Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Tessa Dare - The Duchess Deal

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.
His terms are simple:
- They will be husband and wife by night only.
- No lights, no kissing.
- No questions about his battle scars.
- Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.
But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
- They will have dinner together every evening.
- With conversation.
- And unlimited teasing.
- Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

Comment: This is the first book in the Girl Meets Duke series by Tessa Dare. Despite background noise over certain subjects within the "romanceland" world, there is no doubt this author can write fun and romantic stories, although the historical settings rarely seem totally realistic. Nevertheless, it's entertaining and an escapism to read these books, thus I gladly carry on.

In this new series we meet Emma, a seamstress whose job is in peril for the big wedding dress she took months to sew won't be used after all, since the wedding was cancelled but no one has thought about paying for it, therefore a daring Emma wears the dress to make her point across and visits the duke who would have been the groom, hoping he can see all she requires is what her work is worth.

The duke of Ashbury has been at war and came back with heavy scars, which are repulsive for many and got used to it. Mellowing in his sadness while dealing with dukedom issues, he wasn't prepared for the vision of Emma in such an awful dress but he respects her position and her bravery in coming up to him. Since he, conveniently, needs to marry, why not someone who wasn't afraid of him? That is how he decides to pursue Emma and convince her she can, indeed, be a duchess...

Like I said, the books by this author are fun and cute. Still, reading the blurb and my small summary above probably will be indication enough the story isn't really accurate, historically. For those who need facts to be straight, then this will sound silly, but who can ignore that, the story is romantic and entertaining and a pleasure to read for how good it makes one feel.

The plot follows the "beauty and the best" trope. Ashbury (Ash) is scarred and has all the classic features of someone who is angry at his circumstances and he deals by being too direct and staying away from others, although he does go at night scaring criminals in the streets. He only considers the idea of marrying because of legal issues, as ensuring the titles remain in the family and such, otherwise he would have become a real hermit. He feels no one can appreciate him, much less a woman, for he was hurt by his former fiance's rejection and only wants to avoid it again.

Emma is a young woman whose life hasn't been easy, she trusted someone who didn't took her reputation into consideration, her own father accused her of sin and cast her out and she had to find a way to survive. She accepts the duke's crazy proposal only because she knows she would have financial security yes, but she also wants to help a former client who is in trouble. She knows this marriage won't be a real one but she still believes she can find something out of it, so she is willing to try.

Of course we are more than aware the couple will fall in love and although the wedding is cool and unassuming, they are clearly attracted, which is one tactic to make it seem they are becoming closer than they should in such circumstances. In my opinion, too much relies on sexual attraction and how the need to secure a heir makes it necessary for them to be sexually together but that is fun to see them deal with one another and grow fonder by bantering, bickering and find a connection in the bedroom, that it is.

As the plot develops, all the emotional strings are slowly connected, dealt with, which means the two protagonists face their fears, face their worries and past hurts and find happiness together. There are some scenes I found too much on the drama side and I did struggle with this or that scene which was really hard to accept (historically speaking) but overall, the author tries her best to make it seem Emma and Ash are in sync and are a good match, that they understand each other and will be supportive partners.

There are also the secondary characters, namely three friends that make friendship with Emma after her marriage, who help the couple seem a perfect match by how they interact with one another. I find this funny because how easy it seems to be that people who have never met would so quickly understand how someone else reacts but it was still fun to see the relationships develop. Of course the three ladies will be protagonists of the following books.

All in all, this was a good enough novel, funny, filled with unlikely and sometimes crazy scenes but the main couple is falling in love, they share enough scenes where we can see their devotion and care for one another even if they are hard to believe could actually happen. But that is the role of fiction, to allow one to dream and hope. I liked this one for how easy it was to read and I will read the following ones too.
Grade: 8/10

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