This is the first in a new series The Duke’s Daughters by Ms Frampton, and focuses on Lady Eleanor Howlett who is the eldest of the family. One of her sisters has disgraced the family’s good name and image by running off with the dance instructor (how gauche!) and it’s now up to Eleanor to make a good marriage and restore the family to the good graces of the ton. Her parents have arranged a match with Lord Carson, a perfectly acceptable man with a good family name in need of the dowry she will bring. Eleanor just isn’t convinced she’s ready for the engagement and tells him she needs some time to accept his proposal and get to know him. Since Carson is a busy man and has no time to woo her, he asks his brother Alexander to take care of this for him.
Naturally Alex is the opposite of his brother and oozes charm and sensuality that no woman can resist. He’s tall and gorgeous, but he’s quite sure that he’s just a rake who has no interest in settling down. His first impression of Eleanor is that she’s pleasant but perhaps rather dim witted, since her eyes always seemed slightly unfocused when he’d met her previously. She quickly puts that impression out the window when they go out for a ride in the park, telling him that her mother won’t allow her to wear her spectacles in public which results in Eleanor squinting and unable to see anything clearly. She puts them on, and he’s instantly aware of her beauty (rather an opposite of the girls with glasses trope) and realizes that she’s really very well educated and they find many topics of shared interest. She tells him she wants to be “overwhelmed” so when she marries she’ll have something to look back on fondly. To begin this process, he takes her to a cricket match and ends up shirtless, which was very overwhelming indeed for Eleanor.
It doesn’t take long, and their meetings become more and more intimate and there are some chapters with the two of them alone at a bookshop that are quite steamy! Now, of course, she is still spoken for, so their relationship is completely improper and they continue to make excuses to themselves over why they should continue. Eleanor knows in her mind that she needs to marry Carson to save her sisters from being unable to make good marriages, but in her heart she doesn’t want to lose Alex who really understands her. Then she receives a letter from her errant sister which pushes everything forward to the inevitable conclusion.
Overall, it was nothing new; in fact it reminded me very much of the Loretta Chase book Duke in Shining Armor which I just read (and which was done much better). Eleanor does come across sometimes as being ahead of her time, and I felt that she and Alex were afforded much more leniency to be alone together than was acceptable for that period, even if she was practically engaged. It’s not completely wallpaper historical, and your level of enjoyment may depend on how you feel about the illicit nature of their relationship; otherwise it’s light and frothy, and I liked Eleanor’s relationship with her sisters who will likely all get their own books in due course.