEA romance of these two, I can't deny that the chemistry between Alex and Cassandra was good. They had their sweet moments, too, And the scene from the exclusive erotic club that they visited was quite sexy, as he fingerbangs her on a chaise while others watch:

But he wasn’t satisfied—continued to stroke and caress her until he made her come again, and once more. Finally, her body splayed limp against the chaise. He brought his fingers into his mouth, and she blushed deeply, gorgeously, as he licked her up. 

He felt the press of her hand against his urgent cock. She wanted to give him the same satisfaction. 

Carefully, he removed her hand from him. 

“But you haven’t . . .” she murmured. 

“When we’re alone, you’ll cry my name, and I’ll shout yours. This is a place for namelessness.” When it was time for her to touch him, for him to be truly seated within her, he desired nothing and no one around them. Just the pleasure and experience of her body and his. 

If he wanted mere sexual gratification, he could have let her touch him. Yet he desired more than the brief release of orgasm. He hungered for her. All of her. Body and heart."

To be honest, I was quite intrigued by that club and wish it had played a bigger part in the book (because you know my love of all things dirty). But then again, I'm pretty sure the club will play a big part in another book, with another couple, so I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

There were also little moments that, while not explicit in any way, were still very sexy in their simplicity:

He cupped the back of her head, holding her in place, as he continued to kiss her throat. She held fast to his biceps, feeling them flex and tightened beneath her touch.

And also this, which IS explicit but also hot as hell:

She felt herself being walked backward, until the wall met her back. He took hold of one of her thighs and hitched it high over his hip, his fingers digging wonderfully into her soft flesh. Her quim pressed snug against his cock. It was thick and firm against her wetness. And when he dragged the length of it through her folds, she gasped aloud. “That’s it,” he growled. 

“That’s my love.” 

Holding tight to his shoulders, she clung to him as he teased her with his cock, stroking her but never delving inside. He would circle her opening, yet didn’t thrust in, rubbing her clit with the head of his cock, driving her into a frenzy of need. 

“Alex, now,” she moaned. 

“What do you want?” The cords of his neck stood out and he was hard everywhere. 

She practically wailed with desire. “Fuck me, Your Grace.” 

“Yes, my lady.”

So it's not like I didn't like these two together -- I did! As lovers, there's no doubt that they fit together (ha, pun not intended . . .). But I just felt like something was missing in the haste to wrap up their HEA in such a short time frame.

I’m definitely curious about the story between Langdon (Alex's friend) and Amina (the owner of the erotic sex club), which was hinted at here. He’s trying to pursue her and while she’s attracted to him, too, she can’t risk giving in to such a temptation. There’s definite potential for their story to be quite an entertaining dance to the HEA finish line, so I have my fingers crossed that it'll wow me more than Alex and Cassandra's story.

I’m having a hard time pointing out things that were bad or raving about things that I loved, because there’s really not much more to say. From Duke Till Dawn falls somewhere in the middle, a likeable enough read, if a bit underdeveloped in the romance progression itself. I definitely liked it, but I wasn't completely in love with it, you know? I’ll still be back for more from Leigh, in particular the couple I mentioned above. But this one, while it had its good moments sprinkled throughout, fell a little flat for me.


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I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss.

*Note: The quotes used belong to Eva Leigh; TBQ's Book Palace does not claim them. Any mistakes or typos in the quotes are my own fault.

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If you want to read more quotes that I highlighted, check out my Twitter!


Until Next Time,


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