The one woman he will never forget…
Malcolm Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, has lived the last three years in self-imposed solitude, paying the price for a mistake he can never reverse and a love he lost forever. The dukedom does not wait, however, and Haven requires an heir, which means he must find himself a wife by summer’s end. There is only one problem—he already has one.
The one man she will never forgive…
After years in exile, Seraphina, Duchess of Haven, returns to London with a single goal—to reclaim the life she left and find happiness, unencumbered by the man who broke her heart. Haven offers her a deal; Sera can have her freedom, just as soon as she finds her replacement…which requires her to spend the summer in close quarters with the husband she does not want, but somehow cannot resist.
A love that neither can deny…
The duke has a single summer to woo his wife and convince her that, despite their broken past, he can give her forever, making every day… The Day of the Duchess.
Publisher and Release Date: Avon, June 2017
Time and Setting: England, 1836
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Em
Fans of Ms. MacLean rejoice: The Day of the Duchess is a terrific conclusion to her Scandal & Scoundrel series. In it, the author returns to the intriguing scene that opened The Rogue Not Taken, when, in front of large and captive audience, Sophie Talbot shoved her brother-in-law Malcolm Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, into a fishpond after witnessing him in flagrante delicto with a woman other than his duchess, her sister, Seraphina. I re-read the the scene to remind myself of how haughty, vile and despicable Haven was, and I suspect I’m not the only person who picked up The Day of the Duchess certain there was no way to redeem him. But I’m here to tell you you’re wrong and Ms. MacLean’s redemption of this character is nothing short of miraculous. I loved him by the time this story concluded, and you will too. Ms. MacLean pulls out all the big guns in this emotional, heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting love story.
When The Day of the Duchess opens, it’s been two years and seven months since Haven last saw his wife. He’s spent part of every day missing her, wanting her, and searching for her, but she’s vanished. From the first, it’s clear Haven regrets their past and he wants Seraphina back. Though we know what happened at the disastrous party when Sophie pushed Haven into the pond, we know nothing of their relationship before this. On this morning, Haven is in his chambers reflecting on his efforts to find Sera and making plans to resume his search the moment the Parliamentary session closes. He takes his seat in the House of Lords and just as the Lord Chancellor calls an end to the season, an entrance in the hall disrupts his speech. Haven ignores the interruption until a loud voice – a voice he recognizes – raises the hairs on the back of his neck. When he finally spots impeccable dressed, tall and beautiful woman on the floor he already knows who it is.
Christ. She was here.
Here. Nearly three years searching for her, and here she was, as though she’d been gone mere hours. Shock warred with an anger he could not have imagined, but those emotions were nothing compared to the third feeling. The immense, unbearable pleasure.
She was here.
It was all he could do not to move. To gather her up and carry her away. To hold her close. Win her back. Start fresh.
Except she doesn’t seem to share the sentiment and instead, after watching him for a moment, she declares, “I am Seraphina Bevingstoke, Duchess of Haven. And I require a divorce.”
A story like The Day of the Duchess is a challenge to review for several reasons. Told in chapters that alternate between Haven and Seraphina’s PoV, and the past and present, it’s nearly impossible to review it without spoiling its secrets. So I won’t. Suffice it to say, the relationship between Haven and Seraphina masterfully illustrates the power of a misunderstanding to morph into something so big and so damaging it destroys everything and everyone in its path. The dissolution of their relationship, the scene at the fishpond, Haven’s effort to win back his wife and her affections – all are all plagued by misunderstandings – and as Ms. MacLean flips back and forth in time and PoV, it’s easy to see how and why. Understanding, however, does nothing whatsoever to diminish the heartbreak and sadness you feel as the author slowly and painfully peels back the layers of Haven and Sera’s relationship. In flashbacks we witness their first meeting (it’s brilliant and wonderful and funny and romantic), how deeply and intensely they fall in love and then how quickly it all falls apart. Seraphina, after misunderstanding Haven’s intentions, makes a decision that painfully and irrevocably changes everything. Their passionate love affair abruptly turns into something tawdry, ugly and miserable, and it’s difficult to convey the whiplash of emotions I experienced reading it. Your heart will ache as their history is slowly revealed, and after Sera’s declaration in the House of Lords, it’s difficult to see how Ms. MacLean will effect a second chance at love for these two.
But she does! To refresh, it’s clear from the start that Haven wants Seraphina back – as his wife, lover and friend – and that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win her back. But Sera, despite her inconvenient attraction to THE LOVE OF HER LIFE, doesn’t want a reunion – she wants a divorce. So Haven decides to give her one – IF she’ll attend a house party and help him select her replacement and his next duchess. Seraphina is desperate, Haven is devious – and similarly desperate (for her lurve), and this is a writer who knows how to make magic out of a mess. Seraphina agrees to his plan, but she brings protective reinforcements – her sisters – who’ve never forgiven Haven. Careful reader – I can imagine your eyes rolling. Yes, it’s silly and ridiculous. But, it’s so well done, you enjoy every moment anyway. Haven makes a move, Seraphina checks it, and the game continues apace. This plot device (the fake find-a-wife-house party) wherein Haven slowly woos his reluctant wife, paired with well-drawn secondary characters – women with whom Haven pretends to have an interest and Sera’s fascinating and devious sisters, keep this clever conceit afloat long after it should have grown tiresome, and provides ample time for these two to rediscover their love and affection for each other.
