Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review: A Duchess to Remember by Christina Brooke

Of all the orphans under the Duke of Montford's care, Cecily Westruther is the most orphaned: first losing her parents and then her older sibling, Jonathon, the Earl of Davenport to a mysterious accident. Left alone in the world and made unwelcome in the house she grew up in, she welcomed the care of the Duke of Montford and his house of motley Westruther cousins.

And of all the Westruther cousins, Cecily is also the one who yearns the most for her freedom and her own space -- and she believes her forthcoming marriage to the Duke of Norland is the key.

If she can avoid scandal first.

Cecily has found out that her cousin Lavinia, the current Countess of Davenport, has discovered some of Jonathon's papers and diary and Cecily needs to get them. But Lavinia has sold them to the Duke of Ashburn, a member of the Promethean Club -- and the man who delivered the news of Jonathon's death to her family.

Desperate to retrieve the papers, Cecily breaks into the duke's house only to be caught by the duke himself.

Now Cecily finds herself hopelessly attracted to Rand in a way she never felt for the Duke of Norland -- and the feeling is mutual. With her wedding only three weeks away, Cecily is not one to risk herself or her future plans and so she decides to continue with her engagement to the Duke of Norland -- but will Rand really let her go so easily?

This is the third book in Christina Brooke's The Ministry of Marriage series and is a disappointing follow-up to Mad About the Earl.

This story lacked the focus and intentness that was very clear in the previous book. What was the author's intention in telling Cecily and Rand's story and how are the revealed complications related to the central story? There are too many sub-plots in this novel and, while I was able to follow each thread, I felt each one was incomplete. The layers of this story just didn't stack up nicely:

The main story is Cecily and Rand and how they found each other too late. Cecily is too set in her ways to change her mind and, with her wedding to the Duke of Norland only three weeks away, Rand has very few options available to him.

Then there's the scandal that looms over Cecily if her letter to her brother falls into the wrong hands. It's a race against time because what is contained in those letters might damage Cecily's wedding. (See pp. 206-209 for the reason)

Then there's Cecily's strained relationship with her cousin's wife, the current Countess of Davenport. I think this part if meant to tie in with what is revealed in Chapter 20 and with the situation of Rand's cousin Freddie.

Then there's the Tibby, Cecily's companion -- and what is revealed in Chapter 17. I love how this particular chapter juxtaposes the lives of Tibby and Cecily but, I felt the author didn't provide enough details or hints about this in the previous chapters.

I love the Westruthers and I am a fan of this series but the how and why of this particular story eluded me. I didn't understand why Cecily didn't stop the betrothal before it was announced when it was clear to her and to Rand that they had better chemistry together.

That was ridiculous. One did not fall in love or even form a mild attachment after a scatter of short meetings. She admired Ashburn's intellect; Lord knew his manner coupled with his dark good looks made him immensely attractive on a physical level, too. He had a powerful presence. How could any woman remain unaffected by him?

And yet... Honesty compelled her to admit there was more to it than that. There was a connection between them. She'd felt a sharp tug of recognition from the first instant she'd laid eyes on the Duke of Ashburn.

But she didn't want to explore that connection. She knew down to her bones that if she gave in to him, the Duke of Ashburn would make demands on her she wasn't willing to fulfill.
- pp. 125-126

Cecily seems to waffle and change her mind so easily -- poor Rand. As a reader it left me frustrated -- one minute she is unequivocal about her decision and then the next, she changes her mind.

I did love the scenes of the Ministry of Marriage -- it's been presented as a very secretive organization and it was wonderful to get a glimpse into its inner workings. (Thanks to the Duke of Ashburn.)

Christina Brooke's debut and the first book in The Ministry of Marriage series (Heiress in Love) was a finalist in the 2012 RITA for Regency Historical Romance. To find out more about the author and her works, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

To read my review of Mad About the Earl, which I loved, click here.


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