|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.