Adam's Promise

Prairie Bride

To Marry the Duke
by Julianne MacLean
(Avon, $5.99, R) 0-06-052704-8
Sophia Wilson is in London because of a promise to her mother. Her father is one of the new wealthy merchants in New York. Her mother has tried to blend in with the New York polite society but has been snubbed by the old guard. She hopes to find fabulous husbands for her daughters to prove the worth of the family. Sophia, the oldest, is both beautiful and educated. She has agreed to try and find an English husband, but has told her mother that she will only marry a man because she loves him, not because of his title.

James Langdon, Duke of Wentworth, very seldom attends Marriage Mart activities. Known as the Dangerous Duke, he has a reputation for not staying attached too long to any woman. He has a brooding appearance and a group of ancestors with overblown tempers and passions. All his life, James has tried to keep people at a distance because he never wants to be like his father and grandfather. If he marries, he wants a woman that will basically do her duty and blend into the background.

James and Sophia first see each other at a ball. James hears rumors about Sophia being one of the vulgar rich Americans trying to snag impoverished men with titles. She hears a whisper about his reputation. But what brings them together is a strong and instant attraction. She warns herself to not be swept away and to be thoughtful. He convinces himself that his interest in her is only because her dowry could rescue his sagging finances. Because James decides to believe that he is only after Sophia for the money, he sets out to seduce her and win her hand before any fortune seekers can. He battles his growing attraction to her afraid that unleashing his passion will result in disaster.

I loved Sophia. She is beautiful, smart, and loves her family. She understands why her mother is so determined to see her marry well, but does not allow herself to be pushed where she does not want to go. She is not afraid of sex so there are some pretty warm love scenes with James. Sophia’s strength of character really shows when she is confronted with a disapproving mother-in-law and a husband who tries to protect his heart by withdrawing from her after the honeymoon.

James is a tortured man. He has spent his life trying not to be like his father. His treatment as a child is so awful that I could almost forgive him for some of his treatment of Sophia. When he does begin to come around, he does it well.

Several family members fill out the story. James' mother is certainly unpleasant for most of the story. Her inability to protect James when he was young sets up a conflict between the two of them that she does not try to correct. The explanation of a secret she has been carrying for years does throw some light on her actions. James’ younger sister and brother, Lily and Martin, and Sophia's younger sisters, Clara and Adele, are all included as is a too brief scene with Sophia's wonderful father.

MacLean's writing combines snappy dialogue and warm love scenes. Her descriptions of places, such as the Wentworth ancestral castle, add the right atmospheric touches to make the historic feel come through. I hope to see the three sisters and one brother of the hero and heroine find their happiness in future stories.

--B. Kathy Leitle

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