Four Dukes and a Devil contains five stories: three historical romances with a duke as the hero, one modern romance with a ghostly duke/dog who is part of the plot, and the fifth a paranormal romance with vampires and demons.
The three historical romances are pretty much
what one would expect: short stories about a woman falling in love - and marrying - her duke.
Cathy Maxwell's "The Irish Duke" is the weakest of the three. Her heroine is a matchmaker, a spinster herself, who somehow turns polite society against the Irish dukes (who are last in order of precedence among dukes) and eventually snares one herself. It was difficult to believe half of the events in this story, and I didn't feel either
lead character was particularly well-drawn.
"Catch of the Century" by Sophia Nash focuses on Victoria Givan, a minor character in her previous full-length novel, who is travelling with three young boys
when she finds herself in trouble. She's rescued by a duke in a posh carriage;
as events play out, she ends up staying at his home, with the expected ensuing romance. John Varick, the Duke of Beaufort, is a worthy hero, but I found Victoria a bit annoying (as I did in her novel
Love with the Perfect Scoundrel), and the appearances by several characters from her series of books
are overmuch for a short story. While one of the weaker stories in the collection,
it's still okay.
Tracy Anne Warren's "Charmed by her Smile," while a good story, contains elements that some readers might find uncomfortable (the hero is fourteen years older than the heroine, for example). The Duke of Weybridge finds himself
in an improbable kiss with young debutante India Byron to help her avoid a persistent suitor. They meet again, and once
more he helps to deflect the suitor's attentions, not realizing that he will find himself entranced by India. This
isn't a bad story but many plot aspects are unlikely and the historical accuracy fairly shaky in places.
The modern romance, "The Duke Who Came to Dinner" by Elaine Fox, is an enjoyable
piece about a woman "getting away from it all" to a house in Massachusetts and trying to be a
little braver than normal. She meets Sam Gregory, who isn't her usual type, but with whom she strikes
up a friendship, aided by an unusual dog. This is a pleasant story if rather pedestrian.
My favorite story in this collection is "Devil to Pay" by Jeaniene Frost. Elise is a loner vampire who lives by herself and rarely interacts with anyone. When she discovers a man trying to kill himself she rescues him, not
knowing that he is trying to commit suicide to protect others from his demon rages. As Elise and her vampire Sire
discern what's going on - that Blake will have to die away from humans to avoid transferring the demon
- she comes out of her shell as she focuses on Blake and his needs. I very much
enjoyed this well-written and original story.
Four Dukes and a Devil is a fairly good collection of stories although there's a minimal connection
among them in terms of theme. It's good reading for a lazy day and will introduce readers to some authors
whom they may not previously have encountered.