Hi and welcome to my blog tour stop for The Diamond & the Duke by Christi Caldwell! I'm always intrigued by any kind of epistolary plot element--you can read more about how that comes into play in this historical below.
A big thanks to the publisher for the promotional materials. All opinions provided are my own.
[ID: Jess, a white woman wearing a green & white patterned dress, holds the ebook up in front of a gray wall.]
When a wounded soldier and self-proclaimed “beast” finds unlikely friendship with a headstrong and unconventional beauty, they quickly find themselves weaving a tale as old as time.
Despite a hero’s return to England from the Napoleonic Wars, Wesley Audley isolates from the ton. Deep wounds from the horrors of combat—and the despair of a broken heart—left him scarred. As he struggles to cope and resume his place in Polite Society, Wesley is quick to cut himself off from everyone . . . except for Ellie Balfour.
Independent and strong willed, Ellie has dreams of captaining her own husband-free life and a penchant for meddling in other’s business. She knows befriending Wesley is a risk, but Ellie can’t bear to see his heartache—nor can she seem to silence all the temptingly intimate thoughts his nearness provokes.
But Ellie is yet to face a battle she can’t win—and Wesley’s heart is worth the fight. If only her campaigns ever went to plan. . . .
The Diamond & the Duke by Christi Caldwell has the weight & warmth I was really looking for when I picked it up a few months ago—you know that feeling when you want to pick up a historical with that certain kind of tone…
There’s a lot of emotional heft to this one, as heroine Ellie Balfour—first introduced to us as a teen—struggles with a decision she has made that has caused giant ripple effects within her family.
That’s when she meets Wesley, future duke, & when she first fancies herself in love with him.
She feels such a kinship with this man that, later, when she believes it’s a matter of his life or death, she pretends to be the woman he loves in letters to him.
The plot of this book gets complicated by Wesley’s return & his realization that the woman who he thought loved him has moved on, Ellie Balfour is older, beautiful, & now fancied by many others, & he is struggling with a body devastated by war. Also that pesky matter of those letters…
The unconventional leads stand out in this book. The author plays with beauty & the beast & the ugly duckling stories & both are underpinned by leads who have both overcome quite a lot to get to where they are by the end of the book.
But I struggled with the decisions the leads made & the plot itself, & my incredulity had an overall negative experience on my reading.
Still, I enjoyed Caldwell’s writing style & the measured warmth of it all.
3.5⭐️. Out tomorrow!
Please see a trusted reviewer’s list of CWs.
Dedicating all her attentions and energies on her book, Ellie made a show at reading; all the while, her ears remained keenly focused on the parts and pieces of the discussion her brother and Cailin had resumed.
". . . heartbreaking . . . not so much as a word from her . . ." Cailin said, her voice catching with tears, and Ellie flipped the unread page noisily. ". . . she will not write him. She will not answer his notes. What am I to say when he asks?" Ellie's sister-in-law was saying. "That according to our brother Hunter, the woman you are in love with is the darling of Staffordshire?"
Ellie went completely motionless.
The woman he . . . loved? Her organ in her chest forgot its job was to beat. As in, Wesley Audley was in love with-
". . . that she's enjoying herself at all the local soirees while you are risking life and limb to keep England safe from that French frog?"
As in Wesley Audley was in love with a woman wholly undeserving of him and his love.
Hatred and jealousy mingled, and together, soured her tongue like the vinegar rag her father had advised her nursemaid to stuff in Ellie's mouth for using words he'd deemed inappropriate for a lady to utter.
He was . . . in love.
In all this time since they'd met lakeside, she'd thought of him. And more, she'd thought of him-and her-together.
Granted, he was more than a dozen years her senior, but she was no longer a child, and with every passing day where he was gone, she'd become a young lady, and he was to return and notice that she was no longer a gangly child.
Just . . . a gangly woman.
But neither would that matter, because he'd said that day at the lake she'd spirit and strength, and a skill with a sword that he'd admired, and-
Ellie gripped her book hard, her fingernails digging sharply into the soft leather and leaving crescent marks upon the cover and back.
The housekeeper appeared and dipped a curtsy to Cailin. "If I might speak to you, Your Grace, about the latest changes to the menu."
The latest changes, because with Cailin increasing in pregnancy and queasy from it, every meal was constantly changing.
As Cailin came to her feet, she offered a wave and smile to Ellie, which she quickly returned.
"I'll return shortly, love," the duchess said to her husband. She tipped her head up to receive Courtland's kiss.
Ellie hurriedly averted her attention from that intimate exchange.
The moment Cailin had followed Mrs. Dumfrees, Courtland returned to his book.
"Who was Cailin speaking about?" Ellie asked after her sister-in-law had gone, and she and Courtland remained alone.
Her eldest brother glanced over the top of his pages and looked confusedly her way.
Be breezy. You are breezy. "The woman who is not writing the lieutenant."
