Reviewed by Tori
“Would you like to know why I kept the name?”
“Because doves mate for life, and I knew there would never be another for me.”
Readers have been waiting for this couple’s story since they were first seen in book one-A Rogue Not Taken. Malcolm, the Duke of Haven, is caught at a party in a compromising position with a woman who is not his wife by his sister-in-law, Sophie Talbot. Sophie reacts in typical Talbot fashion by calling him a whore and pushing him into a fish pond.
“My only regret is that the pool was not deeper. And filled with sharks.” -Sophie Talbot (A Rogue Not Taken)
Seraphina, the Duchess of Haven, has had enough and leaves. Malcolm searches relentlessly for her for years but he never catches even a single glimpse of her until the day she walks into Parliament and asks for a divorce.
“I am Seraphina Bevingstoke, Duchess of Haven. And I require a divorce.”
Malcolm is thrilled Sera has returned. He regrets how he treated her and seeks to make amends but Sera doesn’t care. She is no longer that woman who was desperate to repair her marriage; begging for her husband’s understanding and love. She has found her calling in America now seeks a divorce so she can go back and live her life out as she so chooses. But Malcolm doesn’t want a divorce. He wants his wife back and a chance to prove himself once again worthy of her and their marriage but he knows he has his work cut out for him. Sera has long let go of her feelings of anger and hurt and is now mostly indifferent to him.
Malcolm decides he needs something to keep her with him so he comes up with a somewhat idiotic plan, telling her she must help him find a new wife if she wants her freedom. After all, he needs an heir. He hopes a whole summer in close proximity may be exactly what they need to reconnect and move forward together. Sera agrees to his terms but decides to bring her sisters into the fray, knowing they will add to her strength while helping to convince Malcolm to give her a divorce.
The Day of the Duchess is the 3rd book in her Scandal & Scoundrel series. This emotionally turbulent, heart-wrenching, and humorous second chance love story gives readers a personal look into a relationship that was damaged by some good and not so good intentions. Redemption of a character is a tricky concept to pull off. You have to not only convince the reader the character is worth redemption, but also give them a reasonable explanation for their previous behavior and a believable reason for the change. MacLane addresses this situation perfectly. Writing with her trademark compassion and honestly, we see that neither person was blameless for the destruction of their relationship. We see the terrible decisions they made and the consequences they suffered because of them.
The story starts in the present but flashes back periodically into the past to show how this couple met and what led to their demise. MacLean does a superb job of drawing out their emotions for us to fully appreciate. We are made privy to their personal conversations, intimate thoughts, and the sheer magnitude of the love and loss this couple experienced.
“The sorrow is mine. The regret. I never told you how much I loved you. I never showed you how I ached to know you.”
Sera and Malcolm first laid eyes on each other at a ball and instantly fell head over heels for one another. They begin to spend all their time together, enough to get noticed by the gossip papers. Mrs. Talbot felt that Malcolm’s intentions weren’t sincere though. He didn’t court Sera as he should have. He never presented her to his family nor visited with her’s. After all, the Talbots weren’t thought to be a suitable due to their working class origins and the sisters were mocked and referred to as the Soiled or Scandalous S’s. Sera’s mother devised a plan to force Malcolm’s hand and because Sera loved him dearly and believed he loved her enough to understand and forgive her, she agreed to it. It worked but it was the beginning of the end of their marriage. The pain, anger, and bitterness all worked together to ruthlessly force this couple apart until one heartbreaking event leads to another and our hero and heroine are left broken and damaged
Oh, how I enjoyed getting to know Sera and Malcolm and seeing their evolution from heartbreak to forgiveness. Sorrow and disappointment can easily crush a spirit but not for these two. Both have suffered for their mistakes and despite all that has happened, they still love one another. I grew to like Malcolm despite everything, though I admit hearing from his point of view certainly helped. Once you learn his backstory, you understand where he was coming from and it goes far into explaining why he acted like he did. It doesn’t excuse his actions and neither does he but is does smooth your anger towards him a little. He admits to his crimes and has paid for them every single day he was unable to find her. He now knows why she did what she did and understands it was not for his title or his money but out of love and fear.
“Regret and shame flared. How many times had he felt them? How many times had they consumed him in the darkness as he searched for her? But they had never felt like this. Without her, they’d been a vague, rolling emotion, present, but never truly there. And now, faced with her, with her tacit acceptance of their past, of his actions, of his mistakes, they were a wicked, angry blow.”
Seraphina suffered for her love and Malcolm’s actions eventually broke her. Disappearing to America and becoming the “Sparrow” helped her to heal her spirit, heart, and self-confidence. I loved how Sera took charge of her own happiness. The Sera that left England three years ago is no longer the insecure woman who crumbled under the censure of the Ton and her husband’s anger and infidelity. She is now a strong, independent, and secure woman who knows her self-worth and will never let anyone, man or woman, treat her as anything less than the queen she is.
“The whole world thinks you ruined me before you married me, when the truth is that I was not ruined until after the fact. You ruined my hopes. My dreams. My future. You ruined my life. And I’ve had enough of that. I am here for one reason only, Your Grace. I want my life back. The one you stole.”
The tension between this couple was tangible and witnessing the dam of politeness finally break and all their bottled up emotions finally come pouring out was both exhilarating and frustrating. Both are lively individuals with a quick wit and strong convictions who are well matched despite everything that has happened. Sera is magnificent and defiant in her stubbornness and it takes quite a while for her to even admit she even likes Malcolm. I did wish Malcolm had been more verbally honest to Sera a lot earlier in the book. Communication was not their forte. One aspect I admired was that legally Malcolm could have forced Sera back to his side but choose not to. He swallows his pride and did what he should have done from the beginning. He woos her. He courts her. He gets to know the new Sera and he realizes what a beautiful, exciting, and intelligent wife he has. And what an utter arse he had been.
“I love you,” he whispered like a prayer.
“I need you.”
A house full of hopeful mamas and daughters, along with Sera’s sisters, a few familiar faces from the previous series, and a new face only adds to the mayhem, anticipation, and humor of the situation. I adore the Talbot sisters. Such gregarious, melodramatic, and vivacious women who march to their own beat. Their motto is since they have already been convicted, why not go ahead and commit the crime? The relationship between the Talbot sisters is amusing and enviable. They always have each other’s backs no matter what but they will also tell each other like it is. And they invoke that privilege often especially when Sera chooses to hide rather than face her feelings.
The ending is the ultimate HEA romance readers adore and was exactly what I felt needed to happen. Sera needed to know Malcom would have married her regardless and Malcom needed to prove that to her. MacLean gives our couple the life they have more than earned and leaves us an epilogue that solidifies it though I wish Maclean would have kept the status quo and still given us a happy marriage. We are given clues to the next Talbot sister to fall in love and we are introduced to the heroes of MacLean’s next upcoming series.
The Day in the Duchess is a delicious second chance romance that pushes a couple through an emotional gauntlet and allows them to emerge triumphant.