1849 . . . Matilda Sheldon, the middle daughter of the sixth Earl of Bisset, has never been interested in the fashionable society events that so preoccupy her parents and siblings. Her loving, albeit, daft family cannot understand why. But Matilda has little use for silly rules and dramas. She would rather occupy her time with a worthwhile cause such as opening The Sheldon Home for Orphans, much to the chagrin of her mother and grandmother. They are quite certain a venture of this nature will discourage suitors. Matilda is quite certain that if suitors are discouraged it is because she is clever, plain, a bit clumsy, and inevitably compared to her beautiful sisters.
The Duke of Thornsby is in tight spot. After receiving the title on the death of his father, he discovers the inheritance is to be gifted elsewhere if he does not marry before his thirtieth birthday. Unfortunately, our man-about-town is embroiled in a scandal, not of his own making, and the marriage mamas won’t let any eligible misses anywhere near him. What’s a Duke to do? Get invited to a house party hosted by the notoriously absent-minded Earl of Bisset, who just happens to be Papa to some young ladies of marriageable age!
Thornsby finds himself fascinated, not with the two Sheldon debutantes actively seeking a husband, but rather with the ‘brown wren’ he first mistakes for a servant. Matilda is counting the hours until the house party ends when the necessity of conversing with the guests will be over, and ridiculously handsome men go far away. Can a worldly Duke convince a sensible girl to accept his court? Find out in Charming the Duke.
Publisher and Release Date: Holly Bush Books, March 2014
Time and Setting: Victorian London
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Sebina
Charming the Duke is one of those delightfully breezy reads that you can read in a day. The romance was lovely, with both of the protagonists not expecting to find love. Along with a gang of funny, rather daft but delightful family members, it made the romance of the two all the more interesting to read. If you like the combination of Historical Romance and Comedy-of-Manners I am sure you will enjoy this quick and fun read.
Matilda Sheldon is the middle daughter of the sixth Earl of Bisset. She is passionate, giving, opinionated and independent. She lives near London in the Dowager House on the Maplewood estate with her two sisters, Juliet and Alexandra, her mother, Frances, and her father. She also has a younger brother. Matilda is closest to her grandmother Ethel, who is not daft as the rest of her immediate family. They often converse together over tea. Matilda feels at the beginning of the book that she is a bit of misfit in this family of daftness, wanting rather to be an “only daughter of a village vicar, happily whiling away the hours absorbed in literature and philosophy.” But that does not mean that she takes anything for granted in her life or that she does not appreciate and love her family. She has a deep wish to help orphaned children and is planning to create a home for them.
Even though Matilda is a beautiful young woman, she hides her beauty, wanting rather to be appreciated for her intelligence and the person she is within, instead of what she is on the outside. This in turn creates some fun scenes with her love interest, The Duke of Thornsby. Their dance of misunderstandings and misconceptions reminded me of the best light and fun Regencies and Victorian stories I’ve read.
The Duke of Thornsby’s character was not as clear to me as Matilda’s. I think that may have had something to do with his situation in this book. He has to marry before his thirtieth birthday to inherit the money from his late father. That creates some urgency throughout. He is also not clear on what he is seeking in a wife. He has been with other women and has quite the reputation in polite society, but finding a wife is something he has tried to put off again and again. He is astounded by Matilda (in a good way), and their scenes together are beautifully written. I felt he was a character that had a healthy dose of manliness and adorableness which befit this light romance perfectly.
Most of my favourite scenes were actually those which featured Matilda’s family. Throughout the story, they prove a great support and surprise Matilda quite a bit. One of the best things in the book was that Matilda’s two sisters also found love, as did the Duke of Thornsby’s sister Athena Wilcox; Athena, like Matilda and Ethel, is an intelligent woman with a great deal of inner strength. That Matilda’s sisters and Athena found love, worked well and fit the pacing of the book.
My only complaint was near the ending – which I will not spoil – but I felt that maybe we should have had more time with Matilda and Thornsby after they got together. The fact that we didn’t did not take anything away from the overall pacing of the book, so it is more of a personal gripe. Besides the pacing, I found the Victorian setting convincing and felt throughout as though I had been transported into that time and place. I heartily recommend this book.
AT TIME OF WRITING, CHARMING THE DUKE IS AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON FOR $3.09