- Release Date
- June 2012
- Book 2 of Duchess of Love
Determined to find a husband, Miss Eleanor "Nell" Bowman attends a ball put on by the Duchess of Greycliffe, fondly referred to as the Duchess of Love. But she roundly dismisses the suitors the matchmaking hostess has invited on her behalf. For it's the duchess's dashing son Ned, Lord Edward, who long ago captured Nell's heart—and roused her desire. All it takes is a pair of conveniently misplaced silky red bloomers to set the handsome widower's gaze on this unusual girl who is clearly more than meets the eye…
After more than a year of mourning, Ned longs to finally start anew. At first glance, the birthday ball his mother has thrown in his honor is decidedly lacking in suitable mistresses. But he senses something unexpectedly alluring beneath the veil of Nell's plain exterior—something she's anxious to reveal, and the lonely Lord is incapable of denying…
Jul 06, 2012 [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
139 people found the following review helpful
I've been a fan of Sallie MacKenzie for years, and I was thrilled to get my hands on the debut of her new series. Though this book took some time to really get started, her writing is so sympathetic and light-hearted that I enjoyed every page and cannot wait to spend more time with this eccentric family.
For nearly as long as she can remember, Ellie Bowman has been in love with Ned, Lord Edward, one of the sons of the Duke of Greycliffe and Ellie's dearest childhood friend. However, four year earlier, Ned married Ellie's best friend, Cecily, who was fragile and lovely and demure—all the things Ellie is not. When Cecily died in childbirth, a part of Ned died along with her. Ellie remained by his side, offering sympathy despite her own grief, but Ned still hasn't noticed her as anything more than a friend with frumpy dresses and decided tendency towards clumsiness.
Meanwhile, Ellie is in perilous danger of becoming an old maid and has decided once and for all that if she cannot have Ned, then she will find a man whom she can tolerate in order to have a family of her own. With this thought in mind, she agrees to attend the birthday ball hosted by the Duchess of Greycliffe—affectionately known as the Duchess of Love, in honor of her and her sons' birthdays. The ball is always one of the social events of the season, especially for young, single guests who are subject to the matchmaking machinations of the Duchess. But how is she to go about drawing Ned's eye away from the lovely, biddable misses who have been invited, as well? It will take one very rambunctious cat and a pair of scandalously red undergarments in order to get Ned's attention, but no one will be able to tell him his own heart—no matter how hard everyone at the party tries.
I love Sallie MacKenzie's characters. Everyone, even those characters who seem thoroughly unattractive, were given the chance to show their true colors, and by the end of the story were as sympathetic as our heart-sore heroine. I was genuinely impressed that even the ‘villain' of this piece was shown with a sympathetic enough light that I wondered if there might indeed be hope for his eventual happiness later on in this series.
Ellie is a sweet, thoroughly loyal heroine with a wealth of conflicted emotions that drew me to her immediately. Desperate to catch Ned's attention and be the wife he wants, she still realizes that she is losing her old, feisty, independent self, and struggles constantly to be true to herself and Ned alike. In the end, it is Ellie's strength and spirit that shine through, and I came to love the woman she is far more than the woman she wanted to be.
The Valentine family, headed by the ever-resourceful Duchess of Love, are all deeply interesting characters, and wonderful potential heroes in later books. From the eldest son, Ash, who has not seen his wife since their wedding night eight years earlier, to Jack, the rambunctious bachelor who has already sworn off all thoughts of marriage, and I can't wait to get to know each of the brothers better. Ned himself finds his strength in his family, but they also feed his weaknesses. Ash's failed marriage weighs on Ned's mind as well, reminding him of the perils of choosing an unsuitable bride, and Jack's carefree attitude makes Ned's anxiety and overprotective nature to rise to the forefront, often blinding him to the needs of his own heart. His first wife fed every one of his controlling, protective instincts without challenging him, and it is in the midst of his eccentric family that Ned begins to see that his future must hold something more.
What I did find lacking was the tension between Ellie and Ned. There was no doubt in my mind that Ellie was completely besotted, but when we were allowed to see into Ned's head, I wasn't thoroughly convinced that his feelings were as deep. I think this was mostly because his revelations about his feelings came so late that there wasn't enough time for his feelings to develop fully (or at least compared to Ellie's own). It was easy to feel how much Ellie forced Ned to grow and realize what he truly wanted from life, but I didn't see him providing the same impetus to Ellie until the very end of the story. However, I highly doubt we have seen the end of this couple, and I would dearly love to see how these two go about making a future together.
So while this wasn't my favorite of Sallie MacKenzie's books, it still highlighted all the element of her work that I find so enjoyable—great characters, deep emotions, and a wry humor that kept the pace light and the story moving at a perfect clip. I can't wait to meet more of the Valentine brothers in later books, as well as seeing how Ellie and Ned develop following this book's end. As an added treat, this book contains a novella telling of how the Duchess of Love met and captured her Duke's heart, and is an excellent addition to the series as a whole.
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