Courtland scrubbed a hand over his mouth.
For an instant, she thought he would not answer. For an instant, she thought he'd rightly point out her past actions barred her from possession of intimate details that did not explicitly involve her.
Though, in this case . . . they did. Her brother just did not know it.
"She also happens to be the young woman who urged him to go to his father, the Duke of Bentley, so he could make a better life for himself." Her brother's jaw hardened. "A better life, which in her mind included wealth and land, and attaining everything she could through his commission in the army."
The reason he'd joined the military, and risked his life even now, was a woman?
Ellie's chest tightened in an odd way, in a way she'd never believed it would or could because of a man, and yet now it did at the thought of the dashing Lieutenant Audley courting another woman who was decidedly not Ellie.
Courtland started to rise.
Ellie quickly stayed him with another question. "Do you know her?"
He stared confusedly at her.
"The young woman," she clarified.
Her brother shook his head. "Only that her name is Claire Sparrow. Her father is a part owner of the Cheadle mines with Hunter."
The second-eldest Audley sibling, following Rafe. Wesley and Cailin were the youngest.
"She has not bothered to write Wesley in all the time he's been off fighting."
Pain knifed away at Ellie's heart this time for unselfish reasons: because of the hurt he knew, and all for a woman who couldn't appreciate Wesley for the man he was.
There came a flurry of footfalls, and they both looked up. Cailin's lady's maid, Sara, rushed into the room, breathless.
Ashen, Courtland jumped up. "The duchess-?"
"Is fine," the young woman hurried to reassure him. "Her Grace was accompanying Mrs. Dumfrees, who was discussing the menu, and the duchess . . ."-Sara's cheeks pinkened-"fell ill in the hallway."
Ellie grimaced. Tossed her biscuits, Cailin had done. As the poor expecting mother was always doing, everywhere, these days.
"She told me I should not send for you, Your Grace, but I thought you should-"
"I am glad you did," Courtland interrupted, hastening to the door, leaving Ellie alone with only the silence of the room . . . and-her gaze inched over to the hastily abandoned area her brother and his wife had occupied-Wesley's letters.
She dampened her mouth.
It is none of your affair . . .
It is absolutely none of your affair.
Not even a bit.
That was, aside from the fact that Ellie was head over heels in love with the lieutenant.
Her book forgotten, Ellie absently set it down beside her, and came slowly to her feet.
Keeping her eyes on the doorway, she inched over and stopped beside the note.
None of your affair. None of your affair. None . . .
Of its own volition, her gaze slid down, landing on that folded note.
Good, a person could not read a folded note. The only way to do so would be to pick it up, and open it, and well, Ellie certainly had more than enough restraint.
Or . . . she thought she did.
Just not where matters of Wesley Audley were concerned.
With a silent curse, her fingers dove for the page, and she quickly snapped it open and proceeded to read.
My dear sister,
I write this missive hoping to find you and Courtland
and your unborn babe are each faring well. I am eager for the day I return, and hope it is one day soon where I am able to see your expanded family.
Ellie finished and turned the note over.
There was no mention of Ellie.
He did not so much as ask after her.
Not that she expected he should or would. Ellie was, after all, just another one of Courtland's many siblings.
She snapped the note shut and returned the letter to where Cailin had left it.
That, however, didn't mean Ellie didn't . . . hope that he thought of her in some way.
Though, knowing his heart was otherwise engaged-and by a woman so completely unworthy of him-it made sense why he should not.
And she was stunned to discover, she wasn't so very selfish as to want him at any cost. She wanted him alive and happy. Even if it meant, when he returned from war, he would belong to another woman.
Balling her hands into tight fists, Ellie squeezed and un-squeezed them; all the while she waged a silent war with herself. "Bloody hell," she exclaimed into the quiet of the parlor, and then, sitting down at Cailin's writing station, Ellie availed herself of a sheet of parchment and a pen.
Dipping it into an inkwell pot, she proceeded to write.
My dearest Wesley,
You must forgive me for the delay in my writing. My father discovered your notes. My only course, our only course, is to send our correspondences through a location where they're sure to not be discovered.
Excerpted from The Diamond and the Duke by Christi Caldwell Copyright © 2024 by Christi Caldwell. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
About the author.
Christi Caldwell is the USA Today bestselling author of the Sinful Brides series and the Heart of a Duke series. She blames novelist Judith McNaught for luring her into the world of historical romance. When Christi was at the University of Connecticut, she began writing her own tales of love—ones where even the most perfect heroes and heroines had imperfections. She learned to enjoy torturing her couples before they earned their well-deserved happily ever after. Christi lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she spends her time writing and being a mommy to the most inspiring little boy and empathetic, spirited girls who, with their mischievous twin antics, offer an endless source of story ideas. Learn more online at www.christicaldwell.com.
Photo Credit: Kimberly Rocha
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