Hard Lovin' Man

Invitation to Seduction

Love With a Scandalous Lord

A Matter of Temptation

Never Love a Cowboy

Never Marry a Cowboy

The Outlaw & the Lady

Promise Me Forever

A Rogue in Texas

Texas Destiny

Texas Glory

Texas Splendor

To Marry an Heiress

 
A Duke of Her Own
by Lorraine Heath
(Avon, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-06-112963-6
***
A Duke of Her Own begins a new series, but continues with Lorraine Heathís focus on Americans in late nineteenth-century London. Lady Louisa Wentworth doesnít expect to get married: she has neither the face nor the fortune to make a good match. Since she doesnít want to be a burden on her brother, she decides to earn her own living as a social chaperone. After all, she is well placed to guide wealthy American through arcane British social rituals and to help secure British titles for their heirs.

Louisa gets her first chance with the Roses and very quickly has to come to terms with the very different demands made on her. Whereas Mrs. Rose wants nothing less than the title of duchess for her daughters, the two heiresses have their own ideas of what marriage is about. Then, there is Louisaís brother and his friends, who hope that she will place them on the wining track to the much-coveted heiresses. Louisa refuses to use her influence to help advance their suit and all the more so where the Duke of Hawkhurst is concerned. She may have a girlish crush on him, but she knows he is the worst kind of rake, one who is responsible for corrupting her brother.

Hawk is much more attracted to the penniless lady than he is to either of her charges. Still, he is desperately in need of money and ready to do what he must for his family name, even if it means forcing an heiressís hand. His plans to compromise Jenny Rose fall flat when Louisa steps into her place. The impoverished British aristocrats are forced to marry instead.

The first part of the book focuses on Louisaís and Hawkís mutual efforts to ignore their attraction to each other; the second shows them making the best of an unexpected situation as they slowly get to know each other. This would be well and good, were it not much too familiar. Heath doesnít add any new twists to the oft-heard tale of the private virtues of the public rake.

Whatís more, the Hawk of the first part of the novel is much more charming than the sullen and guilt-ridden introspect of the second half. His outlandish tales about Jenny Roseís other suitors teased several grins out of me and went much further in softening me than his woeful family story. He isnít just wit and banter, however: his truly ungentlemanly behavior where Louisa and the heiress are concerned add some complexities, however unpalatable, to his character.

Louisa is much more honorable and constant, almost predictably so. Of course, it was reassuring to see that she was no more prone to running from her responsibilities after her marriage than she was before, and it was nice to see how her marriage eventually opens her eyes to the real villain (if he may be called that). Nevertheless, her behavior hints less at inner strength and more at a kind of grin- and-bear-it martyrdom. A little less self-sacrifice and a little more self-interest might have made her more note-worthy and credible.

A Duke of Her Own boasts some intriguing secondary characters. Iím sure it wonít be long before the Rose heiresses and heir get their own stories. Iíll be waiting.

--Mary Benn


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