The Inconvenient Duchess (by Christine Merrill)

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!

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