His Duchess at Eventide

His Duchess at Eventide - Wendy LaCapra

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His Duchess at Eventide is book 2 of Wendy LaCapra’s the Mythic Dukes series. I’ve been a fan of this series since it debuted last year and have been eagerly waiting for the next installment. Alluding to the story of Odysseus and Penelope, along with author’s wonderful writing, this story was a treat to read from page one.

The Mythic Dukes is a brand new series by the author that doesn’t connect to her previous series titled the Furies. That was another wonderful series through which I discovered her work. Book 1 of the Mythic Dukes, Her Duke at Daybreak, introduces us to a trio of Dukes, childhood friends—The Dukes of Ashbey, Cheverley and Hurtheven. Ashbey was our typical angsty duke who was tortured by his past and a so-called curse that’s said to have tainted his ancestral name and anything else they’ve called their own for many generations. Ashbey’s own life had been mired with tragedies and bad luck, to a point he’d given up hope for a life of happiness. He’s become so cynical, so dead inside that he never thought anyone could ever revive the empty space where his heart’s supposed to be. Then, enter Alicia our heroine.

Called as the Angelic Widow by Ashbey the moment he clapped his eyes on her, Alicia had known her own hardship with a cheating husband who publicly dumped her over his mistress. She’d been hurt all throughout her miserable marriage so Alicia never truly thought she’d ever be happy. But I think over the years since her husband had left her, she’d come to terms with the fact that he’d never return to her. To Alicia his death, though sad, had been more of a good riddance. Yet, because he was a famous figure Alicia was still the talk of the town. All negative talk, and through no fault of her own. Because they hero-worshipped her husband, she was the evil woman who didn’t die in time for him to marry the ‘love of his life’. Absolutely disgusting to think they’d treat her this way! Alicia couldn’t go out without veiling herself. Yet somehow, Ashbey or Ash who’d heard of Alicia from Cheverley, and wanted to meet her, identifies her among the crowd of people gathered to mourn their so-called hero. There amongst the crowd, they shared a moment that pretty much sealed their fate. I loved the book and Ash and Alicia’s coming together. A proper widow and a Duke who thinks he’s the very devil, and a cursed ancestry to go with it. ;) It was full of love, yearning and so much hope that I was grinning ear-to-ear when I finished it.

Even since our Lord Cheverley was introduced in book 1 I wanted to know his story. His Duchess at Eventide can be read as a standalone IMO despite its connection to book 1. There, Cheverley seemed quite a serious personality with a vague background. He knew Alicia because he was in the Navy, a captain and Alicia’s husband was an admiral. Known as Chev to his friends and loved ones, he’d had a rough life too. Chev had been away from his home and his country for a long time. It’s been so long without any news of Chev that people thought him dead. I knew he was married, his wife still living and waiting for him. And a son he never met but that was all. What exactly happened to him?

Chev’s marriage to Penelope was of pure impulse. Both in their teens, young loves who couldn’t wait to become each-other’s. Chev was the second son of the Duke, his elder brother the heir still living. So he rebelled; thought marrying a pig farmer’s daughter would be making some sort of a statement to his Ducal papa. Besides, the fact remained; he did love Penelope, as she’d loved him. But things started going downhill when his father also issued warning and ultimatums to annul the marriage. Either that or Chev must go to the Navy and make something out of himself. Needless to say there was no love lost between the rigid Duke incapable of any paternal affection and a son who despised him for it. He hated himself for wanting his father’s love whom he’d loved despite everything. And so Chev wanted to prove himself. If only he knew how this one step would turn his and the lives of those he loved, upside down. So irrevocably changed that the Chev of the present can’t even connect with his old self or his life 13 yrs. ago.

Chev left Penelope, heavily pregnant with their child, to prove himself to his father. Over the years, he got caught up in his work to his country. He began proving himself and in time, became a Captain. I don’t know why, but it seemed he could never make the time to come to England and visit Penelope or his son. Then 7 yrs. ago, after a series of particularly unfortunate events, Chev’s ship went missing and everybody thought that was the end of Chev’s story.

But not Penelope who had clung to the hope that her errant husband will return someday. An orphan pig farmer’s daughter wasn’t welcomed in Cheverley’s family the way a peer’s daughter would’ve been, but Penelope had thrived despite all. Despite the old Duke’s cold, cutting behavior and demeaning remarks where her ‘breeding’ was concerned. Despite being lonely and miserable, but finding the strength to carry on when she looked into the face of a 12 yrs. old Thaddeous. Her son looked way too much like his father. No one could deny whose son he was and Penelope took solace in that. Took solace in the fact that his son is now the heir to the Dukedom, even if it brought a horde of trouble to their doorstep.

