THE ONCE AND FUTURE DUCHESS
by Sophia Nash
HarperCollins/Avon May 27, 2014
E-Book/Paperback/audio 384 Pages
Print copy of book sent by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
A duchess in time saves a noble line …
In theory, the Duke of Candover is the most eligible peer in the realm. But in truth, he has a deep aversion to the merest hint of marriage, not to mention two botched engagements which have marked his jaded soul. Now, after a debauched bachelor party that causes public outcry, the Prince Regent is demanding that it’s Candover’s turn to be brought to heel. And Prinny secretly believes that Isabelle Tremont, the Duchess of March, is precisely the lady up to the challenge.
Isabelle must marry, but a day of reckoning with the man she’s loved for years is her greatest fear. If Candover insists she’s too young and innocent for a seasoned world-weary man like him, there’s no shortage of other candidates. Gentlemen of prestige and position. Gentlemen whose attentions are driving Candover to jealous distraction. Yet one abandoned moment under the stars hints that if they can put aside pride and duty, then a love once denied might just be their destiny. HarperCollins
I put that Love and Marriage Icon up a lot! I don’t think you could have a Regency Romance that wasn’t about Love and Marriage though. This one is about practical marriages that sometimes result in love. Love being a requirement in marriage is a fairly new concept. For the monied and titled, respect and compatibility was more important requirements for happiness as marriage was a social contract. A woman needed it to maintain her position, for money and protection. And men needed marriage for legitimate heirs. Often finances and politics were involved.
In the story, The British, are ticked off at Prinny, the Prince Regent — the future George IV. He was extravagant and a bit wild. So what better way to convince your subjects that you and your court are serious than making all the young bloods & studs marry? That is the crux of what has happened here. Prinny, is of course the Prince Regent, the future George IV of England. And he is not so subtly setting the Duke up with Isabelle.
The story and Isabelle are adorable, as are some of the other Dukes, but Candover has a stick so far up his backside that he comes off as a total ass. He has some hangups and self-esteem issues, but is all noble and duty bound; even though he will hate his life forever, stuck with the title and position he thinks his father did not think he was good enough for anad with the prospect of a loveless marriage later in his life. Isabelle is bright and fresh, smart and the oddity: a female inheritor of a title at the end of a noble line. Her father was Candover’s godfather and of course, she fell in love with his Candoverian self. He’s about a decade older and sees that as an obstacle to their relationship. Odd as most men were older than their wives.
He is so stuffy and held back and I have to confess I did not understand why. He has some secrets that really aren’t that big a deal. And they affect how he views himself. But so much depends on them that this story, which is wildly romantic, did not work for me.
Yes, perhaps I am looking at this out of context, but in this instance his behavior in reaction to the issue feels totally out of proportion. And it’s so deeply psychological that it was muddy and unclear. Plus, he doesn’t think Isabelle should be stuck with an old man but it is perfectly fine to do that to his future wife.
Another issue I had with the book was that it is quite involved with tying up loose ends from another book in the series, such that it feels as if it has been written as a bridge and not as a story unto itself.
With all these problems, I still enjoyed reading the book because it is rare that you read about the Prince Regent and his friends in a Regency. On the other hand, they were not well regarded in the popular art of caricature. I also liked the Duchess’ character for her sweetness and good nature. And her reactions and the strength of her spine are just spot on. I also enjoyed the activities the guests at a house party engage in. It was just hard for me to understand the psychology behind the Duke’s behavior although it also shows him as a mere human tasked with this enormous titular responsibility.
I think this was fun and light enough for a beach, pool or hammock read this summer.