Never welcomed into society circles, Rosalind Allen gave up her marriage prospects long ago–life has taught her she’ll only get hurt. So she’s shocked when an encounter with a mysterious stranger makes her long to reconsider…
Little does Rosalind know that her mystery man is Leo Beauchamp, Duke of Cheriton, traveling in disguise to evade the ladies of the ton! Impoverished Rosalind is the first woman to captivate Leo–but can he persuade this wary Cinderella to trust him with her heart?
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Cinderella and the Duke (The Beauchamp Betrothals)
Rosalind Allen is now thirty years old, and has spent the last fourteen years caring for her younger brother, Freddie, and her step siblings, Jack and Nell. Upon her stepfather’s death, Rosalind had to act quickly to remove Nell from her new guardian’s clutches, as he had plans to marry her off to one of his cronies to settle a debt. Now Rosalind and Freddie are staying at a friend’s cottage, with Rosalind using an assumed name, while they contemplate their next course of action.
Leo Beauchamp, Duke of Cheriton, is visiting his cousin’s home in the country. Because he is widowed, he is still considered a great matrimonial prize, despite being the advanced age of forty and having three grown children. In order to hide from his pursuers, Leo is using the name of Mr. Boynton during this visit. While out riding one day, Leo finds his rakish cousin, Anthony, accosting Rosalind, who is not desirous of his attention. Leo manages to thwart Anthony’s attempted seduction, at least for the moment.
Rosalind and Leo have more occasions to meet, though they are aware of each other by their assumed identities of Mr. Boynton and Mrs. Pryce. Leo is delighted to be treated as just an ordinary man, and not be fawned over because he is a duke. Rosalind finds herself finally enjoying the attention of a handsome man who finds her attractive. They soon become friends, then lovers, as Rosalind has taken the bold step of wanting to experience passion for the first time. Leo, however, is shocked at her innocence, and feels that she knows his identity, and is just another woman trying to trap him. They part on bad terms, with Leo being unsure of how he should handle the relationship. When he eventually decides to call on her again, it’s to find that she and Freddie have left the cottage.
Rosalind and Freddie were urgently summoned to London, as the woman who was chaperoning Nell had an unfortunate accident. As expected, she encounters Leo, and they both become aware of the other’s true identity. Both are suspicious and antagonistic toward each other, as Leo suspects she’s pursuing him, while Rosalind believes she was just a momentary fling for an uppity aristocrat. Eventually they are able to work past those erroneous assumptions only to find there are more complications.
Both Rosalind and Leo are stellar and honorable characters with the best of intentions, and I adore them. Rosalind has dedicated her life to caring for her siblings and never had a real chance of finding her own happiness. Now every attempt by Leo to ease her burdens and to make things right seems to make Rosalind feel “unnecessary.” This couple has many obstacles to overcome to finally achieve their hard won happy ever after. CINDERELLA AND THE DUKE is a wonderful love story with a great hero and heroine who need to overcome their preconceived notions, and to let go of prior hurts. There’s a wonderful cast of supporting characters, as well as a couple of odious villains who contribute to this very satisfying and enjoyable read. A particularly lovely gesture at the story’s end makes for a teary, but wonderful and warm conclusion. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how refreshing it was to read about a hero who was forty and a heroine who was thirty – truly a breath of fresh air.