Monday, November 16, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: How to Fool a Duke by Mary Lancaster and Violetta Rand

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

How to Fool a Duke (The Husband Dilemma, Book 1) by Mary Lancaster and Violetta Rand is a short and sweet Regency Romance. 

Lady Sarah Drimmen is a guest at the hideaway castle/estate of Lady Whitmore, a mysterious older woman of great wealth and aristocratic bearing who has established a community of artistic young women who, for one reason or another, need to withdraw from society for a while. Sarah’s reason is, on the surface, straightforward. Two years earlier, a betrothal arranged by her parents fell through when the young duke rejected her after their first meeting. She was only sixteen at the time, but severely hurt. Her parents’ reaction to her failure stung as much as the duke’s rejection. 

Sarah is a talented singer. Very talented. So she retreated to the Whitmore estate to concentrate on developing her voice under the direction of a master teacher. Her parents believe she’s attending something more along the lines of a finishing school, to pick up the polish she so sorely needs if she’s ever going to attract a suitable husband.

In fact, Sarah’s plans are more complex. She wants the polish and musical skill to make an impression upon the ton, but primarily in order to capture the heart of the duke so that she can reject him this time.

The duke of Vexen (Leonard) is a patron of the arts, so he is more than happy to be summoned to the Whitmore estate for an art show as its guest of honor, even though he has never heard of the place before. From the moment he arrives, and happens upon the loveliest girl he has ever seen singing with the voice of an angel, he is hooked. He thinks he has seen her somewhere before, but can’t quite place the memory. Made aware that she is a lady of gentle birth, he understands that he can’t trifle with her, but he pursues her nevertheless. The second time he hears her sing, he remembers where they met. She was the rambunctious child throwing apples at him from a tree when he went to meet the woman he was supposed to marry. He climbed up next to her, threw a few apples himself, and was charmed. But he could not, in good conscience, marry a child. He had no idea she would be devastated by the rejection he thought was honorable. And he had no clue that her mother had thrown it in her face that he had rejected her as an unsuitable hoyden.

He can’t figure out why she doesn’t remember him. Not until he kisses her and she rejects his attentions, winning her revenge.

Fortunately, Lady Whitmore is following the progress of the relationship and sets him back on track. Sarah is already regretting her plot. 

The relationship should be in for smooth sailing, except that one of the duke’s ex-mistresses has arrived for the art show. A widow, she wants to be a duchess, and will stop at nothing to snare Vexen. Also, Lady Whitmore is hiding a rather significant secret herself.

This pleasant Romance with likable protagonists, a sweet omniscient “guardian angel,” and a nasty antagonist is a fine addition to the genre.

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