When the Duchess Said Yes
by Isabella Bradford
(Ballantine, $7.99, R) ISBN 9780345-52731-8
****
When a couple is betrothed by their fathers, there is little to do but the very honorable thing. However, in this tale, the groom to be is trying to forget he is engaged and acts like it, causing him to have quite a reputation. When the bride to be also has a bit of a reputation as a hellion, the stage is set for sparks to fly.

The Duke of Hawkesworth, known to the world as Hawke, resents having to marry for money. But his father’s will is forcing his hand. He has returned from Italy, a place where he has made a home and loves, in order to marry, beget an heir and then be free to hightail it back to Italy to his beloved villa. He envisions a society wife who will be satisfied with his name, his money and his children, along with the freedom to do what she chooses, within reason. But Hawke did not count on Lady Elizabeth Wilder, known by some as Lizzie Wildest!

Lizzie was raised in the country for most of her life, knowing she would be marrying the Duke of Hawkesworth at his leisure. At 18, she is ready to marry and struggles with how annoyed she should be that he not only has not come to claim her, but that he keeps finding reasons not to even visit. When she finally meets him she realizes he is a gentleman who tried to accost her the night before at the Gardens. He realizes she is a lady he had seen from afar and been enchanted by. It is strong personality vs. strong personality and strong passions meeting strong passions that cement their relationship. They marry rather quickly and then have to figure out how to live together.

The most enjoyable part of the story was their getting to know each other even while they devoured each other sexually. They find they have many things in common and yet, are two very different people from the people they were led to believe they would be marrying. Hawke is a hellion, but he is also a lover of art and vulnerable due to the sternness of his father. He abhors politics, partly due to the demands placed on his father and due to the man’s commitment to that rather than to his son.

Lizzie, on the other hand, has enjoyed non-traditional activities like rowing and riding, but has had decorum and ducal responsibility drilled into her by her mother, aunt and Hawke’s mother. These two worlds collide and the two must maneuver through the minefields to find what makes them happy together.

Both are wonderful characters. They talk, laugh, love and even fight with each other. They show vulnerability and understanding. It was easy to root for them, even as one rooted against the forces that were trying to make them into society’s version of a Duke and his Duchess. Lizzie’s feistiness coupled with Hawke’s vulnerability and yet his strength set them up for more than one interesting conundrum to settle. And Isabella Bradford treats them like adults, allowing them to grow together and to grow towards each other.

Don’t hesitate to pick up this second in the series about the Wilder sisters. When the Duchess Said Yes is one to savor.

--Shirley Lyons


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