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The arrogant Duke of Trent intends to marry a well-bred Englishwoman. The last woman he would ever consider marrying is the adventuresome Merry Pelford— an American heiress who has infamously jilted two fiancés.
But after one provocative encounter with the captivating Merry, Trent desires her more than any woman he has ever met. He is determined to have her as his wife, no matter what it takes. And Trent is a man who always gets what he wants.
The problem is, Merry is already betrothed, and the former runaway bride has vowed to make it all the way to the altar. As honor clashes with irresistible passion, Trent realizes the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined. In his battle to save Merry and win her heart, one thing becomes clear:
All is fair in love and war.
He didn’t move. “Tell me, do you consider yourself representative of American ladies?”
“In some respects,” she said, hesitating.
His smile deepened. “How do American ladies compare to their English counterparts?”
“Well, American ladies prefer to speak rather than warble,” Merry said, with a mischievous grin. “We never faint, and our constitutions are far hardier than those of delicate English gentlewomen. Oh, and we add tea to our milk, rather than the other way around.”
“You are of the impression that ‘delicate’ characterizes the fair sex as represented tonight in Lady Portmeadow’s ballroom?”
Merry pursed her lips, thinking of the hawk-eyed ladies who ruled over London society. “Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Englishwomen aspire to delicacy, and American women do not. For my part, I believe that a woman’s temperament is something she ought to be able to decide for herself. I have no plan to have an attack of the vapors now, nor shall I in the future.”
“I’ve heard about these ‘vapors,’ but I have yet to see a woman faint,” he said, folding his arms over his chest.
He had a nice chest. Her eyes drifted all the way down to his powerful thighs, before she recovered herself and snapped her gaze back to his face. His expression was unchanged, so hopefully he hadn’t noticed her impropriety.
Still, in the back of her mind, she admitted that Aunt Bess was right: on the right man, snug silk pantaloons were an undeniably appealing fashion.
He was patiently waiting for her to respond. He had a kind of power about him that had nothing to do with fashion. Now she thought of it, she had seen that kind of self-possession before: in the Mohawk warrior she’d once met as a girl.
She shook her head, pushing the thought away. “Not even once? In that case, you’re either lucky or remarkably unobservant. Didn’t you notice the fuss earlier this evening when Miss Cernay collapsed?”
“I arrived only a quarter of an hour ago. Why did Miss Cernay faint?”
“She claimed a mouse ran up her leg.”
“That is highly improbable,” he remarked, a sardonic light in his eyes. “Lady Portmeadow is notorious for her frugality, and not even mice care to starve.”
“Miss Cernay’s claim is not the point,” Merry explained. “She was likely groped by Lord Ma—by someone, and fainted from pure shock. Or perhaps she feigned a swoon to avoid further indignities. Either way, I promise you that an American lady would have taken direct action.”
He unfolded his arms and his eyes narrowed. “Am I to infer that you know who this blackguard was because he groped you as well?”
“‘Grope’ is perhaps too strong,” Merry said, noticing the air of menace that suddenly hung about those large shoulders. “‘Fondle’ would be more accurate.”
Her clarification didn’t improve matters. “Who was it?” he demanded. His brows were a dark line.
She certainly didn’t want to be responsible for an unpleasant confrontation. “I haven’t any idea,” she said, fibbing madly.
“I collect that you did not faint.”
“Certainly not. I defended myself.”
“I see,” he said, looking interested. “How did you do that, exactly?”
“I stuck him with my hatpin,” Merry explained.
She nodded, and showed him one of the two diamond hatpins adorning the top of her gloves. “In America, we pleat silk gloves at the top and thread a hatpin through. They hold up your gloves, but they can also be used to ward off wandering hands.”
“Very resourceful,” he said with a nod.
“Yes, well, the lord in question might have squealed loudly,” she told him impishly. “Everyone might have turned around to look. And I might have patted his arm and said that I knew that boils could be very troublesome. Did you know, by the way, that a treatment of yarrow is used for boils, but it will also stop a man’s hair from falling out?”
She could feel herself turning pink. He had no need of that remedy. Although cropped short, his hair was quite thick, as best she could see on the shadowy balcony.
But he gave a deep chuckle, and Merry relaxed, realizing that it was the first time all week—perhaps even all month—she felt free to be herself. This man actually seemed to like it when a bit of information escaped from her mouth.
Publisher and Release Date: Avon, 26th January 2016
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars
Review by Maggi
Eloisa James has done it again with this charming romp, which is at times hilarious. American, Merry Pelford has broken off her two previous engagements and her reputation has followed her to England. After she accepts the hand of a duke’s second son, Lord Cedric Allardyce, she comes to realize the man of her dreams is his brother, Jack, the Duke of Trent. When Merry first meets Trent, she doesn’t recognize him as a duke or anyone of consequence. The highlighting of the differences between American and British societies during the Regency add a rich subtext.
“The man glowering down at an innocent whitethorn hedge was probably from one of the lower rungs of the social ladder, someone whom most people in that ballroom would look right through. In America, he would be free to make his own way, judged on his merits, not his birth.”
Merry cannot run again and it seems inevitable that this time she must marry Lord Cedric. She begins to doubt herself capable of commitment.
Trent’s attraction is immediate; he wants Merry for his wife, but he can do nothing but watch as she and his brother move ever closer to the altar.
Merry’s a charming heroine, she’s practical and refreshingly honest, and struggles to conform to the dictates of London society, which tends to get her into trouble at times.
I could picture Hugh Grant as the wayward brother, Lord Cedric, in this, and Colin Firth as the Duke of Trent. There’s plenty to laugh at, especially the scene with the rented pineapple.
Trent and Merry marry under difficult circumstances. It seems everything will go smoothly, as the chemistry between them sizzles. Ms. James’ portrayal of a couple in the throes of falling in love who can’t keep their hands off each other is superb.
But their relationship hits a thorny patch. Trent, a deeply wounded man, doesn’t believe in romantic love, and issues of trust arise.
The secondary characters are also delightful. Merry’s Aunt Bess, a poetess, has a great gift for metaphor and is unimpressed with upper-class British society:
“That ballroom is full of women pretending never to have gawked at a man’s wishbone,” she pointed out, “whereas in reality they walk around the room like butchers’ wives at a fish market.”
Bess offers Merry some unvarnished advice:
“A title is all very well, my dear, but I think it’s better to judge a husband on his own merits—on the plain naked man, if you take my meaning.”
There’s an engaging roly-poly puppy, George, and eventually, after some bittersweet moments, a happy ending. My American Duchess is a wonderful read, and one I have no hesitation in recommending highly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A New York Times bestselling author, Eloisa James is a professor of English literature who lives with her family in New York, but who can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. (Her husband is an honest to goodness Italian knight!) Eloisa’s website offers short stories, extra chapters, and even a guide to shopping in Florence. Visit her at www.eloisajames.com.
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