A handsome and reclusive horse breeder, Spencer Dumarque, the fourth Duke of Morland, is a member of the exclusive Stud Club, an organization so select it has only ten members - yet membership is attainable to anyone with luck. And Spencer has plenty of it, along with an obsession with a prize horse, a dark secret, and, now, a reputation as the dashing 'Duke of Midnight.' Each evening he selects one lady for a breathtaking midnight waltz. But none of the women catch his interest, and nobody ever bests the duke - until Lady Amelia d'Orsay tries her luck.
In a moment of desperation, the unconventional beauty claims the duke's dance and unwittingly steals his heart. When Amelia demands that Spencer forgive her scapegrace brother's debts, she never imagines that her game of wits and words will lead to breathless passion and a steamy proposal. Still, Spencer is a man of mystery, perhaps connected to the shocking murder of the Stud Club's founder. Will Amelia lose her heart in this reckless wager or win everlasting love?
I measure all of Tessa Dare’s works against her first (brilliant) book ‘Goddess of the Hunt’. Maybe that’s unfair – but she set the bar so high with her debut, and sadly she hasn’t managed to reach those heights since.
‘One Dance with a Duke’ begins with a murder. A gentleman of the ton is killed and three of his acquaintances think that his death has to do with a ‘Stud Club’ he created. The club's purpose is to share tokens amongst men for breeding privileges between their mares and an elite horse stud (owned by the murdered man). The three men decide to conduct their own investigations into the murder. And for one of them, Spencer Morland, the death hits close to home and prompts him to take a wife and get an heir.
Enter Amelia d’Orsay – a past her prime wallflower who is too plump and too clever for most ton gentlemen. But Spencer is charmed and drawn to her, and promptly proposes.
I think my biggest problem with every Tessa Dare novel since ‘Goddess of the Hunt’ is convolution. The main reason I liked ‘Goddess’ was because it was a very simple story about boy likes girl, boy gets girl. Her subsequent novels involved high-seas drama and complex political dealings. And ‘One Dance with a Duke’ is complicated by a murder. I was a little frustrated by the ‘whodunnit’ sideline plot because it was just that – a sideline. Murder Mystery is clearly not Ms. Dare’s forte, and that plot thread was pretty quickly and carelessly tossed aside.
As far as the romance went – I did like it. Spencer and Amelia were wonderful, mostly because Amelia was fighting an uphill battle with Spencer’s guarded emotions. He was a real reclusive bachelor, more interested in horses than humans;
She stared at him in horror. “You want a broodmare!”But once Spencer started opening up to Amelia he revealed himself to be a very compassionate and loyal romantic.
He said evenly, “When you draw that comparison, you demean us both. I have many fine mares in my stables, and yet there is not a one of them I would allow to mother my children or manage my household, much less introduce my cousin to society. No, I do not want a broodmare. I want a wife. A duchess.”
I didn’t like the conclusion. It was a rather layered ending, a lot of scene-changing and character monologues describing their actions and motivations... I think it was a rather weak ending. But overall I think the ‘Stud Club’ is shaping up to be a stronger trilogy than her previous and I will be reading subsequent books.