by Katharine Ashe is the last book in the “Devil Duke
series.” With each new book, she outdoes herself. The
latest is always better than the last. As with most of her
books, she writes how nothing is what it seems to be on the
surface. Both the hero and heroine hide their identity, she,
her gender, and he, his background. He becomes a portrait
painter so no one will know he is a prince, and she dresses
up as a man, hiding the fact she is a woman. A subplot involving
murdered women and grave-robbing adds to the mystery of whether
the hero and heroine’s secrets will be found out.
At the heart of the novel is how Libby Shaw and Ziyaeddin
Mizra, aka as Ibrahim Kent strive to save lives. He does it
metaphorically, painting the real person, healing someone
emotionally, while she does it literally, attempting to heal
the body surgically.
She is ahead of her time, not willing to give into the social
norms that forbid women from becoming doctors. To achieve
her life-long dream, to become a member of Edinburgh’s
all-male Royal College of Surgeons, she disguises herself
as a man. To make this a reality she enlists the help of Ziyaeddin
who agrees to allow her to live with him, on one condition,
she must sit once a week for him to paint, but as a woman.
Eventually, they both come to realize that they are the only
people each feels completely comfortable with, desire, and
can depend upon.
For anyone who thinks this story cannot be realistic Ashe
refers them to “the biography of James Barry. A young
Irishwoman, Margaret Buckley, decided in 1809 to dress as
a man to study medicine in Edinburgh. This was necessary because
most men in the nineteenth century Britain believed that women
lacked the physical and moral nature to be physicians or surgeons.
He became a physician, joined the army, and had a lifetime
of being a male doctor. It was only discovered on his death
bed that he had the body of a woman.”
Ziyaeddin also hides his identity, frustrated by his seventeen-year
exile in Scotland. He is the deposed Prince of Tabir, a small
Middle Eastern country. Forced to flee with his mother as
a child after his father was killed in a coup he waits for
the moment when he can return, take his rightful place on
the throne, and rescue his sister. For now, he bides his time,
wondering what will become of his and Libby’s relationship.
Although Tabir is a fictional country, Ashe sees it as “an
invention based on the realm of history. It is a small kingdom
between the empires of Russia, the Ottoman Empire, and Iran.
He ended up in Edinburgh because it had a port where people
came together, similar to those places where he grew up.”
The story explores Obsession-Compulsive Disorder. It is written
in such a way that readers feel Libby’s pain. There
is an understanding of the actual effects that it has on her
as a person. It comes to the forefront after Ziyaeddin leaves
for London, and Libby is left alone in the house. Anytime
there are sudden changes Libby has episodes of irrational
behavior where she feels compelled to have everything in order
and will keep doing it again and again until she gets it right.
If she can't she shuts down until she can cope again. After
she confides in Ziyaeddin, and he agrees to help her, she
realizes he is a special person.
Libby is very smart, single-minded in her goal, compassionate,
caring, thoughtful, and very determined. Ziyaeddin compliments
her with his kindness, gentleness, firmness, strength, as
well as his protective, nurturing, and caring ways.
Infused in the story are fascinating pieces of nineteenth-century
history. This is by no means an information dump, but facts
that allow the story to come alive. Ashe has the ability to
make sure it does not overwhelm the plot, yet to allow readers
to learn about the culture, politics, and social norms of
This refreshing adventure story has a theme of friendship
and respect. Ashe weaves in important topics of prejudice,
racism, mental health, disability, and equality that make
the plot and characters relatable.
Away by a Kiss
By A Rogue Lord
The Arms of a Marquess
Rogue (devil's duke #1)
Earl (devil's duke #2)
Duke (devil's duke #3)
Prince (devil's duke #4)