The Education of Mrs. Brimley

The Seduction of a Duke
by Donna MacMeans
(Berkley, $7.99, PG 13) ISBN 978-0-425-22806-7
American heiress Francesca Winthrop and English Duke William Chambers are married for convenience in The Seduction of a Duke.

Fran wanted to marry her sweetheart, Randolph, and live a quiet life, left in solitude to translate her fairy tales and tend to her bees.†However, Franís mother, Alva, is a very ambitious woman, determined after years of training Franny to be the perfect society lady to secure a match that will bring a title into the family.†Fran knows her dowry is the big attraction, and she isnít strong enough to stick up to her mother, so she tries another way to get out of the ďperfectĒ match her mother has set for her.

Williamís cruel father has recently died, leaving him the title, the land, and very little money to support the family, the tenants and the estate.† He stoically travels to America to marry the bride he hasnít seen, who has the money to save him.

William and Fran meet at a ball, but they are both pretending to be someone else to avoid meeting each other.†Fran is immediately attracted to the dark, handsome stranger and decides to ruin herself by throwing herself at him.†They are discovered by Franís parents, which is a problem until Alva discovers that Fran is kissing her betrothed - a fact which shocks both William and Fran.

Fran finds out that her beloved Randolph, who has been away for work, has married another woman, despite promising to wait for her.†Franny is devastated but resigns herself to the marriage with the Duke, only hoping that she will become pregnant quickly so that she will be able to return to America as her father has put a clause in the marriage contract that his grandchildren should be educated there.†Fran has found a courtesanís journal that should assist her in seducing the duke in the meantime.

William is shocked by Frannyís forward behavior at the ball, and decides that she must be promiscuous.†He also believes that the reason for the rushed wedding might be because sheís already carrying some strangerís child.

On the long journey after the wedding to Williamís home in England, Franny tries to tempt William and he tries to determine whether she is pregnant while attempting to keep his distance.† Once they arrive in England, Franny has a few challenges to face: Williamís nasty Aunt Roslyn who wants to remain mistress of the house, Lady Mandrake, Williamís ex-lover, and Bertie, the Prince has been invited for a visit to meet the new Duchess.

William faces challenges of his own, with all of the ladies under one roof, while he tries to keep away from his wife.† Then, a family secret is found out and it threatens to rip his whole life apart.†

The Seduction of a Duke is a multi-layered story, with Williamís story, Francescaís story and the tale of their journey together.† Williamís life really touched me; the cruelty and abuse he received from his father is devastating, especially when he acts like such a compassionate, honest Duke as an adult.†Francesca seems like a foolish girl at first, pining after her first love and trying silly tactics to avoid marriage to William. Once she settles into life in England, she blossoms into a confident, capable, loving woman, and I believed that she could make a real family with William.

The problem I have with their romance is that for two mature adults, their interactions are really juvenile.†William wonít actually ask Fran if she is pregnant, so he resorts to all kinds of crazy schemes to see if he can figure it out himself.†Fran doesnít trust William to aid her in her transition to England, so she shuts him out and only tries to entice him to bed in order to escape him.†They avoid each other, flirt mostly in the company of others and have little meaningful conversation.

Even though I liked both Franny and William, I found it hard to take them seriously because of their behavior. I stopped cheering for the love match even before their boat reached England.

I was disappointed in The Seduction of a Duke because even though the characters are promising, the love story never lives up to its potential.†

--Amy Wroblewsky†

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