Review: The Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowman

unexpectedduchessThe Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowman (Playful Brides #1)
Released: April 29, 2014
Historical Romance
St. Martin’s Paperbacks

 Reviewed by Sheena

Nobody put’s Lucy Upton in the corner!  The Unexpected Duchess is the tale of the most vivacious Lady Lucy Upton who finds love with a Duke who finds himself enamored and utterly captivated with the battle of wits and will that Lucy launches his way!  I absolutely enjoyed this book.  It is not only a lovely romance, but a story of friendship between three of what I can only describe as the trifecta of friendship: the brilliant girl whose aspirations are exclusively scholarly, the delicate and agreeable beauty with a heart of gold, and the brazen, witty girl whose scintillating personality repels almost as often as it ignites.

The author introduces you to Lady Lucy Upton straightaway.  Thank goodness there is no boring overly drawn out back story.  Author Valerie Bowman, is precise and spot on with every nuance and description.   Lucy is a witty beauty with outrageous curly hair and luminous mismatched, one blue and one hazel eyes.  Though the eligible daughter of an Earl, Lucy has driven away any would-be suitors and now sits firmly on the shelf at the ripe ole age of 23.  Lucy, resolute in her single status, has vowed  to aid her demure and delicate best friend Cassandra with her chance at love while also assisting her intelligent, “bluestocking “ friend Jane in avoiding a betrothal at all costs!  Lucy is a loyal friend to Cass and Jane consistently putting their desires above her own until the most inconvenient conflict of interest arrives in the flesh and blood of Derek Hunt, decorated War Hero and newly named Duke of Clarington.

Derek Hunt arrives in London a decorated War Hero who is not yet used to his new station as the Duke of Clarington.  He is a rogue of a gentleman, making you blush as often as he makes you swoon and is best  known for his decisiveness in battle (which we later learn is a result of a most traumatic childhood event).  To the ladies dismay he has arrived in London hell bent to claim Lady Cassandra for a bride!  The circumstances that led the Duke to decide upon Cass for a wife are quite predictable, but no less interesting to see unveil.  Their courtship is halted from the start as we learn that Cass’s heart is promised to another man, Julian, who is most unfortunately engaged to her cousin.  Yes, poor, sweet Cass endures the torturous hell of unrequited love.  Ever the supportive friend, Lucy endeavors to save Cassandra the hardship of turning Derek and his attentions firmly away.  Only unbeknownst to Lucy, The Duke is not the least bit daunted by her frank audacity, quite the opposite actually.  Derek soon finds himself falling in love with Lucy despite her rapier wit and serpents tongue.

When speaking for Cassandra to run off the determined Duke, she strikes:

 “Sir Duke, I regret to inform you that I am otherwise occupied tomorrow and the next day, and the day after the next.  I am engaged every day upon which you might inquire as to my availability. In fact I am feeling a trifle under the weather at the present and hope you will retrieve your hat and gloves with all due haste and remove yourself and your [companion] from this address.”

 And when forced to face their mounting, mutual passion, she melts:

 “Lucy’s mind floundered in circles when the Duke’s mouth met hers.  Stunned.  That’s what she was.  She became vaguely aware of a moan.  It must have been her own…What had she just done! Kissed the abominable Duke of Clarington, that’s what. ”

 I cannot say enough how delightful this book was!  The fun and merry banter.  The pure sisterhood and loyal hearts amongst the three friends- I loved it all!  The reader experiences Cass’s angst- dodging an unwanted suitor while hopelessly pining for the man lost to her.  You pity and want to rail against Jane’s meddling mother in support of Jane following the scholarly path she wants to follow and you worry for Lucy, afraid she is throwing away her only chance at true love with both hands in the name of self-sacrifice.

 “Lucy was completely mindless.  Her fingers tangled in his dark hair, her mouth open and red and raw from his fierce kisses.  She’d been a bit tender when he’d first entered her but that was long forgotten now with all the overwhelming feelings he was stoking in her body.  He plowed into her again and again and that, combined with the force of his hot, wet mouth sucking on her nipple, made her groan. She was so close, so close and he knew it…he gave her a devilish grin [and] let his wicked hand slide down to the juncture of her thighs….”

I love a strong Heroine who is still soft enough to go weak in the knees and red in the face for the man she loves.  If I have one complaint, it would be that toward the end I began to feel like Cass needed more…more than just pining for the unavailable Julian, more than just putting Lucy in Derek’s way so that their own love could blossom.   The lack of color in Cass’s life started to chafe and I wanted more for her.  She became quite beloved to me and I found myself wanting to grab Julian by his lapels and drag him home to Cass!  She was getting gipped and I didn’t appreciate it one bit.   It is a GREAT thing that author, Valerie Bowman’s next book in the Playful Brides series features Cass’s story!

The Unexpected Duchess was an extremely satisfying read.  It is a very predictable tale, so much so that you see the ending coming mikes away- but you don’t even care one bit because the ride is so damn fun!

Rating: A-

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  1. Monica Z says

    Nice, i’ve been staying away from historical for a bit — but this makes me want to jump back in.

    Also – I really love your review style in this post. fantastic writer!

  2. says

    Wow!! This book sounds phenomenal, I really need to try this author out. I know her books are at my local library, so I really need to pick this one up. Lovely review!! I really liked all the quotes you shares, definitely made me thirsty for more. LOL

  3. Sheena says

    Thanks everyone. I dived back into my historical romances not too long ago after my Phillipa Gregory overdose (love her!) and this story does NOT disappoint!

    Let me know how you guys like it :-)

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