Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Anthony Redbourne and Sebastian Hewel, in the role of Lady Bronwyn, wife of the Earl of Crofton, are still new to their marriage and arrangement of deceit. Madly in love with one another, Sebastian and Anthony are still adjusting to married life while making sure that their deception is kept carefully hidden or both will loose their heads. They would prefer to stay at Anthony’s country estate but orders from the Queen cannot be ignored as Queen Elizabeth requires Anthony’s assistance with a threat to the Crown.
The Queen wants Anthony to seduce Marie Valois, the beautiful daughter of a French noble who is wanted by the King of France as well as Queen Elizabeth. Just the idea of Anthony courting and perhaps even bedding another breaks Sebastian’s heart. Most perplexing of all, Anthony doesn’t seem to understand just how painful it would be for Sebastian to watch Anthony flirt and wait on another. However, Fate has someting else in store for all. When Marie’s brother, the hot headed and handsome Nicholas, arrives at Crofton Hall, to protect his sister from the scandalous advances of Lord Redbourne, it’s Anthony who’s upset when Nicholas starts to court Lady “Bronwyn” under his very nose.
As the plans and games shift, Anthony soon realizes that his old ways could cost him everything he loves. As the danger of exposure mounts, something worse lurks at the edges of court politics and family pride, especially when Sebastian’s uncle returns to the scene with his own demands. Will Anthony and Sebastian keep their marriage and deception safe or will duty to the crown bring everything tumbling down around them.
A sequel to The Actor and The Earl, Duty to the Crown continues the mad historical romp and romance between Lord Anthony Redbourne. Earl of Crofton and Sebastian Hewell, now married to the Earl as Lady Bronwyn while still pretending to be her twin brother Sebastian as well. Newly wed, Anthony and Sebastian are juggling their new status while trying to keep their deception a secret from the Queen and court. Rebecca Cohen manages to combine historical accuracy and an imaginary duplicitous romance in an entertaining and totally enjoyable tale of royalty and love.
As with the first story in the series, Cohen brings the facts of life in Queen Elizabeth era to life in all its malodorous, intrigue centric, white faced glory. From the odors of a sweltering London in the summer to the high politics and intrigue of Queen Elizabeth’s court, Cohen’s characters and settings are so vividly described that one almost flinches at the thought of walking in these character’s shoes during that time period. With faces covered in white (ceruse) and topped off with vermilion, the sea of chalky faces, high odor, and lacy garments must have been quite a sight and smell to behold. No heads could said to be safely sitting on their shoulders, as the Tower and the Queen’s whim were a deadly combination. The court itself was a gossipy, envious sea of people jockeying for position and favor, where the wealthy tread carefully while sniping at each other. Cohen does a beautiful job here with her locations and settings as all come across as authentic and believable.
Into this maelstrom of gamesmanship and politics, Cohen plops poor Sebastian, now Lady Bronwyn, who is unequipped and new to the court’s intrigue and gossip, especially where it concerns his husband’s past ways and his own “plain” appearance. Cohen quickly builds on Sebastian’s insecurities and fear as the snide comments and glares get to Sebastian while at court. From the scenes and dialog, the ease and safety that Anthony and Sebastian find being cocooned at Crofton Hall is dispensed with once they head to London with all its peril and dangers. The contrast between the country and the city are remarkable just as it must have been at that time.
The romance and love affair that started in The Actor and the Earl is deepening here. Cohen brings Anthony’s young son into the relationship with heartwarming accuracy to the times. The interaction between “Lady Bronwyn”, Anthony, and William is a delight and it makes this family unit even more precious and endearing. And fragile. Because despite all the wonderful, loving scenes between Sebastian and Anthony, and his son, the reader has the knowledge in the back of their mind that all this could be taken away instantly with one terrible discovery. The tenuousness of the arrangement and the danger inherent in the deception is a constant factor throughout the story, made more so by demands from Sebastian’s uncle and a determined suitor from France.
Anthony becomes a more accessible character here as he continues to grow and reflect on his past. More changes are in store for the people we have met in the previous story as well. If there is a drawback here in Duty to the Crown, it is that you must read the first story in order to understand all the events and circumstances that lead up to Sebastian and Anthony’s deception and marriage. There is a lack of back history to this sequel that might confuse a first time reader. That said, I feel that Duty to the Crown builds beautifully on The Actor and the Earl, deepening the relationship and romance between the main characters while adding more history and flavor to the time and setting. I loved this story and am moving on to the third in the trilogy, Forever Hold His Peace (The Crofton Chronicles #3).
Need a new romance? Love historical novels? Consider this story, Duty to the Crown, and The Actor and the Earl highly recommended. Grab them both up now and start your adventure now.
Cover art: Anne Cain. Lovely but I wish there was a bit more about the design that reflected the times and clothing.
Books in the Crofton Chronicles include:
The Actor and the Earl (The Actor and the Earl #1)
Duty to the Crown (The Actor and the Earl #2)
Forever Hold His Peace (The Actor and the Earl #3)
ebook, 210 pages
Published March 4th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623803691 (ISBN13: 9781623803698)
seriesThe Crofton Chronicles #2