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When Lady Justine Palmer, raised in South Africa and now residing in Regency London, learns her father, an African naturalist, has landed in debtors’ prison, she realizes she must find someone rich to help him, and soon. She petitions her father’s only patron, Radcliff Morton, the Duke of Bradford. Although Radcliff, a hardened rake, has been in seclusion following an incident with his brother’s mistress in which his face was brutally scarred, he agrees to help Justine on the condition she marry him. He suspects he’s obsessed with sex and hopes marriage will cure him. However, considering he’s spent most of his 33 years wallowing in his decadent lifestyle, Justine wonders if he can change himself into a faithful husband. While occasionally melodramatic, Marvelle’s story of Radcliff coming to know himself, and Justine’s faith in him, is a quintessential romance. In this first of a series of three, Marvelle (Lord of Pleasure, 2009) adds glimpses of African tribal life and quips about animal behavior to leaven the Sturm und Drang of Radcliff’s much-needed makeover.
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