So to get it away with in the beginning:
– the number of steps between Emma, vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, and the Duke (DUKE) of Ashbury is so large as to be utterly ludicrous. Reminds me of my English teacher in high school during our Austen segment trying to clarify how unlikely Darcy’s appearance at the first assembly hall ball–“Imagine Prince Harry showing up at the next school dance.” As always, chaperones are a thing of the past in Dare’s novels, so we are also to think nothing of Emma’s SOLO trip to the castle where the Duke of Asbury lives. WEARING A WEDDING DRESS.
– as a result of the vast discrepancy, the marriage of convenience that forms the basis of the novel has a bit of ick for me. As always, Ashbury will be redeemed by the end of the novel, and will do The Most to convince Emma that he loves her, but there’s always the issue that Emma is there by the grace of His Grace. For me, at least! As always your mileage will vary.
The positive side to this is the usual main plot movement in modern day feminist romance novels: not only will Ashbury need to convince Emma that is is a cool dude, he’ll have to do all of it while she basically doesn’t need to do very much. She’s who she is, and the Duke needs to come to her level. And yes, she does do a bunch of emotional labor but one can argue she’s getting compensated for said work through the riches of being a duchess and his attentions, if you catch my drift 😉