Wednesday, December 6, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Duke Knows Best by Jane Ashford

I received this book free from Netgalley. That did not influence my review.

I had a mini-vacation and wanted something light and quick to read, so I chose a Romance from Netgalley, although the vacation was in September and the release date isn’t until December, so I won’t be posting this review for a while. . .

The Duke Knows Best by Jane Ashford must take its title from the old TV series Father Knows Best, because the duke is not the protagonist but rather the protagonist’s father, who comes to the rescue in the book’s final chapters. The protagonist, Lord Randolph Gresham, is not a duke, not even heir to a dukedom, but a third or fourth son who has taken a living as a "country parson." Having suffered the tragic loss of a fiancĂ© years before, Randolph is now prepared to return to London to seek a wife.

The heroine, Verity Sinclair, is the daughter of the dean of a cathedral. At twenty-four, she has finally convinced her parents that she deserves a London Season, and she’s determined to make the most of it. She’d going to find a husband who will take her out of her dull, dreary world to go adventuring.

The two are introduced at a small party and Verity, before giving the poor man a chance to open his mouth, announces that she is not interested in living in the countryside. For good measure, she insults those who do. (The incredible rudeness and almost ridiculous presumption in the way she addresses a stranger is jarring. While it’s understandable that she was stunned to realize the first handsome man she meets is exactly the type of man she most definitely doesn’t want, the reader’s initial impression of her is far from favorable.)

London Seasons being what they are, the two cross paths time and again. Verity continues to be unreasonably rude and Randolph tries to simply stay away from her. But at a small house party that includes musical performances by guests, the hostess asks that Verity and Randolph sing a duet. Their passion is ignited as they meld voices. The masterful duet is a stunning success.

Shortly, the Prince, alerted to the new phenomenon, commands a performance and they are unable to refuse. This means forced together time.

The relationship blossoms and they discover how compatible they actually are. There are subplots including a couple of silly young female friends/relatives who want to thwart convention and a Regency Mean Girl who Verity mistakenly befriends early on, believing her to be a fellow adventuress, before she understands how petty and cruel the woman is. Randolph, meanwhile, has troubles of his own stemming from an earlier career mishap that threatens to derail his future prospects in the church.

The story flows along, buoyed by the steadiness and charm of the hero. As Verity matures and changes course, the reader can truly root for the resolution of their difficulties and their ultimate happiness.

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