The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
Genre: Historical Romance
I’ve been reading historical romance novels since I was maybe eleven years old, thanks to receiving some hand-me-downs from a thoughtful elderly neighbor. I’ve gone back and forth between loving them and being bored with them, and it seems like lately I’ve started to swing back to enjoying them, especially when I find books written by authors who write strong characters.
What I loved about The Duchess Deal was that it had an actual romance, not just a relationship based on looks. The hero, the Duke of Ashbury (or Ash), was disfigured in the war, and he doesn’t have the best personality either. The heroine, Emma, meanwhile, is pretty enough, but that’s not what most attracts Ash. Rather, he likes her personality and that she’s strong.
There is, of course, a marriage of convenience (that’s the “deal” part) and there are misunderstandings along the way before our HEA. There are also some interesting and entertaining side characters, but the heroine was really what kept me reading.
Emma, disowned by her father when she was just seventeen, has been supporting herself and living her own life for years, and she doesn’t lose her independent streak when she accepts the duke’s deal. I’m not sure how realistic that is (either before or after her marriage), but it’s the sort of character I enjoy reading about. She’s not swooning and claiming that she’s instantly in love at first sight, and she’s not boring, either. She’s everything a good heroine should be, and that’s what’s most important to me when reading historical romances.
Well, that, and a good hero, too, and the Duke of Ashbury doesn’t let us down, either. He won me over as soon as he noticed her for her personality more than her looks, something that rarely seems to happen in these sorts of books. More than that, underneath his gruff exterior, he’s genuinely kind (not that he’d like anyone to notice).
What didn’t so much work for me, though, was the interfering household staff, which definitely reminded me of the enchanted objects in Beauty and the Beast (possibly intentional? There were definitely other moments that hearkened back to BatB, too). I don’t think it’s appropriate for the era, even if it’s fun. While such a strong heroine may also be inappropriate, I’ll suspend my disbelief that far, especially because it’s possible, if not completely probable. A household staff who openly meddles with their employer, though, seems highly unlikely.
I gave this book four stars because I read it in one sitting and generally enjoyed it. It’s not full of insta-romance and it’s not as shallow as some of the others I’ve read, so I’d recommend it if you enjoy historical romances.