The arrogant Duke of Trent intends to marry a well-bred Englishwoman. The last woman he would ever consider marrying is the adventuresome Merry Pelford— an American heiress who has infamously jilted two fiancés.
But after one provocative encounter with the captivating Merry, Trent desires her more than any woman he has ever met. He is determined to have her as his wife, no matter what it takes. And Trent is a man who always gets what he wants.
The problem is, Merry is already betrothed, and the former runaway bride has vowed to make it all the way to the altar. As honor clashes with irresistible passion, Trent realizes the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined. In his battle to save Merry and win her heart, one thing becomes clear:
All is fair in love and war.
He didn’t move. “Tell me, do you consider yourself representative of American ladies?”
“In some respects,” she said, hesitating.
His smile deepened. “How do American ladies compare to their English counterparts?”
“Well, American ladies prefer to speak rather than warble,” Merry said, with a mischievous grin. “We never faint, and our constitutions are far hardier than those of delicate English gentlewomen. Oh, and we add tea to our milk, rather than the other way around.”
“You are of the impression that ‘delicate’ characterizes the fair sex as represented tonight in Lady Portmeadow’s ballroom?”
Merry pursed her lips, thinking of the hawk-eyed ladies who ruled over London society. “Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Englishwomen aspire to delicacy, and American women do not. For my part, I believe that a woman’s temperament is something she ought to be able to decide for herself. I have no plan to have an attack of the vapors now, nor shall I in the future.”
“I’ve heard about these ‘vapors,’ but I have yet to see a woman faint,” he said, folding his arms over his chest.
He had a nice chest. Her eyes drifted all the way down to his powerful thighs, before she recovered herself and snapped her gaze back to his face. His expression was unchanged, so hopefully he hadn’t noticed her impropriety.
Still, in the back of her mind, she admitted that Aunt Bess was right: on the right man, snug silk pantaloons were an undeniably appealing fashion.
He was patiently waiting for her to respond. He had a kind of power about him that had nothing to do with fashion. Now she thought of it, she had seen that kind of self-possession before: in the Mohawk warrior she’d once met as a girl.
She shook her head, pushing the thought away. “Not even once? In that case, you’re either lucky or remarkably unobservant. Didn’t you notice the fuss earlier this evening when Miss Cernay collapsed?”
“I arrived only a quarter of an hour ago. Why did Miss Cernay faint?”
“She claimed a mouse ran up her leg.”
“That is highly improbable,” he remarked, a sardonic light in his eyes. “Lady Portmeadow is notorious for her frugality, and not even mice care to starve.”
“Miss Cernay’s claim is not the point,” Merry explained. “She was likely groped by Lord Ma—by someone, and fainted from pure shock. Or perhaps she feigned a swoon to avoid further indignities. Either way, I promise you that an American lady would have taken direct action.”
He unfolded his arms and his eyes narrowed. “Am I to infer that you know who this blackguard was because he groped you as well?”
“‘Grope’ is perhaps too strong,” Merry said, noticing the air of menace that suddenly hung about those large shoulders. “‘Fondle’ would be more accurate.”
Her clarification didn’t improve matters. “Who was it?” he demanded. His brows were a dark line.
She certainly didn’t want to be responsible for an unpleasant confrontation. “I haven’t any idea,” she said, fibbing madly.
“I collect that you did not faint.”
“Certainly not. I defended myself.”
“I see,” he said, looking interested. “How did you do that, exactly?”
“I stuck him with my hatpin,” Merry explained.
She nodded, and showed him one of the two diamond hatpins adorning the top of her gloves. “In America, we pleat silk gloves at the top and thread a hatpin through. They hold up your gloves, but they can also be used to ward off wandering hands.”
“Very resourceful,” he said with a nod.
“Yes, well, the lord in question might have squealed loudly,” she told him impishly. “Everyone might have turned around to look. And I might have patted his arm and said that I knew that boils could be very troublesome. Did you know, by the way, that a treatment of yarrow is used for boils, but it will also stop a man’s hair from falling out?”
She could feel herself turning pink. He had no need of that remedy. Although cropped short, his hair was quite thick, as best she could see on the shadowy balcony.
But he gave a deep chuckle, and Merry relaxed, realizing that it was the first time all week—perhaps even all month—she felt free to be herself. This man actually seemed to like it when a bit of information escaped from her mouth.
So, so good…exactly as you’d expect from an Eloisa James book–swoony and steamy romance, quirky characters,and laugh-out-loud humor. And yet, My American Duchess was not quite what I was expecting, given the blurb. Although I loved, loved, loved both Merry and Trent–such wonderful characters, and so wonderful together!–and though the whole Merry’s-engaged-to-another-man part was as angsty and heart-wrenching as one could wish, that part was resolved much sooner in the novel than I ever would have expected…and Merry was Trent’s American duchess, and all was adorableness and HEA-like.
Except it wasn’t. Because that’s when Merry and Trent’s pasts came back to haunt them–specifically, the one where Merry believed she had already loved and then fell out of love with three other men, and the one where Trent believed he was both unlovable and incapable of loving. He wanted their marriage to be based on mutual affection and friendship; he had no interest in being the next man that Merry fell in and then out of love with. Merry, on the other hand, had come to realize that she hadn’t been in love with those other men at all–she simply hadn’t been aware of what love was until Trent.
But trying to convince her husband of that? Yeah, it didn’t quite have the result she’d been hoping for. And then we came to the several chapters of the book where I was thinking very nasty things about the sixth Duke of Trent…because of course the dufus loved his wife. But how on earth was he ever going to figure it out? Especially because his rejection of her professed feelings had made his wife retreat into herself, and she wasn’t at all behaving like the “American duchess” that she’d been earlier.
Grrr. I loved Trent, except in the parts of the book where he made me get all growly. Then I wanted to smack him upside the head. With love, of course. For his own good.
But My American Duchess is an Eloisa James book, so you know that it’s all going to work out in the end, no matter how bleak she makes things appear for a while. We get our final HEA, and Ms. James teases us by saying what Trent’s twin’s been doing for the bulk of the book is “story for another time”–dare we hope he’ll be the subject of a future novella? Fingers crossed!
Rating: 4 stars / A-
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.