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RECENTLY, I HAVE BEEN THINKING A LOT about what makes a good Regency novel. Oh, a handsome aristocratic hero and a spirited heroine, of course – and historical accuracy, lovely locations and an authentic supporting cast of characters all help. Throw in good dialogue, lovely frocks, a villain and a scandal or two and you’re seemingly set. Or are you? In a genre that’s, quite frankly, flooded with good novels, how does a writer stand out in the crowd? There surely has to be something more? Whatever it is thrice-nominated RITA novelist Grace Burrowes certainly has it in spades. And she’s done it again with The Duke’s Disaster, her latest title.

disaster_450x21-274x450As the book opens, Noah Winters, Duke of Anselm – by his own admission a not very ‘nice man’ – is facing up to the brutal fact that Marliss, the pretty young thing he’s been pursuing for weeks to make his wife, prefers another. Ever pragmatic, Noah transfers his attentions to her aristocratic companion Lady Amarinthea ‘Thea’ Collins, a much more more mature, poised and sensible choice of bride in many ways.

Your papa was an earl,’ he comments in the opening pages.

You’re comely, quiet, past the vapid age, and from good breeding stock. You are every bit as much duchess material as the giggling twit you supervise.

To Noah’s surprise, Thea doesn’t behave as he expects. She doesn’t immediately throw herself into his arms when he proposes, thanking her lucky stars that she is being saved from being little more than a ‘finishing governess’, as the Duke so delicately puts it. Instead, she has certain criteria that must be met, not just that her younger sister, Nonie, must reside with them after the marriage but also that Noah must give her a kiss, a ‘husbandly kiss’.

After Noah agrees to all of Thea’s terms and Thea finally agrees to the marriage, he congratulates himself on acquiring such a fitting bride, but all is not what it seems. Noah quickly discovers that his new duchess has a scandalous secret.

In many ways The Duke’s Disaster is a typical Regency: Noah is an attractive, rich and titled hero, feted for his money and status and Thea, while blue blooded, is, in reality, disenfranchised, forced to make her way in a society that places heavy weight on status, wealth and reputation. Yet, Burrowes makes the characters and plot more interesting by choosing to explore issues often overlooked or merely just hinted at in peer novels, something that she also does in her earlier titles. In this case, we see the effects of what happens when an aristocratic woman suffers sexual abuse at the hands of the very people who would normally protect her and also the personal sacrifices and huge responsibilities that come with extreme wealth and an important title.

Of the two protagonists in The Duke’s Disaster, Noah is perhaps the more interesting, although Thea does hold her own. While Noah seemingly has everything – good looks, breeding, a dukedom, extreme wealth and close family and friends – he’s also a vulnerable character, a man of honour with a strong moral code, whose name has been sullied by the womanising and indiscretions of his male predecessors. He is also a man who finds it difficult to trust. We see the ‘real’ Noah when he takes his new duchess to Wellspring, his mother’s favourite estate. Here, Noah is revealed as a caring and passionate man, affectionate with his loved ones and generous to his younger brother, sisters and to Thea’s rather dissolute brother. He brings to mind Wulfric Bedwyn, the Duke of Bewcastle in Mary Balogh’s excellent ‘Slightly’ series, a man who abandons pretty much all of his real self when he inherits the dukedom, partly to protect himself and partly in order that he can carry out the duties and cope with the many responsibilities associated with it to the best of his ability.

The love of good women help both Wulfric and Noah to find themselves, allowing them to embrace joy, friendship and family and, arguably, to become better dukes and, more importantly, men for it.

The Duke’s Disaster is an extremely enjoyable book and must surely stand amongst the author’s best Regencies – no mean feat when there are already so many.

 

The Duke’s Disaster by Grace Burrowes, published in print and in digital format, 7 April 2015 by Sourcebooks Casablanca. Available from all good book retailers and through iTunes and Amazon.

 

Images and text: The Duke’s Disaster (cover, Sourcebooks Casablanca; from the author’s site). Many thanks to Netgalley and to SourceBooks Casablanca for supplying an ARC edition.

 

Also of interest: ‘Mary Balogh’s The Escape – finding a haven in a heartless world’; ‘Mary Jo Putney – a writer with vision

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Notice: Please note the above images and quotations are intended to be for promotional purposes only. In no way, have we have intentionally breached anyone’s copyright.
This review is ©The Literary Shed, 2015. All opinions expressed are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments so please do contact us or fill in the form below. If you wish to reproduce the review, please credit us fully. Thank you.

 

 

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