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This is the second book that I've read recently where it is the heroine who is calling the shots; the one who is in control of the relationship. Edie Jewell married Stuart because he was a penniless lord who wanted to spend his life exploring Africa -- not the most ideal candidate for marriage, but, for Edie, Stuart suited her purposes perfectly. Edie needed a marriage, but not a husband -- and she strikes a bargain with Stuart. Marry her, then leave her alone -- and, in exchange, she would pay off all of his family's debts, fund his expeditions, and manage everything in his absence. It's a perfect arrangement for Stuart -- who needs the money, but not the wife.
For five years, Stuart remains true to his word and stays away from England and Edie, but, after a near-death encounter with a pack of lions, which kills his valet and leaves him with a leg injury, Stuart sees it as a wake-up call and decides it is time for him to go home. He knew it wouldn't be a warm and happy homecoming, but he hadn't realised the extent Edie would go to avoid him: threatening him with legal separation or divorce -- and Stuart only has ten days to win his wife's heart.
I have an issue with the title. It is a nod to the Rom-Com movie, How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days and thought it was a bit too whimsical-sounding. It doesn't do this book justice or reflect how profoundly wonderful this story is -- and, also, it isn't the duke who plans to leave (and Edie never does the outrageous things Kate Hudson does in the movie to get rid of Stuart).
Ten days. We've often said that one can spend an entire lifetime knowing another person, and not even come close to uncovering all of her secrets -- and ten days is all Stuart has. There is an urgency to their love story, but I love that Stuart never rushed Edie and never made the ten days about himself and his needs. In fact, he focused all of his energies and attentions to making Edie happy.
This is a story about rebuilding and regaining a woman's trust and her heart. A woman's heart is especially resilient, as evidenced by Edie's kind actions (in caring for Stuart's family, home, and stray animals) -- but it is also a heart that cannot easily be swayed anymore. She once fell for a man's flattery, and it cost her so much. In her mind, she knows Stuart is different and that things might be different with him, but she isn't quite convinced to take the risk.
Two sides of the same story: it is interesting to see how different people perceive the same event. For Evie, that one month they lived together wasn't anything special. It was perfunctory and couldn't have ended sooner. But, for Stuart, it was the month he fell in love with his wife ... And the few moments they spent together are his most cherished thoughts. (Read the part about the terrace in Chapter 5)
I could not blame Edie for her coldness. What happened to her was tragic, and she has managed to make the best of it on her own -- without any support from her family or therapy from specialists. I shudder to think about the other women of Edie's time. Real women who were seduced or abused and then abandoned ... left to face the consequences on their own. It is amazing how Edie was able to survive it ... But, despite time and distance, and all the money in the world, Edie's wounds haven't healed.
Her marriage was perfect. It wasn't the sort of marriage the British approved, for there was no heir. And it wasn't the sort Americans approved, because it wasn't based on love. And it certainly wasn't the sort of marriage she'd envisioned as a young, romantic girl. But Saratoga had succeeded in stripping her of any romantic notions she'd ever had.
- loc 199
I love, love, love Stuart. I think he was very earnest in his efforts to convince Edie to stay -- he did use the resources available to him (his staff, and Edie's sister) -- but, for the most part, it really was just Stuart laying his heart on the line to the woman he loves. It stuns Edie, I think, that someone could love her -- because Edie isn't as attractive as her sister and she knows that her most attractive quality is her money -- and then there is the incident in Saratoga, which left her reputation (and her sense of trust) in tatters. Stuart displays such a sensitive and supportive love. I love that he never pushed his own agenda or needs ... But always focused on Edie. He could have asserted his rights, but he chose not to.
"Yes, well, I'm a rather optimistic fellow." He moved a couple inches closer to her, his left leg sliding along hers. The move pushed her willow green skirt up along her ankle, and even though it revealed nothing to his gaze but a bit more of her shoe, that didn't stop him from conjuring a picture of slim, pretty ankles beneath beige leather. "I'm hoping for more than conversation."
She looked down at the glass of wine in her hand. "You presume a great deal."
"I said I'm hoping for more, Edie," he said gently. "I don't presume that I shall obtain it."
- loc 3808
* * *
"...Did you wear blue because it's my favourite colour? Say 'yes," he added when she hesitated, smiling a little. "Throw me a crumb."
She laughed. "All right, yes," she admitted. "I did."
His smile faded and he let go of the silk. He lifted his hand to the exposed skin above the low neckline of her dress but he didn't touch her. Instead, he paused, fingertips a hairsbreadth from her skin. He looked into her eyes.
"I'm thinking right now how much I want to touch you." He paused. "If I do, would that be all right?"
She considered, nodded. "Yes."
- loc 4175
When we talk of heroes, we always think in terms of Alpha or Beta ... And Stuart confounds me (in a good way) because he has all the best qualities of both types but doesn't quite fit in either category.
What made this story for me (and is he reason why I will follow this series) is what Stuart decides to do towards the end of the precious time he has before Edie's deadline. It was an amazingly grand gesture of love and a great sacrifice on his part -- and I applaud him for making the decision.
Despite the "borrowed" title, this story is refreshing and new. And thoroughly enjoyable. Two thumbs up for How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days!
How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days is the second book in Laura Lee Guhrke's An American Heiress in London series and will be released on April 29, 2014. To find out more about the author and her books, click below:
Disclosure: I received this ARC via Edelweiss. Thank you to Avon Book and to Laura Lee Guhrke for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.