Obviously, all the plotting and scheming in the world wouldn’t hold our attention if the principals weren’t equally compelling. Haven – Mal to Sera – cheated. It is difficult to get past that. However, once Ms. MacLean finally slots into place Mal’s childhood and the events that preceded his MASSIVE MISTAKE, I understood it – even if I didn’t like it. Yes, I’m being deliberately vague. You’ll see. The Mal we get to know in this story is appealing, charming and chock full of regret. He’s also a handsome, wealthy and powerful duke. Reader, when he sets out to make amends and prove to Sera he’s worthy of her love, he’s irresistible. Sera is similarly appealing. Haven is smitten from the moment he meets her – and so are we. She’s delightful, charming, mysterious… and she keeps him on his toes. The moment (oh, it’s awful) when she decides to leave Haven and any hope for a reconciliation, her pain and heartbreak are palpable. But the Sera that emerges is like a phoenix from the ashes, and she makes Haven work hard for her forgiveness – and I was glad of it.
The Day of the Duchess isn’t perfect. The house party drags out a bit too long and Sera’s sisters – though loyal and entertaining – are a bit too conveniently ‘just what Seraphina needs’ at any given moment; though they’re still a likeable lot. The happily ever after is hard earned and well deserved by the time it arrives, although again, I wish Ms. MacLean hadn’t drawn it out quite so much. The pacing in the second half is the only reason I’m not giving the book five stars.
Slow pace aside, The Day of the Duchess ends the Scandal & Scoundrel series on a high note. Every chapter – past and present – resonates emotionally and viscerally, and this romance and relationship stayed with me long after the last page was read. This is Ms. MacLean at her best.
DESERTED DUKE DISAVOWED!
August 19, 1836
House of Lords, Parliament
She’d left him two years, seven months ago, exactly.
Malcolm Marcus Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven looked to the tiny wooden calendar wheels inlaid into the blotter on his desk in his private office above the House of Lords.
August the nineteenth, 1836. The last day of the parliamentary session, filled with pomp and idle. And lingering memory. He spun the wheel with the six embossed upon it. Five. Four. He took a deep breath.
Get out. He heard his own words, cold and angry with betrayal, echoing with quiet menace. Don’t ever return.
He touched the wheel again. August became July. May. March.
January the nineteenth, 1834. The day she left.
His fingers moved without thought, finding comfort in the familiar click of the wheels.
April the seventeenth, 1833.
The way I feel about you . . . Her words now—soft and full of temptation. I’ve never felt anything like this.
He hadn’t, either. As though light and breath and hope had flooded the room, filling all the dark spaces. Filling his lungs and heart. And all because of her.
Until he’d discovered the truth. The truth, which had mattered so much until it hadn’t mattered at all.
Where had she gone?
The clock in the corner of the room ticked and tocked, counting the seconds until Haven was due in his seat in the hallowed main chamber of the House of Lords, where men of higher purpose and passion had sat before him for generations. His fingers played the little calendar like a virtuoso, as though they’d done this dance a hundred times before. A thousand.
And they had.
March the first, 1833. The day they met.
So, they let simply anyone become a duke, do they? No deference. Teasing and charm and pure, unadulterated beauty.
If you think dukes are bad, imagine what they accept from duchesses?
That smile. As though she’d never met another man. As though she’d never wanted to. He’d been hers the moment he’d seen that smile. Before that. Imagine, indeed.
And then it had fallen apart. He’d lost everything, and then lost her. Or perhaps it had been the reverse. Or perhaps it was all the same.
Would there ever be a time when he stopped thinking of her? Ever a date that did not remind him of her? Of the time that had stretched like an eternity since she’d left?
Where had she gone?
The clock struck eleven, heavy chimes sounding in the room, echoed by a dozen others sounding down the long, oaken corridor beyond, summoning men of longstanding name to the duty that had been theirs before they drew breath.
Haven spun the calendar wheels with force, leaving them as they lay. November the thirty-seventh, 3842. A fine date—one on which he had absolutely no chance of thinking of her.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
New York Times, Washington Post & USA Today bestseller Sarah MacLean is the author of historical romance novels that have been translated into more than twenty languages, and winner of back-to-back RITA Awards for best historical romance from the Romance Writers of America.
Sarah is a leading advocate for the romance genre, speaking widely on its place at the nexus of gender and cultural studies. She is the author of a monthly column celebrating the best of the genre for the Washington Post. Her work in support of romance and the women who read it earned her a place on Jezebel.com’s Sheroes list of 2014 and led Entertainment Weekly to call her “gracefully furious.” A graduate of Smith College & Harvard University, Sarah now lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.