The Duke’s Daughter (The Duke of Strathmore Series, #3) by Sasha Cottman

Dukes daughter
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When handsome army officer Avery Fox unexpectedly inherits a fortune, he instantly becomes one of the season’s most eligible bachelors. More accustomed to the battlefield, he has no patience with the naive debutantes who fill the ballrooms of London.

Honest and impetuous Lady Lucy Radley is a breath of fresh air, guiding him through the season and helping him to avoid any traps. So when Avery is left with little option but to marry Lucy, he can’t help but feel he’s been manipulated. Nor can he shake the feeling that a duke’s daughter should be out of his reach.

From the wildly beautiful Scottish Highlands to the elegant soirees of Paris, Avery and Lucy go on a journey that is full of surprises for them both. But will their feelings for each other be strong enough to overcome the circumstances of their marriage and survive the ghosts of Avery’s past?

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Publisher and Release Date: Destiny Romance, August 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1817, London and Paris
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Sara

Author Sasha Cottman has been on my radar since I read and loved her debut romance two years ago. I had not had the chance to read her follow up book but I was delighted to know that a third story in the Strathmore series was out this year. I grabbed The Duke’s Daugher with the expectation of enjoying it just as much as I did the first book. In the end, however, the story and romance in it are too uneven for me to rate it higher than an average read.

Upon the death of his older brother Thaxter, Avery Fox has become the new heir to the Earl of Langham. Having grown up far from London and the ton, Avery is very uncomfortable with his new elevated status. Added to his discomfort is the fact that Thaxter had abused his position as heir and created a aura of distrust within the earl’s household that is transferred to Avery. To a man who escaped an abusive childhood to succeed in the army this impugning of his honor makes him retreat back into old memories and horrors he has carried with him since surviving Waterloo. The only bright spot during his early forays into society are the times he spends with Lady Lucy Radley, the sister of the earl’s new son-in-law.

Lucy has not been as successful as she had hoped during her two London seasons. Her third looks to be just as disastrous until Avery Fox is presented to the family. Seeing his unease at navigating the politics of London society, Lucy initially hopes to become his guide as a way of entertaining herself. Over the course of a few weeks she begins to realize that her motives are much less altruistic and that she has fallen just the smallest bit in love with her protégé. When their mutual attraction for one another reaches a pinnacle it results in a kiss witnessed by both of their families. Lucy and Avery have no choice but to get married.

What could have been the beginning of a true relationship for Lucy and Avery gets mired down with misunderstandings. Avery had fought his attraction for Lucy because he felt unworthy of her, and Lucy, knowing that her love alone will not be enough to sustain a marriage between them, suggests they seek a divorce. Neither actually wants their marriage to end but they are trying too hard to make the other person happy at the expense of their own hearts. It is only through some tough love from Lucy’s family and a push to resolve Avery’s wartime guilt that they are finally able to break through the emotional walls they have built to protect themselves.

I can’t say that I appreciated all of the twists and turns taken by the central relationship during the story. The Marriage of Convenience plot is actually a favorite of mine, as the hero and heroine are forced to find common ground and work together to make the relationship work, so I was keen to see the same building of a marriage from the inside as Lucy and Avery get to know each other more intimately. But unfortunately, Lucy and Avery’s miscommunications and stubborn reluctance to talk to one another dampens anything that could have potentially developed between them. For too long the story is focused on their obtaining a divorce, something which any regular reader of historical romance will tell you would have been close to impossible. Then, about midway through the story when they finally start to come together and build on their relationship, things go all wrong again as Avery’s PTSD rears its ugly head.

On the positive side, I appreciated the love and support Lucy gets from her family throughout the book. She is coddled because she is the lone girl in a household of boys, yet she doesn’t come across as spoiled. Perhaps she’s a bit naïve but she makes up for that by having a practical and determined side that supports Avery at his lowest times. I also loved the introduction of Lucy’s cousin William, a spy for England still working in France in the aftermath of Napoleon’s defeat. His no-nonsense discussions with Avery are exactly what I as the reader wanted to say to the character. The plot really hits its stride when Lucy and Avery travel to France, and from that time until the end, I felt it was the real story of their relationship coming through.

Ending on a high note and with the promise of more to come for William, The Duke’s Daughter might be a decent read for someone looking for a story with angst and lots of character drama. It never goes too dark but does a fair job of exploring the guilt and hardships soldiers returning from war can experience without support. Once the story moved past many of the hang-ups pushing the main characters apart it was charming and entertained me enough to want keep an eye out for the next in the series.

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