From London with Love

Lessons From a Courtesan


The Unclaimed Duchess
by Jenna Petersen
(Avon, $7.99, R) ISBN 978-0-06-193499-5
Rhys Carlisle, Duke of Waverly, is about as pompous and self-important as they come. He has everything: the perfect estate, the perfect friends, even his new perfect wife, Lady Anne Danvers. Yep, life is pretty sweet for this conceited Duke. So, it’s a darn shame when a secret is revealed to him that effectively blows his charmed life to tarnished smithereens.

Taking the awful news in stride, he decides to look on the bright side and does what he can to neutralize the situation.

Just kidding! Rhys takes off like a bat out of hell, leaving his new wife to fret and worry that her husband’s disappearance is her fault.

Lady Anne, the new Duchess of Waverly, has been bred and raised to be the perfect accessory to her classy husband. When said husband goes missing, she is not only worried, but angry. She has spent her entire life loving Rhys. Betrothed from the cradle, Anne has been raised to be Rhys’s wife. When he leaves without a word, Anne is less than impressed. She knows her husband is a cold and emotionless upper-class snob, but she never thought he would just take off without her. Anne sets off on a quest to find Rhys. With the help of friends, she finds him hiding out in a small cottage his mother had owned.

Rhys is less than impressed that his bride found him. He can’t have her around, she’s a distraction and his feelings for her can’t get caught up in his own personal crisis. He tells her to leave and is shocked when she refuses to go. Anne is determined to stay at his side and to help him change for the better. Now Rhys must figure out his own problems, and try to keep his wife at an arm’s length. His very core beliefs have been shaken, and the man he is becoming scares him. His emotions are becoming less controllable and this scares the hell out of him, especially the raging passion he feels for his wife. Rhys feels that he needs Anne to leave him alone. Anne feels like she needs to stay and take care of her husband, whether he wants her help or not. Let the battle of wills begin!

I really enjoyed this book. It was well written, it did not contain any odd little quirks that pull the reader out of the story, and has a solid plot line.

Rhys is an interesting character to watch. His transformation from egotistical jerk to a decent human being is full of speed bumps and personal revelations. Rhys’s journey from cruel to kind reminds me of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. (At several points in the story, I rather expected for the narrator to say, “In England they say, the Duke’s heart grew three sizes that day.”) The more he grows as a person, the sexier he becomes as well, which is always a plus. His muleheaded stubbornness doesn’t always make him the most enjoyable character, but in his own way he is likable, and then once he is able to move past some of his personal issues, the man who lies underneath is heartwarming.

Anne is a quite the woman. She has stood beside Rhys for as long as she can remember. She’s been dreaming since she was little that her future with Rhys will be full of love and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to make that dream come true. If she has to put up with his bad attitude and refusal to let her close to him, then so be it. I found Anne’s strength endearing. She can be tactful when she needs to be, but when Rhys crosses the line, she puts him in his place.

Jenna Petersen weaves a fantastic setting, and manages to highlight the pastoral beauty of England, as well as the usual upper class magnificence that came with being a Duke the 19th century.

Petersen did a great job with The Unclaimed Duchess. The story is fun and sexy. The love that grows between Anne and Rhys, both emotionally and sexually, is hot and steamy. Rhys’s path to redemption is heartwarming, as is Anne’s love for Rhys. Petersen delivers the goods, and they are plentiful.

--Lindsey Seddon

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