The Inconvenient Duchess
Copyright: 2006 (Harlequin); pgs. 292
Series: Historical #821
Who: Miranda Grey and Marcus Radwell, Duke of Haughleigh
Miranda Grey is sent off to Devon to make a respectable match. The daughter of an impoverished gentleman, Miranda has never had the means to attend assemblies, have a Season, or associate with her her equals in consequence. In desperation, her guardian has contacted a old school fellow — the Dowager Duchess of Haughleigh — with the hope that a marriage can be arranged with one of her unmarried sons or, at the very least, some respectable gentleman of the dowager’s acquaintance. Miranda imagines that she will end up with a scholarly, much older, country gentleman. Instead, she finds herself marrying the moody duke less than day after she arrives.
Marcus has been married before. It was not a happy marriage and it ended in tragedy. He and his brother, St John (sin-jin, I think), have hated each other for years, having been pitted against each other by their unhappily married parents. Given such history, Marcus is wary of giving his heart to another. Before he will commit himself irrevocably to Miranda, he’s determined to learn her history. With that in mind, he goes to London and leaves Miranda to her own devices. He takes the time to leave her a note (which goes astray), explaining:
“Take two weeks alone, and use it to rest from your journey and adjust to your new home before we begin anew. I will do my best to leave my temper in the city and return to you a contrite and respectful husband.”
Though she never gets the note, Miranda feels it’s her duty to get the household back into order and start refurbishing the long-neglected manor. She faces down the disgruntled and disrespectful housekeeper (great scene — further illustrates that Miranda isn’t a pushover) and worries that Marcus will be angry at her for spending so much money getting his home back in order. She finds a friend in her new brother-in-law who, despite the fact that Marcus has ordered him to leave, has returned to keep Miranda company. St John is the opposite of Marcus: fair-haired and carefree. He continually reminders Miranda that:
“…,if you need a strong arm to support you, and my brother is nowhere to be found, you can always call on me.”
Poor, unhappy Miranda feels grateful. Seemingly abandoned by her husband on their wedding night, she is glad to have someone who is willing to show her the estate and keep her company. However, appearances aren’t what they seem, just as the Great Jane herself wrote in Pride and Prejudice:
“There certainly was some great mismanagement in the education of those two young men. One has got all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it.”
I enjoyed this book very much, despite the flaws (i.e.,what was Anthony Grey’s correct title?)
I thought the love story unfolded realistically. It wasn’t love at first sight for them. Their fears and insecurities were also realistic. Neither had good role models for successful relationships, so they blunder. Marcus’s ability to realize he was making mistakes and tries to fix them took some of the sting out of his bullying. His decision not to tell Miranda everything he did in London made sense, even though it did have unforeseeable consequences. He wanted Miranda to be happy with her decision to be his wife, instead of feeling as if she was staying out of obligation for his generosity.
I was satisfied with how things were handled regarding St John. He was as much a victim of the past as Marcus was and he was worth redeeming, I think.
“Of course I’m the duke. This is my home you’ve come to. Who were you expecting to find? The Prince Regent?”
“Is the cook available? Sober? Alive? Do we even have a cook, Wilkins?”
Started: 28 March 2008
Finished: 3 April 2008