TBR Day. Fool Me Twice / Meredith Duran. 2014

Meredith Duran's Fool Me Twice is up for an RWA RITA award next weekend in the "Historical Romance: Long" category. I cannot tell you if it deserves to win as I've not read any of the other nominees in this category, but I will say that I liked it well enough that I would be perfectly happy to see it win.

The blurb:
A lady with a secret...
All Olivia wants is the chance to make a home for herself. When she realizes that the infamous Duke of Marwick might hold the key to her freedom, she boldly disguises herself as the newest and bravest in a long line of the temperamental duke’s housekeepers. Little does she know that the wickedly handsome Alastair de Grey has very different plans for her. . . .
A man with a passion . . . for vengeance
Alastair de Grey has suffered a betrayal so deep that he will use whatever means necessary to destroy his enemies -- even his brazen and beautiful housekeeper. But his vengeful plan fails to account for his single weakness: an irresistible and growing passion for the enigmatic Olivia...

Olivia seeks a position in the Duke's household because she believes he has some letters that she can use as blackmail against the man who is trying to kill her. Alastair has been living as a recluse since the death of his wife. After her death Alastair discovered that his wife had been betraying him and undermining his work in Parliament. The depth of his self-loathing and humiliation has caused him to withdraw into just 2 rooms of his house. When Olivia shows up hoping to get a job as a maid, the butler, seeing she's qualified for more than being a housemaid, immediately hires her as the housekeeper and soon Olivia finds herself helping Alastair get back on his feet--in part due to compassion and in part to get him out of his rooms so she can search them for the letters she needs.

As I read this, at first I found it hard to understand why Alastair had become the way he was. The depth of his withdrawal seemed out of proportion to what had happened, especially as it became clear that the activities of his late wife had never been made public. But my feelings changed as his character responded to the ways Olivia challenged him again and again. Later, when he discovered Olivia searching his rooms for the letters she needed, his sense of betrayal did seem natural. I really liked the way Duran showed Alastair at war with himself over the betrayal vs. the Olivia he had come to know. The details of Olivia's past and the reason someone sought to kill her emerged slowly over the course of the book. I liked the way that was done and that it kept me engaged and eager to read more.

This book has some beautiful prose and the bulk of the book focuses on Olivia and Alastair--one or both of them were always on the page. There's a book before this, That Scandalous Summer, about Alastair's younger brother. I read it last year, and to be honest, I couldn't remember much about it. Which proves that you don't need to have read it before reading this one.


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