No Other Duke But You
A lady with a love potion. A Duke who takes it by mistake. Romance and mischief ensues when plans go awry in No Other Duke But You by Valerie Bowman.
SINGLE LADY SEEKS DUKE
Lady Delilah Montebank has her marital sights set on the Duke of Branville. There’s just one problem: he barely knows she exists. But no matter, she’s got a plan to win him over with her charm, her wit—and perhaps the love potion she has in her possession wouldn’t hurt her cause…
Lord Thomas Hobbs, Duke of Huntley, thinks his best friend Delilah’s quest to become a duchess is ridiculous. He’s always said he’d rather give up all the brandy in London than commit to one person for life. Besides, he knows that Delilah’s love potion can’t possibly win over Branville…since she accidentally gave it to him instead. But perhaps this is the excuse he needs to show her he’s always loved her…
Delilah can’t believe she gave the potion to the wrong duke. Then again, Delilah could do a lot worse than win the hand of her handsome best friend. Could it be that the right duke has been before her eyes all along?
Delilah glanced up and down the dim hallway. It was well past three in the morning, she was still dressed in the pink ball gown she’d worn to the party, and she clutched the small vial of Cupid’s Elixir in her sweaty, guilty palm. She pressed her back against the shadowed wall not far from the Duke of Branville’s bedchamber. She could do this. More importantly, she would do this. She’d come this far, hadn’t she? What did a little sneaking about in the middle of the night matter?
She’d got detailed instructions to Branville’s room from Derek, who thankfully hadn’t asked any questions about why she wanted to know. According to him, the room was four doors to the right, just past the staircase on the third floor. The third floor was where all the bachelor gentlemen were sleeping. It would be a complete scandal if she was found lurking about alone at this time of night, but she’d waited until the household seemed quite asleep and then waited a bit longer for good measure. Anyone who saw her now would be skulking about themselves, which meant they would hardly be in a position to judge her. She briefly wondered if she’d run into Lavinia.
It was not as if she was out to do anything particularly scandalous. It was more silly and frivolous than anything else. She’d simply die, however, if Branville woke up and asked her what she was doing sprinkling pixie water in his eyes. She’d already decided to pretend as if she were dreaming, thinking she was Puck in the play. Sleepwalking. That would make all the sense in the world. Wouldn’t it? She swallowed hard. Probably not, but she wasn’t about to let the fear of being caught stop her. Besides, all of her and Lucy’s matchmaking had turned into a colossal mess. If a spray of perfume could sort it out, so be it. Of course, Delilah’s conscience reminded her that she hadn’t offered any of the perfume to Rebecca to use on Thomas. She didn’t want to even contemplate that. She’d already shared it with one other person, and that made her guilty enough. The image of Madame Rosa’s disapproving, craggy face had haunted her all evening.
Delilah shook off the thought and turned her attention back to the matter at hand. Pressing her empty palm against the darkened wall, she inched her way along until she came to Branville’s door. She felt like a spy. This was how professional spies did such things, wasn’t it? Too bad she was too embarrassed by her actions to ask the veritable house full of professional spies who happened to be asleep behind other doors right now.
She transferred the vial into her opposite hand and slowly reached to grasp the door handle. The metal was cold in her bare hand. She’d discarded her gloves, deciding that they would make her actions more clumsy. The last thing she needed tonight was to be more clumsy than usual. Decidedly, she needed to be less so.
She clutched the door handle like a lifeline and closed her eyes, steadying her shaking fingers on the knob. She was close, so close. Praying that the door wouldn’t squeak, she turned the handle slowly. The only sound was the thumping of her own heart in her ears.
When the handle was turned as far as it would go, she pushed it, praying fervently that it wasn’t locked. It took a moment before she realized the door was opening. Its hinges silent, merci a Dieu. Completely silent.
She slipped inside the cool, dark room. Steady, deep breathing came from the bed. Thank goodness, she hadn’t woken the duke with her entrance. She could barely see a thing, but she didn’t dare light a candle. A tiny stream of moonlight filtered into the room through a small opening in the curtains on the far window. She used that to identify the hulking bed in the center of the room. She tiptoed over to it slowly, taking care in case there was anything to trip over. No doubt she would find it if there was.
She made it to the foot of the bed without incident and paused, trying to quell her nerves and dispel her guilt. She clutched the vial more tightly in her palm, shaking with fear and anxiety. Now that she was here, she had no earthly idea how to drop liquid on a man’s eyes without awakening him. Besides, how much of it was she supposed to use? Surely not much. She would employ the tiniest drops possible so as not to disturb him, but she also needed to ensure the perfume touched his eyelids. Tricky business, this being a fairy. She had a sudden appreciation for Puck.
Holding her breath, she lifted her skirts with her free hand and tiptoed to the right side of the bed. Because it was summer, the bed curtains weren’t drawn. The window was open, and a slight breeze blew through the crack in the curtains.
The outline of the duke’s body was barely visible in the moonlight. He was turned away on his side, his back to her, his face toward the window. She would have to lean over his body to sprinkle the elixir on his eyes. The bed was tall. She must carefully climb up to do this task properly. She only hoped she didn’t jostle the mattress enough to wake him.
