Secrets of a Scandalous Bride

 
Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea
by Sophia Nash
(Avon, $7.99, R) ISBN 978-0-062-02232-5
****
Silly title? Yes. Silly book? Yes. Worth reading? Absolutely, especially for Regency fans or those of you who like a little humor in your romance (which, it must be said, it hard to come by when you prefer historicals). Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea is the first in a new series by acclaimed by not terribly prolific author Sophia Nash.

The six dukes in Prinny's royal entourage are in the dog house. Disgraced after a night of debauchery that neither they nor His Majesty remember very well, each of the six has been doled out a punishment. Alexander Barclay, newly-minted Duke of Kress, receives the first such sentence since his was the absinthe that led, according His Majesty, to the public mockery that was made of another Duke's bachelor party.

Alex has been banished from his beloved London to the ducal seat in Cornwall, which he has been commanded to restore to its former glory - using the Crown's money for the time being, considering his seems to have been lost during betting at White's on the infamous night. His second order is to select a bride from the guests at the house party he will be hosting, all, of course, selected by Prinny himself.

In case a new duke, newly broke and disgraced, and with whispers of treason the French part of his history doesn't have enough problems, he runs across Eddie.

Eddie, as it turns out, is the treasured pet of the Countess of Paxton, Roxanne Vanderhaven.

Roxanne Vanderhaven is clinging desperately to her life and sanity directly below him on a dangerous cliff, where the darling count has left her to die.

Even a man in a horrible mood can't resist a damsel in distress, especially not if he's a gentleman. Of course, Roxanne - who chooses any number of alternate identities throughout the book - is not nearly the damsel she appeared when dangling precariously by her last shreds of hope. This tiny fact Kress learns the hard way throughout the weeks that Roxanne hides in plain sight at his home, pretending to be a many-times-removed cousin and coming up with ways to uncover her fortune and make her feckless idiot of a husband repent.

Roxanne had been a happy wife to a clearly ungrateful husband, but the more time she spends at the Mount, Alex's estate, the more she remembers who she was back when she was just a mine-owner's daughter. The more of Roxanne that she uncovers, the more Alex appreciates a woman who isn't the portrait of social perfection. Unfortunately, Roxanne is off to the wilds of Scotland to start a new life under another new name and Alex is off to the altar with a girl of the Crown's choosing.

Okay, so Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea is about as historically accurate as ... well, as a historical romance can be expected to be. Nash sees no point in adhering to most of the social norms of the time; which, honestly, brings to the reader a nice blend of more modern mores and humor with the bits that make us love historicals: courting, courting, courting, carriages, balls, and dresses.

--Sarrah Knight


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