Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review: The Duchess Hunt by Jennifer Haymore

The Duchess Hunt by Jennifer Haymore
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Click here to buy the paperback at The Book Depository

How this story begins confused me: the Duchess of Trent has disappeared, leaving no word and no trace. Simon, the current Duke, and his brothers were called home by their sister, Esme, and Sarah, the head maid, who also happens to be a Hawkins childhood friend. They are a family already steeped in scandal, and could not afford to weather through another one, so they all agree to keep their mother's disappearance a secret.

I was a bit confused by Simon's plan: the family has agreed to keep the situation quiet, and pretend that nothing is amiss, so Simon decides to return to London for the Season, which isn't anything out of the ordinary because that is where he usually resides -- the strange thing is that he decides to bring Esme to London. Esme had a disastrous first Season and had decided not to return this year.

1. Why leave for London when the disappearance happened at Ironwood Park?
2. Why bring your socially-awkward sister to London "to act like everything is normal" when everyone knows how much she dislikes society?

I can't help but feel it was a thinly-veiled attempt of getting Simon and Sarah together, which was fine, by the way, because I really wanted to read about them. Sarah met Simon when she first moved to Ironwood Park with her father, who had been hired as gardener at the estate. The young duke rescues her after she falls and gets trapped in a blackberry bush, and brings her to the main house. From then on, Sarah's life has intertwined with that of the Hawkinses, and she and Simon grow especially close.

The story touches on class stratification and how a Duke comes to fall in love with a housemaid. At first, Simon tries to narrow the gap between them, by promoting Sarah as Esme's companion. It's an eyebrow-raising moment, especially coming from Simon who is such a stickler for propriety, and Simon pretends, for a while, that it might work between them. Sarah knows nothing would come of their relationship, but she cannot help what she feels for Simon. She'd always been taught and told to "remember her place". In a sense, both of them defy social strictures for the sake of their love.

Raising his hand, he bent his head and rubbed his temple, then blew out a breath and met her gaze again. "I shouldn't -- mustn't -- touch you. I want to do right by you, Sarah. It is morally reprehensible for me to have these feelings for someone who is under my care."

If she were a London debutante, it might be different. But she was Sarah Osborne, his head housemaid, and she understood exactly why Simon felt like it would be morally reprehensible to touch her again. It had everything to do with those vast chasms that separated her social class from his.

Damn them, she thought brutally. Why must it matter? He was hungry for her -- she could see it in his eyes, hear it in his words. And, Lord knew, she was hungry for him too.
- p. 47

* * *

"Whatever you choose to give, I will take it gladly and hold it close. I have no expectations, Your Grace. I promise. I just want to live for today. Enjoy today. Let's for once, worry about tomorrow when it comes."
- p. 130

The courtship part of this novel is nicely done, but it is the mystery of the missing duchess that really grabbed my attention and I had wished it had been made the central focus of the story. I'm currently reading the second book, The Rogue's Proposal, and, I have to say, I love how Jennifer Haymore has plotted/planned out the duchess's disappearance -- and how something so simple is expanding into an all-out conspiracy. I love how the clues are being uncovered and pursued. It really is a very clever mystery! ^_^

I'm also a bit invested and hope the duchess is found because I liked her when Sarah first met her. She seemed a wonderful mix of grand and down-to-earth and I loved how she always had her children with her. I also thought she was so open and kind in accepting young Sarah and allowing Sarah to study/grow up with her own children.

However, when she disappeared, I was a bit surprised to learn that her children had thought she was flaky and unpredictable -- and I didn't see her as such that brief time we meet her at the beginning of the book. This aside, the mystery is fascinating because:

1. There is no crime scene. The dower house was not ransacked. There was no sign of forcible entry or struggle or theft. The only thing missing is the duchess's cache of jewels.
2. It was just the duchess who disappeared, but also her two servants.
3. When interviews were conducted, no one had seen anything unusual and no one could recall any strangers/new people around the area.

The Duchess Hunt also delves into the story of the Hawkinses, which ties in the story of the missing duchess and Simon. They're a motley family, with an older half-brother and with both their parents known for their indiscretion. In his generation, Simon's brother, Lord Lukas, seems to be carrying out the family tradition of debauchery. Simon believes, as the head of the family, and, as a duke, that it falls unto him to save his family's reputation. He has been a model duke, very proper and very polite -- and has tried to keep the rest of his siblings in line, which has caused a lot of friction between him and Luke, his heir. As the story continues, more family secrets are revealed and more pieces of their mother's past comes to light. The travails of the House of Trent is really engrossing (and, honestly, rivals that of the real House of Windsor. ^_^)

The Duchess Hunt is the first book in Jennifer Haymore's The House of Trent series. To find out more about Jennifer Haymore and her books, click below:


  1. I'll have to start reading this book.
    I do enjoy reading a romance with some mystery thrown in.
    A family's secret's? Mom's past revealed? Scandalous brother? How cool is that!
    Like I said, family mystery is always good.
    Plan on taking a peek at Jennifer's website.
    Thanks Tin!

  2. Hi, Dalila!

    Believe it or not, this book was sitting on my TBR for a year now. I only decided to pick it up now, and I read the second book right after! I'm kinda glad I waited, because the third book is coming out next week. ^_^




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