Tears began to trickle from under the closed eyelids of the woman before him
and he looked away. Better not to look and be fooled by a whore’s tears.
(Because Marcus Radwell, Duke of Haughleigh, is done rakin' around...)
The Inconvenient Duchess (by Christine Merrill)
Conflict: Insta-Marriage / Big Secret. For some mysterious reason, Miranda is sent unannounced to the Duke of Haughleigh (Marcus, a widower). Her reputation is automatically compromised just by being in his presence unchaperoned, because he's such a rake, so now they have to get married. He's bitterly pissed, and for good reason! They're both equally forced into the marriage. After Marcus does some private-investigating in London for two weeks, he figured out the secret (about one-third through the novel), so she doesn't know that he knows... and in the mean time, she has to adjust to her knew life/title as the Duchess of Haughleigh.
Why do I empathize with this heroine: Let's put it this way: her "situation" sucked so badly, it made me consciously thankful to be living in 2012. Although she deserved a privileged upbringing, Miranda grew up destitute, doing the worst work of a housemaid just to survive. (And remember, because of the time period, with our rich main characters, this is horrifying and unacceptable.)
I mean, she literally shows up all rainy and pitiful on Marcus' doorstep, like this:
Plus, not only is she dealing with her world being flipped around, Miranda also has the villain (slimy-yet-handsome rakish brother-in-law) forcing himself on her in the creepiest way, basically tormenting her like a feral cat clawing at a bird with broken wings. I don't believe that she's wussy, she's just the victim of some not-so-great parenting, and we see how this puts her into a corner (sometimes literally).
Overall: Recommended for those experienced romance-readers who love historicals, especially just to hear their opinion/feedback. This was for Bebe's book club and I agree with her four-star rating ("couldn't wait to wake up and start reading"). It was rough reading about the conflict, but I also enjoyed the romance build-up in this one. Even if their first "love-scene" is officially awful (basically him just wanting to consummate the marriage, thinking that she doesn't love him), I think it was pretty historically accurate (sadly enough) for a romance novel. I actually imagined that insta-marriages happened as quickly, almost like, "Oh, no! We're in a shitty situation - whelp, I guess we have no other option but to get married," and this book does a good job of showing us that awkwardness. There was also a nice balance between the perspective of the hero and heroine while watching their relationship / affection bloom. My eye-rolling was kept to an extreme minimum (just a little bit for that villain fight-scene at the end). Since this is Book #1 in The Radwells series, I'm considering picking up Book #2, the villain's story (An Unladylike Offer).
Things I LOVED:
- The signet wedding ring
- Their heart-to-heart conversations
- Their chess game
- The Christmas morning gift for Miranda*
*NOTE: I'm counting this as book 1 for the Holiday Reading Challenge 2012, since it has Christmas at the end (for quite a few pages), and that Christmas scene wraps up the HEA so nicely!