I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The worst betrayals came from the closest ties.
The series Rogues to Riches follows the Wentworth family and their sudden inheritance of a Dukedom. Duncan Wentworth is cousin to the new duke and has traveled for many years as tutor to the duke's younger brother Stephen. He's a bit of a mysterious figure as he hugged the walls more in the first book (My One and Only Duke) and is a very quiet and contained person. Here he is sent to one of the dukedom's failing estates and told if he can't make it profitable in one year, Quinn (the duke) will require him to make it his permanent post. For how restless Duncan is, this feels like a punishment but is really a set-up by Quinn and his wife to help Duncan finally settle, calm, and come to terms with whatever past issues are making him run.
Matilda is on the run and ends up rescuing Duncan from a pair of poachers, prompting him to offer a meal and bed for the night. Matilda plays her cards pretty close to the vest but the reader knows she is on the run from her fiance and possibly, father, after she discovered some traitorous correspondence in her father's office. Matilda has traveled all over the world with her father who hunts for antiques and paintings, she was very briefly married to a duke and when Lt. Colonel Lord Parker hints at wanting a stable, stationary home, her dream, she accepts his proposal. Fearing Parker saw her with the traitorous correspondence, she runs, in fear of being hung for a traitor or forced to testify against her father and see him hung for a traitor.
How long since Duncan had noticed a woman? Truly noticed that the curve of her cheek and the curve of her eyebrow---the same graceful arc---both begged to be traced by his fingers?
As the reader only has Matilda's interpretation of the events that led to her flight, we're left in the dark, giving the story a little bit of a mystery feel. The full mystery part of the story isn't revealed until the latter half of the book, some readers may start to suspect Matilda's interpretation of certain characters before then. POVs from Parker and Matilda's father begin to be added as the story goes on, which brings a better well rounded view to the reader. Parker, somewhat, fell flat to me as his character was uneven and Matilda's father wasn't quite flushed out enough for me. However, the three characters that work for/with Matilda's father, Carlu, Tomas, and Petras, practically cry out for their own series.
Duncan's baggage also isn't fully revealed until the second half, although, there are some hints to his story that readers will probably have a decent idea to what caused his disillusionment. One of the strong suits of Burrowes is her talent in writing families. This could be read as a standalone but if you read the first, you'll enjoy how Quinn and his heroine make appearances and Stephen's relationship with Duncan is still featured, I did miss seeing the “Valkyrie” sisters. Bringing the relationship Duncan has with these characters to the forefront at times, envelopes the reader into this world Burrowes has created, it makes reading the book and series so much more whole and fulfilling.
Heaven help her, he could make a chess game of a kiss.
Chess is a running theme in this story, all the characters trying to position themselves for best personal outcome, while still trying to protect certain pieces. This tone gives the story a very deliberate pace, this is a slower moving story and one you sink into, instead of gobble up. I did think the romance was pretty quiet, these two maneuver around and then just kind of seep into each other; there's no loud chemistry explosion. They were sweet but not particularly inspiring, I wished for a little more life from Duncan and Matilda, although, there is something to be said for thoughtful loving.
I thought at the end, the villain collapsed extremely easily and the mystery/danger Matilda seemed or thought to be in, ended up feeling weakly constructed. As I said, the romance was quiet between these two but sweet. The strength of the novel was simply living with the Wentworths for a while, this family is so well drawn and charismatic, I'll be on the lookout for the next time I get to visit them and get to experience another one falling in love.