When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…
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…
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The Duchess Deal: Girl Meets Duke
George Pembrooke, the Duke of Ashbury, was horribly scarred while a soldier. His fiancée’s reaction to his altered looks brought an end to their engagement. The cynical duke decides it should be easy enough to obtain a replacement bride, despite his self-proclaimed repulsive appearance. He’ll make it financially worth her while, and once his heir is born, he’ll allow her to live her own life as she chooses. He is in the process of writing to his solicitor, and has just penned the words, “I need a wife,” when his servant interrupts to tell him that there is a woman insisting on seeing him, and she’s wearing a wedding dress! Nothing like a providential reply to his request – Ashbury has to find out what this is all about, so he instructs that she be admitted.
Emma Gladstone is a seamstress, and had been commissioned to produce the wedding gown for Ashbury’s fiancée. When the wedding was called off, Emma never received her payment, and all her attempts at collection have been futile. In desperation, Emma donned the dress and went to Ashbury’s home, determined to see him and to demand he pay the amount owed her. Humorously enough, Ashbury’s first reaction is that his fiancée had horrible taste, as the dress she designed is truly hideous. He admires Emma’s nerve. He pays her and then he proposes marriage. Certain that she is being ridiculed, Emma declines, and leaves. When Ashbury shows up at Emma’s shop, she realizes that he is genuinely serious. His generous terms will not only save Emma from a life of drudgery, but will also give her the means to help a friend in need. This is an offer Emma can’t refuse.
Ashbury makes it clear – this is strictly a convenient arrangement – no kissing, no affection. Once Emma is pregnant, he’ll ship her off to one of his country estates, which will become home for her and the child. Emma agrees to this, but in the interim, she won’t be ignored. She insists on taking her meals with Ashbury, and having conversation. When she decides she doesn’t care for his given names, she devises ridiculous endearments. After Emma got past the first shocking look at Ashbury’s scars and injuries, it’s as if she wasn’t even aware of them anymore, and she finds herself terribly attracted to the caustic man.
I can’t even begin to express how much I love both of these characters! Despite her current circumstances, Emma was born a gentleman’s daughter. She’s intelligent, kind, honest, humorous, and no one’s doormat. I love that she came out and told Ashbury that she found him attractive, and the affect he had on her. Though Ashbury has more or less come to terms with his appearance, he still avoids going out in public. His nocturnal activities show a whole other caring side of him that he would staunchly deny. He declares that he was not a good man before he was injured, and he certainly isn’t one now.
Against his will, Emma draws him out, even coercing him to reluctantly appear in public. Emma’s charm soon has the no kissing rule tossed out, and before too long, it seems that affection has worked its way into their relationship. There is one particularly memorable scene that I found totally swoonworthy. While Emma and Ashbury are having an intimate encounter, they determine that Emma will always do the opposite of what he tells her to do, so he proceeds to tell her NOT to do a list of things he’s really dying for. And of course, since he told her not to, Emma does. This scene alone, and Ashbury’s vulnerability is worth the price of admission. (You’ll have to read to find out just what that list contained.)
I always enjoy Tessa Dare’s writing, but in THE DUCHESS DEAL, she is in top form, and I found this to be her best book to date. There is a wounded, self-deprecating, yet still confident hero, a strong, bright, loving heroine, wonderful humor, true romance, and plenty of steam. THE DUCHESS DEAL is beautifully written, and has everything I need in a book – it’s definitely on my favorites list for this year and I already can’t wait to read it again!