Saturday, July 24, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: The Duke Who Loved Me by Jane Ashford

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

Jane Ashford’s newest Regency Romance looks to be the start of a new series. The Duke Who Loved Me is a pleasant romance, but more enjoyable for its side characters, the four young debutantes who are befriended by the heroine, than for the courting couple.

Miss Cecelia Vainsmede is an organized young woman, beautiful and intelligent, who has been managing the financial affairs of James Cantrell, the new Duke of Tereford since he was an orphaned lad of fifteen and she was the nine-year-old daughter of his trustee. As the man was a disinterested guardian, and James needed guidance, Cecelia stepped in to fill the void. She mediated between the two men for ten years, until James reached his majority. They have been frenemies all along. However, in recent years, Cecelia has fallen for James and wishes he would see her differently.

James Cantrell has just inherited the dukedom from a great uncle whom he never really knew. The man was a recluse. When James enters the London townhouse, he learns the man was also a hoarder. The mess is unmanageable. At least, for him. James is fairly good-hearted, but his only concerns are trivial ones: his own comfort and presenting himself to the ton as a handsome, fashionable sportsman. He prides himself on his boxing ability. He’s self-centered and, frankly, not too bright. It isn’t entirely clear what Cecelia sees in him, except for his good looks, their long acquaintance, and the fact that he has been kind to her sometimes in the past.

Cecelia is no longer a debutante. In fact, she’s in danger of ending up “on the shelf.” She’s had proposals in the past, but turned them down, waiting for love. Waiting for James. Things change abruptly when he inherits the new estate and is suddenly weighted down with responsibilities he doesn’t want. It dawns on him that, seeing as he needs a wife and hates that all the ambitious mothers are pushing daughters at him, he can kill two birds with one stone by marrying Cecelia and having her take over the management of his problems. He proposes about as romantically as that and is stunned when she refuses.

Cecelia decides to move on. A handsome, charming-if-somewhat-oily German prince is visiting London. He begins to pay particular attention to Cecelia. This awakes all of James’ competitive spirit and he tries to court her more earnestly. Things go disastrously awry.

James has a need for a very steep growth curve and, for the most part, the novel succeeds in growing him into a worthy husband for Cecelia. Still, it seemed the poor heroine deserved better than either of her two suitors. 

The commentary provided by Cecelia’s four new friends, who have embarked on their first Season and don’t like what they find, adds insight and some humor to the story. I like this author and will likely continue with the series, even though this book was not a favorite.

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