An indirect courtship
How about going from the top of society's heap, a member of the royal entourage, to social pariah all in one night? That's what happens to Alexander Barclay, the newly minted ninth Duke of Kress, in Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea, the first book in Sophia Nash's new Royal Entourage series.
It all started at the Prince Regent's Carleton House. He provided the spirits for the Duke of Candover's "bachelor party". But apparently things got so out of hand that Alex doesn't remember being inducted into the Prince Regent's inner circle, nor does he remember losing his entire fortune. They all got so drunk that Candover missed his wedding. When the press gets wind of the debauchery of eight dukes, the Prince Regent, and an archbishop a negative article (to put it mildly) places the monarchy in a very bad light. The Prince Regent is none too happy and orders all to make amends to him and to the country. Each are to make a formal answer to the newspaper column, to cast aside their mistresses, and to set a good example. Alex is up first. Within the next month he is to go to his principal seat, St. Michael's Mount, restore that pile of rubble using the Prince's coffers, marry a rich lady from the list provided, and repay the Prince with the lady's dowry.
The Duke's "assignment" becomes complicated when he finds and rescues Roxanne Vanderhaven, the Earl of Paxton's wife. A cliff edge gave way while she was searching for her dog and she has been hanging on for hours waiting while her husband "went to get help". She decides to think it over before acting on her husband's betrayal and asks Alex for refuge while she figures out what to do. They come up with a cover story and the indirect courtship begins. The attraction is mutual; however neither is free. She has been declared dead by her betraying husband (a not insignificant impediment) and he has to marry a wealthy bride from Prince's list. Both have to watch their step. He can't get caught helping her, and she can't get caught being alive. Yet they can't help themselves.
I enjoyed watching how Alex and Roxanne fell in love. Both are outsiders. He is half French and trying to fit into society. She is a wealthy miner's daughter who married an earl. This story is filled with strong characters, both major and minor, adventure, humor, and, of course, romance. I looked forward to reading the next one in the series, The Art of Duke Hunting, which is the love story of Alex's friend, the Duke of Norwich.