Wednesday, May 21, 2014

REVIEW: "The Unexpected Duchess" by Valerie Bowman


The Unexpected Duchess (Playful Brides, #1)
The Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowman
(Playful Brides #1)

Goodreads -- Amazon 
Author Website

For Ages 18+ (Language, Sensuality)
Historical Romance -- Regency England

St. Martin's Press -- Published in April 2014
Ebook, 368 pages
Read in May 2014
Received from Netgalley

THEMES
Romantic Comedy, Witty Dialogue

SUMMARY
Is there any greater surprise than falling deeply, madly in love?

In This Battle of Wits...
Lady Lucy Upton’s tongue may be too sharp to attract suitors but her heart is good, and when her painfully shy friend Cassandra needs help she devises a brilliant scheme to help her discourage an unwanted suitor, the Duke of Claringdon. Lucy will hide behind the hedgerow and tell Cass just what to say to discourage the duke…but it turns out that he’s made of sterner stuff than either of them anticipated. And Lucy is shocked to discover that tangling with the tenacious man is the most fun she’s had in ages.

Kisses Are the Best Weapon.
Lord Derek Hunt made a promise to his dying friend to marry the demure Cassandra, and for a man who wants nothing more than peace and quiet after the horrors of war, she’ll make the perfect bride. If only the impudent Miss Upton will let him court the girl! Doing battle is the last thing on his mind, but bantering with Lucy behind the bushes is too tempting to resist. And the spoils of this war just may be true love.



FIRST LINE
"Lady Lucy Upton blew a leaf away from her lips."

MY THOUGHTS
The Unexpected Duchess is my first Valerie Bowman historical and definitely won't be my last.  It is the beginning of her new Playful Brides series which features three young ladies who are best friends and have very different views on marriage.  Lady Lucy Upton is the first heroine to get a story and she is the main reason that I requested this book from Netgalley.  I love a sharp-tongued heroine especially when combined with a stoic hero who can battle with her.  While it was not perfect, I found the book to be charming and romantic.

The story starts off with Lucy hiding in a bush in order to help her best friend, Cassandra, politely ward off the new Duke of Claringdon's attempted courtship...think female Cyrano de Bergerac.  Unfortunately, Derek (Claringdon) figures out the scheme and gets into quite a verbal tiff with Lucy.  He is determined to court Cassandra in order to complete a promise he made to a dying friend and is not willing to let a sarcastic debutante ruin his goal.  As expected, this begins a chain of events where Lucy and Derek constantly argue about one another's motives when it comes to Cassandra and their own feelings start to get in the way.

I really liked both Lucy and Derek as characters.  Lucy is a bit of a talker and sometimes doesn't let other people get their own opinions out, but she is a very loyal friend.  There was quite a bit of neglect in her childhood and that helps explain how devoted she is to her few friends.  She is determined for Cassandra to have a loving marriage and is willing to do anything to make sure she is successful.  Derek is newly titled for his bravery during the Napoleonic Wars and is adjusting to life away from the battlefield.  He is stubborn when it comes to his pursuit of Cassandra, but never pushy or mean.  He truly thinks he can make her happy which is what he promised to do.  One of my favorite aspects of Derek's character was his devotion to his work as a soldier and how difficult he finds it to act as the "conquering hero" when his friends are still fighting their lives.

The thing that makes Lucy and Derek stand out as a couple to me is their witty rapport.  Both are intelligent, well-spoken people who enjoying bantering with others and find a worthy opponent in one another.  Their word battle was especially entertaining and made it easy to see the growing chemistry between them.  I found them to be reminiscent of one of my all-time favorite historical romance couples: Kate Sheffield and Anthony Bridgerton from Julia Quinn's The Viscount Who Loved Me.  I just found them to work so well as a couple once they finally realized how much they were hiding their feelings through snappy dialogue.

I mentioned above that this book was far from perfect and the main reason for that was the plot.  I thoroughly enjoyed the romance element and the friendship between Lucy, Cassandra, and the bookish Jane.  But, I found the rest of the story to be a bit boring even if there was a lot going on.  I can appreciate the farcical nature of the story line though I felt like it was a little half-hearted.  Also, the constant back-and-forth that Cassandra did in relation to Derek's courtship of her got a bit annoying.  I understood she was in a bad situation, but I just wanted her to make up her own mind for once!

Despite these few issues, I really did like The Unexpected Duchess.  The characters were so well-written that I was able to overlook the plot for the most part.  I know the next book focuses on Cassandra and possibly her long-lost love and I'm hoping I like her character much more than in this story.  I definitely recommend the book for readers who enjoy witty dialogue and fun chemistry between their protagonists.

I received a free copy of this book from St. Martin's via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

3.5 STARS

STEAM LEVEL
Flush -- Detailed descriptions of lovemaking though nothing overly graphic.

FAVORITE QUOTES
"This man was a survivor.  The thought hit her out of nowhere.  He had been born into an ordinary family and made himself extraordinary.  And he was that.  Extraordinary."

BOOKS IN THE SERIES
1. The Unexpected Duchess
2. The Accidental Countess (Coming October 2014)

CHALLENGES READ FOR


 

2 comments:

  1. When I read the summary for this, I thought "this reminds me of The Viscount Who Loved Me" and then you made that comparison. It's hard to compete with that book, though, and it sounds like this one didn't quite make it to the top. Although it does seem fun. I'll have to look into it.

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  2. Sounds lovely! I've not seen her books before that I can remember but definitely sounds like one I need to check out. Romantic and charming is always good in my book :)

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