Penelope had been living in a smaller estate that Chev had inherited from his mother’s side called Pensteague. A neglected place that she’d converted into a thriving haven with years of hard work. She called it her home now. However, she knew she had to do something about the unwelcomed guests who had began residing in the Ithwick Manor. They began gathering right after Pierce, Chev’s elder brother, died in a mysterious incident that was declared an accident. With the old Duke ill and dying the dukedom was left open to all sorts of vermin trying to grab at it. So far, there are two. One of them, a Mr. Anthony had pretty much made himself the steward of Ithwick Manor and abusing his powers to do whatever he liked. Penelope knew something must be done to save her son’s inheritance. And she won’t let anyone declare Chev dead. As long as there’s some hope that he’s alive, she’d stall and fight the inevitable. To say Penelope was scared would be an understatement but she knew she can’t give up hope or fighting for Thaddeus’s sake.

Cheverley, who was on his way to England, was rescued from the sea and then taken in by Hurtheven. Chev was not only fighting his weakened health but also his own demons from a 6yrs. long captivity. A captivity that left him so scarred both inside out, body and soul, that the incidents still haunted his dreams. The instigator of those haunted dreams was somewhere out there, probably still looking for him but Chev was able to escape. Even though he had no intentions of ever being caught again, he planned on revenge. Yet, in such a weakened condition he didn’t think he could do much. Then there was the fact that everybody knew him to be dead. He still had a wife and a son and he had no earthly idea how to go back to his old life. A life he’d left 13 yrs. ago and can’t even identify anymore. Does his family need to him to be there? Or would he just mess up whatever life Penelope and his son had created in his absence? Has Penelope even remained single after all these times? Could he, after suffering all that he’d suffered during captivity, even have a normal relationship with a wife who he’d left when he was barely 18? So many questions but so few answers.

Through his old buddies—by then Ashbey had joined and taken him in from Hurtheven, where Chev was recuperating under a false name— Chev learns that Penelope not only is single but have been hoping and praying for his return. This gives Chev some hope. He also comes to learn that there are buzzards flying around the place he’d once called home, Ithwick Manor. Chev was extremely saddened hearing that his beloved mother, as well as his elder brother, had passed away. Which meant now he’s the heir and he must do something about the individuals who’d planned on encroaching what should be his and his son’s legacy. His son... Thaddeus. Chev can’t even imagine that far, yet he yearns to see his family.

After much debate with himself, Chev was determined to investigate. He must make certain that Penelope and Thaddeus are safe. And that’s how he finds himself in Pensteague under disguise. Over the years in the sea he’d grown tanned, his blonde handsomeness now bordered on a roughness that shows that he’d become a man. Chev also became quite gaunt and too bewhiskered for anyone to actually identify him after so long. Then everyone knew him to be dead so it could be reasoned that no one would immediately think it was him, right? At Pensteague, Chev finds one of his old comrades he’d thought perished at the sea now living as contended a life someone with sea in his blood can live. It seemed that, to cherish and to honor his memory Penelope had opened up Pensteague to the wounded and ailing seafaring men. They were taken in and could recuperate as long as they could so Chev had no problem gaining an entry. Now all he had to do is to take an inventory of what has been going on in his absence.

The story held quite a few remarkably heart-tugging moments but for me, the best one was Chev and Penelope’s first meeting after all these years. I was waiting to see if she’d recognize him right away. She didn’t BUT her body did. :D She had this déjà vu about the new ‘Captain’ who’d been staying and recuperating. There was something about him yet she couldn’t quite put her fingers on it. I think on a visceral level she did recognize him, however she was too scared to hope that Chev maybe alive. The other emotional moment was Chev’s very first sight of Thaddeus. That scene would make anyone emotional. The boy had never seen his father but Penelope made certain that he viewed Chev as a hero, and Chev knew he was no hero. Thaddeus hero-worshipped his father and hoped someday to be like him. And yet again, I wasn’t surprised that Chev and Thaddeus became close pretty soon. The connection between the father and son was absolute instant. The thought of everything he’d witnessed since he’d been back would bring tears to an overwhelmed Chev’s eyes, thanking his wife over and over again for raising their son right. For waiting for him all these years when there was not a shred of hope for his return.

But there was still the matter of weeding out the worms of Ithwick Manor. To set things straight for once and for all. And Chev was still intent on exacting revenge on the Pirate who’d taken him captive, subjecting him to immeasurable torture and inconceivable humiliation all these years. But most of all, Chev wasn’t certain how he can approach his family and tell them he’s alive, when his initial intention was to never let them know about this vital piece of information. It was a messy situation to be sure but after a few weeks around his family Chev knew Penelope and Thaddeus needed him so he can’t dally any longer. Most importantly, he needed them. And maybe, just maybe, someday soon, everything in his world will feel right once more.

His Duchess at Eventide was another emotional story that held me enthralled from the beginning to the end. It wasn’t a full length novel but through Wendy’s wonderful writing I didn’t feel the ‘novella syndrome’ at all. I also enjoyed the connection to The Odyssey and the author note that explains it all. You’ll find various references scattered throughout the story. 4.25 stars and recommended. Next up is of course Hurtheven’s book. There weren’t many clues in this book but I’m very intrigued to see what the author has up her sleeves for him.

ARC received from the author, thanks Wendy. x :D