While waiting for the next C.S. Harris book, I returned to historical romance for a change of pace – and boy, was it ever at the opposite end of the spectrum. This book is so light and frothy and fairytaleish, I was rolling my eyes more often than not while reading. The premise is a take on ‘My Fair Lady’, but sometimes it stretches the limits of belief. I know I’ve read one of Ms Frampton’s before, and thought it was okay, but this one was not my cup of tea.
Genevieve (no last name mentioned, ever) was the only child of the Duke of Blakesley, and grew up largely ignored in the country after her mother died. She had no nanny, no governess, only a few servants to raise her, while her father remarried in the hopes of having a son to inherit. This never happened, so on his death, Genevieve was named Duchess by some special dispensation (strangely no other male relatives were available?). Naturally, she is ill prepared to take on such a title, or to be “duchessy” as she puts it. Desperate for help, she writes to her godmother, who offers the services of her steward to assist Genevieve with this dilemma.
Archibald Salisbury is a retired army captain, who only wants peace and quiet in his life. He is perfectly content in the country, and really isn’t pleased about the prospect of duchess training. At any rate, if he returns to London, he might run into his family. Aside from being a Captain, he’s also the third son of a viscount and his parents weren’t pleased that he joined the army. Still, he packs up and joins Genevieve, hoping that it won’t be a long stay.
Alas, it soon becomes obvious that while Genevieve is vivacious and charming, she has absolutely no clue about her standing in society, or how to deal with it. Her wardrobe is appalling, she has no lady’s maid, and her only companion is her blind grandmother. She has no idea about propriety, or that she shouldn’t be alone with him without a chaperone – frequently barging into his room to discuss one thing or another. And while he does his manly best to resist her, there is a mutual attraction between them that he finds harder and harder to deal with.
For her part, Genevieve is constantly reflecting on how handsome he is, and soon insists that he call her by her name rather than ‘Your Grace’ as is proper in their circumstances. She does have a good heart, and wants to be a better manager of her estates and properties than her father, who let things go to ruin. And there’s some amusing scenes with various other cousins and whatnot that come out of the country in search of handouts from her. All the while, her feelings for Archibald continue to grow, even as she does realize that he is in fact her employee and there can’t be any marriage…or can there?
I’ve read my share of historical romance and have my expectations of how society functioned during that time. Most of those expectations were tossed out the window in this book – too many unchaperoned outings and meetings, too many “cutesy” written notes at the start of each chapter, and just not enough believable plot. There were always society matrons or other single women that would have been a much better guide to the ton than Archibald – he is no Professor Higgins! I get that it’s a twist as well on the usual ‘unprepared hero inherits the title after other family members die unexpectedly’ trope but I was just exasperated by most of it. There was a lot of talking, not showing, along with internal musings and Genevieve’s overuse of her dainty curse word “mudpies”. It was interesting premise, but fell flat for me.