AUDIO REVIEW: Autumn Duchess by Lucinda Brant, narrated by Alex Wyndham

autumn duchess

Available from Audible via Amazon

A beautiful duchess mourns for her beloved.

A sun-bronzed merchant returns to claim a birthright.

Disparate souls in need of love and renewal.

Paths cross and the journey begins…

Hampshire, England, 1777: Antonia, Dowager Duchess of Roxton, has been mourning the loss of her soul mate for three long years. Her despair is all-consuming until into her life steps a devilishly handsome younger man. Unconventional and self-assured, wealthy merchant Jonathon Strang will stop at nothing to convince Antonia she can love again, and deeply.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sprigleaf PTY, Ltd, September 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, 1777
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Wendy

Each time I listen to hugely talented Alex Wyndham narrating one of Lucinda Brant’s novels, I am completely blown away. This duo is so perfect together that I am completely lost to all else once I have started a Brant/Wyndham audiobook – indeed I have to ration myself; at present I have Dair Devil waiting in my Audible library and I dare not start it yet or there will be nothing done in my house!

Autumn Duchess opens with Indian-born merchant Jonathon Strang attending the annual April ball at the home of Julian and Deb, the present Duke and Duchess of Roxton and the hero and heroine of . Jonathon is completely captivated by the stunningly beautiful woman wearing unrelieved black, and, even after discovering that she is Antonia, dowager Duchess of Roxton, and regardless of the fact that she is clearly unattainable, he decides he WILL dance with her. He is persistent in his endeavours and persuades Antonia to take to the floor with him, much to the astonishment and consternation of all in attendance, including her very protective son, Julian. Her motives in complying are to save this confident, handsome and endearing man from social ruination, as will surely happen if she refuses his very public request to dance. She admires his candid and direct approach, which is a refreshing change for Antonia who has been used to the bowing and scraping of sycophants since her marriage to the late duke thirty years previously.

This is one of a very few social events that Antonia has graced; she has been in mourning for her beloved “Monseigneur” for three years. Her family, especially Julian, is despairing of her ever joining the land of the living again, and has even used a surreptitious form of emotional blackmail to entice her out of what he believes to be her deeply unhealthy melancholy. Her only pleasure is in the daily visits of her grandchildren, with whom she has a very loving and special relationship; it is this relationship that Julian exploits in his endeavours to winkle his Mother out of her blacks. To be fair to him, this is only done out of his deep love and concern for her welfare.

Initially, Jonathon had had an ulterior motive in becoming acquainted with Antonia. She occupies Crecy Hall which was gifted to her by her husband and is therefore hers to dispose of and also special to her. The hall forms part of lands and property embezzled from Jonathon’s ancestors by a previous Duke of Roxton. These lands and property, he feels, are his by right and he is determined to regain them. His growing attraction to Antonia, however, soon takes precedence, and before long, he is interested only in winning her affections.

The growing of the romance between Jonathon Strang and Antonia is quite movingly beautiful and touching; and the fact that he is ten years her junior (very unusual in an historical romance) is seamlessly incorporated in such a plausible manner that it quickly becomes unimportant to this story, so adeptly is it dealt with by the author. Jonathon is quite scrumptious and his character is so well-drawn that it would be impossible not to like him. He sets out to break down Antonia’s walls, brick-by-brick, argument-by-argument, winning the approval along the way, of Deb if not Julian. Slowly, through his persistence, Antonia begins to thaw and I felt ridiculously pleased as Jonathon achieved his objective, convincing her along the way that age is of no importance. I particularly liked the fact, that he did not try to replace her Duke and even encouraged her to talk about him; this went in no small way towards helping Antonia to trust and eventually love him.

There is also a factually correct secondary plot going on in which Antonia becomes innocently embroiled; it involves a close relative and nearly proves disastrous for the dowager Duchess. Lucinda Brant pays such close attention to historical detail and her painstaking research into this novel is such, that we get fascinating and interesting, living, breathing characters from the past, intertwined with the fictitious.

The gifted and skilled Alex Wyndham quite obviously enjoys reading Lucinda Brant’s work. The word ‘narrator’ is such a trite word to apply to him – he inhabits each and every role with consummate skill and professionalism – ‘becoming’ each character. Jonathon’s overwhelming gorgeousness is due, in no small part, to Mr Wyndham’s portrayal of him; he uses a smooth and honeyed tone with a trace of laid-back amusement in it, which immediately sums up the deliciously large, handsome, sun bronzed, Adonis. Antonia’s French-accented speech is perfectly pitched for a female and is subtly nuanced whether grieving, autocratic, sweet and playful with her grandchildren and – eventually, when Jonathon works his magic – lover like and romantic. There is never any doubt, even when there are a number of men in a discussion, who is who, and Julian and Deb sound exactly as they did in Midnight Marriage

All in all, Autumn Duchess is an absolutely terrific audiobook and one I’m recommending most highly. Lucinda Brant and Alex Wyndham are a force to be reckoned with, and I for one, will devour every one of their collaborations.

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