The Duchess of Bentley, is just out of mourning. As a widow, she has certain freedoms other women do not. But she has neither the time nor inclination to look for dalliance. She’s much too busy overseeing the very special properties left to her by the late duke—including the elite gaming hell known as Dante’s Inferno.
Until another nobleman returns to London, and reminds her that she is still a young, passionate woman.
The Duke of Evermont, has returned from his sugar plantations in the Caribbean. His life is full running his estates and seeing to his investments. The last thing he’s searching for is a wife. That is, until he sees Eleanor again, and other society beauties fade in comparison.
The last time he saw her, Eleanor was walking down the aisle to another man. This time, Evermont is determined not to let the beautiful and vibrant lady slip through his hands.
Fortunately for him, the duchess turns to him for help—and he’s more than willing to sweep her under his ducal cloak of protection. Whether his assistance is required in shielding her from members of society foolish enough to gamble away their fortunes, or from the heartless schemes of her own father—Evermont will do what it takes to show her their future together is a sure thing.
Publisher and Release Date: J.R. Salisbury, April 2016
Time & Setting: London, 1813
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Sara
Eleanor, Duchess of Bentley has thrown off her widow’s weeds in time to help her sister Prudence make her début in London. Knowing that her family’s respectability hangs by a thread due to their father’s gambling problems, Eleanor hopes that her presence will help Prudence make a good match. It helps their situation that Eleanor has inside information about her father’s addiction because she is part owner of the only club in London that will still give the Duke of Wexwood credit, Dante’s Inferno. Without letting her family know the extent of their father’s debt she has carefully constructed a safety net around the duke by holding all of his letters and only allowing him to gamble against the house. It’s an almost daily struggle to contain his outlandish betting, but Eleanor cannot let her father lose everything and sacrifice her family’s future. Seeing Prudence married would secure her future before their father can make a bigger mistake.
Attending their first ball of the season, Eleanor is quickly frustrated by her sister’s insistence that their father has already secured a betrothal for her to the long-absent Duke of Evermont. Eleanor didn’t even realize her old friend Cameron Dudley had returned from the Caribbean but she is certain he is not interested in Prudence, nor would he have ever spoken to their father. Hoping to warn Cameron of Prudence’s ideas before they become gossip Eleanor makes her way to his side and spends a few quiet moments alone to discuss matters. Amazingly the connection she and Cameron shared long ago is just as strong even after years of separation. Her attraction to him is still there as well, with an intensity that Eleanor had never felt with her late husband.
For Cameron, meeting Eleanor again and seeing her out of mourning gives him hope that this time around he will have the chance to marry the only woman he’s ever loved. Years before his plan to court Eleanor was thwarted when her father practically sold his daughter into marriage so he could use her settlements to cover his debts. Now that she is a widow and Cameron has returned to England to take his place in society the timing is perfect to renew his suit but Eleanor seems hesitant to open herself to a relationship. Being the type of man who needs answers, Cameron makes it his goal to know everything that might be holding Eleanor back from being with him. His love for her is more important than any potential scandal from her family or even what could unfold if her greatest secret becomes public knowledge.
Dealing with the Duchess has perhaps one of the more level-headed heroines I’ve read in a long time. I was very interested in how Eleanor would overcome the problems created by her father or her scandalous business. It is an interesting idea to have a woman be the de facto head of her family and I liked how easily Eleanor fit into that role. Her intelligence is something her first husband recognized and nurtured, giving her the tools to continue as she saw fit when he knew his time was short. That Eleanor became successful was all on her own merits and she is constantly thinking about how to maintain her lifestyle while protecting her family from her father’s shortcomings. When the old duke loses everything it is Eleanor who pieces it all back together and gives her brother the opportunity to rebuild the Wexwood dukedom in a more positive image while she quietly remains in the background. Cameron’s love for Eleanor builds from his respect for her ability to manage it all while having to still adhere to all of society’s rules about a woman’s proper place.
Where the story falls down a bit is in its romantic plotline. Eleanor and Cameron come together almost too easily and I missed the internal struggles sometimes associated with a second chance romance. There was no real hurt, anger or personal demons for either person to overcome before allowing love to rekindle. Cameron is never bitter that Eleanor married another man after they had all but confessed their feeling for each other and Eleanor never feels any guilt over lingering emotions for her husband. Neither one of them has some horrible skeleton in their closet they have to hide from their lover and the one thing that might have come between them, Eleanor’s gaming hell, is quickly revealed and accepted. There isn’t enough drama to really get a reader engaged in the relationship portion of the story; it’s all rather boring even though on the page Cameron and Eleanor can barely contain their passion for each other.
On the whole, Dealing with the Duchess is an enjoyable book that I am comfortable recommending to readers who appreciate a smart heroine and a story that doesn’t follow the usual twists and turns.