Friday, May 9, 2014

ARC Review: The Once and Future Duchess by Sophia Nash

Click here to pre-order the book on Amazon, Release Date: May 27, 2014
Click here to pre-order the paperback at The Book Depository

This is a series I'm invested in and I love every book that has come out so far. It was a long wait for this book, Isabel's book, and I had intended to read it slowly -- to savor it and prolong my enjoyment of it. But Isabel's story demanded a faster pace from me: she is being pressured by the Prince Regent to marry, and marry soon, and she has also been tasked by His Royal Highness to oversee the reform and marriage of the rest of the Royal Entourage: the Duke of Candover, the Duke of Sussex, and the Duke of Barry.

She thought to hit two birds with one stone by proposing marriage to the Duke of Candover, a long-time friend of her late father and her de facto adviser. Isabel also happens to be in love with the James, which makes the whole marriage easier for her to swallow, but James rejects her proposal and she searches elsewhere. Using a very useful list that the Prince Regent has prepared for her, but the Duke of Candover cannot help but feel ... irritated with the turn of events. He cares for Isabel, but a promise to her late father to see her married to a man much closer to her age makes him ineligible for her hand. To entertain the thought of marrying her would mean betraying the promises he made to her father. However, the thought of anyone else with Isabel is just as unacceptable to him.

This is a book that made me go "wow" in the early chapters. There is great chemistry between James and Isabel -- it's something that's just there between the two of them. Isabel hasn't really expressed her feelings explicitly, but James has an idea of her esteem. James feels it, but never shows it to Isabel. It's so polite!

He looked down at her now bowed head. She loosened the ribbons of her elegant bonnet and allowed it to fall down her back -- at the end of its tied ribbons. The shiny brown coils of her luxurious hair gleamed in the rays of sunlight. Without thinking, James silently removed one glove and reached toward the crown of her head. His fingers, a hairbreadth away from her sleek head, stopped. He could feel warmth radiating from her -- so close yet so far.

And in that moment he imagined the beauty of the life he would have if he had been allowed to close the distance between them. He willed her to glance up at him, but she did not.

The shadow of a raven passed overhead and cawed its displeasure.

He returned his hand to its proper place by his side.
- loc 508

James has a reputation for being too serious, too stoic, too formal -- he never show emotions and is a stickler for protocol. He's also had a dead fiancé, and another one that he jilted at the altar, so marriage is the last thing on James's mind.

Isabel is very young, but she has an old soul. She's a duchess in her own right and manages her duchy very well. I love the idea of her being in the Royal Entourage, this lady who wields the same power as the rest of the gentlemen. She has wisdom, experience and insight beyond her years, but, while she has the highest title in the land and can afford anything she wants, the one man she desperately wants has refused her. She has a list of names from her "secret" pen pal (the Prince), and it reveals a really charming side to Isabel: she is innocent in the ways of the world, but she is also incredibly astute and observant.

This is not a story about two characters falling in love. They are already in love -- it's a matter of acting on the feeling. But, there's love, and there's also honour and duty -- and one has to make a choice which one supersedes the rest. In the case of dukes and duchesses, so much and so many depend on them to make the right decisions. James has chosen duty, and Isabel has chosen love. I was so excited whenever Isabel and James were in the same room/place: I loved how they talked to each other, I loved how they argued with each other. There is just so, so much pent-up passion between the two and I kept waiting for it to break out to the surface.

Just once she wished ... just once she wanted him to kiss her. She did not want to kiss Lord Whiskers or Mr. Cocksure. She wanted to look into the depths of this man's mysterious brown eyes and share something wicked and intimate. And she wanted desperately for him to know her. As a woman, and not as the child he thought she still was.
- loc 948

* * *

She had the most expressive eyes. They were a pale golden colour. Highly unusual and not unlike a lioness. And her mass of shiny, lovely brown hair. Not as dark as his own, but a beautiful lighter shade. more like maple that shone in the -- Lord, since when had he attempted poetry? And at this moment? Across from a demented tonsured religious? The madhouse was in his future.
- loc 2168

Nash also introduces Isabel's younger cousin, Calliope Little, who steals a lot of the scenes in this novel and has the best lines, I think. I really, really hope Nash writes about her -- even a small novella or a full-length novel. I really just want to read more of her!

"I will not wait another moment," Calliope said sharply. "There are four reasons. One" -- she held up her index finger 00 "it's been twenty seven minutes -- well beyond protocol. Two" -- up went a second digit -- "she's not supposed to be alone with any man unless they are engaged. Even then it's not allowed, although many companions just look the other way. I'm not one of those." She took a breath and help up the third finger. "Three, I want to know what's going on. I'd wager it's no good. And lastly, no one should be made to sit in a chamber without a single thing to do or see." She stared daggers at the butler. "I told you I preferred a room with curiosities."
- loc 605

One duke in a story is amazing. Two interacting in the same story is awesome, but three is a bit mindblowing. As this is the last book in the series (and I wish it wasn't) Nash also resolves the story of the Duke of Sussex and hints at the Duke of Barry's happy ending. I was very satisfied with how Nash was able to unite these three storylines into a cohesive story ... But it leads me to wishing, wanting to read more about them. Nash has enchanted me and reeled me into this dizzyingly fun world and I have fallen in love with her dukes and duchess (and Prince) and her wonderful way of mixing humour with insight ... And I'm afraid to let go of that and of them.

I really don't want this series to end! (The only silver lining is that, it means Sophia Nash will be writing something new ... hopefully soon? ^_^)

Disclosure: I received this ARC via Edelweiss. Thank you to Sophia Nash, and Avon for the opportunity! Yes, this is an honest review.

The Once and Future Duchess by Sophia Nash will be released on May 27, 2014. To read my reviews for the rest of the series, click below:
Book 1: Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea
Book 2: The Art of Duke Hunting
Book 3: The Duke Diaries
Book 4: The Once and Future Duchess

To find out more about Sophia Nash and her books, click below:


  1. Great review Tin!
    I also have been waiting for this book, still am! LOL!!
    I have the other books in this series and they are going to stay on my keeper shelf.

  2. Fantastic review, Tin. I'm totally going to have to read this series now.

  3. Hi, Dalila! It's a great end to the series, and I still wished Sussex and Barry got a full-length novel each.

    Hi, Melissa! The books are very funny -- but have a great sense of heart and camaraderie. Hope you enjoy it!



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