She waited in silence for a few moments to ensure his breathing remained steady, then she carefully lifted first one knee and then the other, bracing them on the mattress and pulling herself up, still clutching the vial. She winced as he moved slightly in his sleep, but he kept his face turned away. Blast it.
Once she was fully atop the bed, she paused and hoped the hammering of her heart didn’t wake him. He smelled good, a combination of soap and maleness that she wanted to breathe in. There was something vaguely familiar about his scent.
Shaking away that unhelpful thought, she moved gingerly across the mattress on her knees until she came to a stop at his side. His shirt was off. The beam of moonlight hit his smooth, muscled arm. She swallowed. The man’s chest was positively swoon-worthy. She took a deep breath to calm her nerves and uncorked the vial. Then she carefully leaned over as far as she could to locate his eyes. They remained shrouded in the dark, but she took a guess as to their general direction and tipped the little vial as slowly and carefully as she could. He turned then, and she was afforded enough light to see that the first tiny drop of liquid did indeed fall directly onto his eyelid.
He blinked, and she held her breath. When he settled back into sleep, she closed her eyes and said a brief prayer that she would get away with it a second time before tipping the vial once more to allow another tiny drop to fall on his other eyelid.
He blinked and rubbed at his eyes while Delilah held her breath again, paralyzed with fear. Soon, he settled back into his pillow and his breathing returned to its steady pace.
She pressed a hand to her throat. It was over. She was done. All she had to do was extract herself from the bed and the room without being seen or heard. The difficult part was behind her.
Still praying he wouldn’t stir, she backed away from the duke. Slowly. Slowly. She’d nearly made it to the edge of the bed when he flipped over to face her. A beam of moonlight slid over his sleeping features.
How is NO OTHER DUKE BUT YOU, your upcoming novel, different than your previous novels, or can you say anything more about it?
NO OTHER DUKE BUT YOU is the final book in the Playful Brides series. It’s book #11, and while it can be read as a standalone, I know the long-time readers of the series have been waiting for this couple’s story. Delilah is my most asked about heroine.
Where did you get your inspiration from for NO OTHER DUKE BUT YOU?
Most of the books in the Playful Brides series are inspired by famous plays. This one is inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is one of my favorites. I’ve had the plot in mind for a long time.
What makes Lady Delilah and Lord Thomas special? Can you say anything more about them?
Delilah is sassy, unconventional, and a bit of a mess compared to the other young ladies on the marriage mart. But she has a heart of gold and good intentions to be the best matchmaker in the land, until it’s time for her own match to be made, of course! Thomas is her best friend who has been madly (and secretly) in love with her for years. He appreciates her for who she is.
Who would you cast for Delilah and Thomas in the movie version?
I love this question! I’ve set up a Pinterest board for the entire Playful Brides series with the pictures of who I think of as the main characters. In my mind, Delilah looks like Ellen Page and Thomas is Justin Bartha.
What is one thing the heroine, Delilah, can’t live without?
Sigh. Thomas. Though she doesn’t know it at first.
NO OTHER DUKE BUT YOU is the last novel in your wonderful Playful Brides series. How do you feel about the series coming to an end?
I’ve loved these characters for years and it’s bittersweet to see the series end, but I’m also looking forward to writing something new!
Would you say it was more or less difficult writing NO OTHER DUKE BUT YOU knowing it’s the last in the series?
Yes! I was worried that the readers wouldn’t like it or think it’s a fitting end to the series. But in the end, I wrote the book I wanted to write to wrap up the series and I can’t wait to share it with everyone!
If you could work with any other famous author, who would it be and why?
Lisa Kleypas! She’s just my all-time favorite. Love, love, love all of her books.
What was your favorite scene you wrote, and why?
I don’t want to give anything away. But there is a scene involving some magic perfume and sneaking around at a country house late at night and it was just pure fun to write the fall out after that.
What was the hardest scene to write in NO OTHER DUKE BUT YOU, and why?
Oh, the last chapter. Not the epilogue, but the last chapter. I wanted it to be perfect. The epilogue is something I’ve had in mind for ages so that was simple.
When working on a manuscript, is it easy for you to keep separate ideas for other projects, or what strategies do you use to stay focused?
I usually just jot down a new idea and file it in a folder on my computer. I don’t let much distract me from what I’m working on at the moment. But I always seem to get a new idea when I’m fading off to sleep or driving. It’s never convenient. Ha!
How did you come up with the idea of a love potion to get Delilah and Thomas’s romance rolling?
It’s inspired by the love potion in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is just a purely fun play that I adore!
Are you currently working on any other projects you would like to share with your readers?
Yes! I’m working on a contemporary romantic comedy called HIRING MR. DARCY. It’s about a history professor who has two weeks to turn her brother’s hot best friend into a suitable Darcy for a competition in Bath, England so she can beat her ex and his new starlet girlfriend. It’ll be out this year! I’m also noodling over a new Regency series that’s going to be outrageous fun!
Do you have a final comment you would like to give your readers?
If you read NO OTHER DUKE BUT YOU, I’d love to hear what you think! You can find me at www.ValerieBowmanBooks.com where there are links to email me, tweet me, or find me on Facebook or Instagram.
Enter to win one finished mass market paperback edition of No Other Duke But You, courtesy of the publisher. (US only, sorry guys!) Ends May 14th
Valerie Bowman grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her mini-schnauzers, Huckleberry and Violet. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS.