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Books Read in 2018: ‘The Duchess Deal’ by Tessa Dare (3.5 stars) | #amreading #bookreview

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke #1)
by Tessa Dare
Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)
My rating: 3.5 stars

Book Summary:
Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly . . . once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly . . . once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love.

My GR Status Update(s):

01/02. . .Finished Reading

  • January 30, 2018 – Started Reading
  • February 7, 2018 – 53.0% “”She was warned. Given every explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted…” Somehow, seeing a quote from the 21st Century in a book set 200 years ago doesn’t bother me.”
  • February 9, 2018 – 100% – “Wait . . . what happened to Davina?”
  • February 9, 2018 – Finished Reading

My Review:
3.5 stars

This was my second Tessa Dare book. I’d read A Night to Surrender a few years back because I’d been told that I’d really like her books since I loved Julia Quinn’s historical romances. I was underwhelmed.

And while I didn’t go into reading The Duchess Deal with expectations as high as they were for Surrender, I expected for there to at least be some relationship building and attention to historical accuracy. But both were just given the most cursory drive-by in favor of snarky (“witty”) dialogue and narrative that was trying far too hard to be clever without actually being so. (The modern-day quote I mentioned in my status updates came in what, to me, was one of the only truly laugh-out-loud scenes of the novel, and it actually fit with what was going on in that scene; plus, by that point, I’d given up on all hope for non-anachronistic dialogue.)

Why did I pick up this book after being so underwhelmed by the first book of hers I read? Because I’m a sucker for a marriage of convenience plot in romance. The blurb of this one totally sucked me in; so when it came available at the library, I went for it.

It didn’t take me too long to read (considering I had two other books going at the same time), so it’s not like it was one of those books that was a chore to pick up every night at bedtime. But it also wasn’t one of those books that I couldn’t put down in the middle of a chapter or that kept me up until the wee hours because I just had to know what happened next.

The biggest conflicts in this book all center around self-image/self-esteem and communication problems. The hero, Ash’s, biggest problem wasn’t the fact he was scarred from an explosion at war (more on this in a moment), but that he was a jerk before that happened and the scars just gave him an excuse to be an even bigger AlphaHole to everyone around him. This book is set a few years after the Napoleonic War ended at Waterloo; but the way this was written, it seemed as if there were no other men walking around England with visible battle scars or disfigurements. His former fiancee, whose dress Emma wears to his house to demand payment in the beginning of the book, is a caricature of the typical ex-fiancee in a scarred-hero trope—she doesn’t want to be with him anymore because he’s scarred and she’s beautiful, but then she turns jealous and catty toward the heroine because he now wants the heroine and not the ex. (And if he’s a duke and the ex is also an aristocrat, why would they not have paid the seamstress’s bill after two letters asking for payment? Also, Emma didn’t own the shop where she worked—she just worked there. Why wouldn’t the owner of the shop be the one demanding payment rather than Emma? But I digress.)

Regarding a Duke at War
Ash was an only child—we know this because until/unless he has children of his own, the current heir to his dukedom is a distant cousin (whom he doesn’t like, so that’s why he’s looking for a “broodmare” to give him a son—the book’s term, not mine)—and his father died and passed on the title of duke when Ash was young (before he was a teenager).

First of all, let’s get over the notion that there are dozens, scores, hundreds of non-royal dukes (i.e., not in the direct like of inheritance for the throne/part of the royal family) running around England at any given time in history, but especially during the English Regency period (technically 1811–1820, but for historical romance it’s 1800–1820s). According to this article, there were only 28 non-royal dukedoms in Great Britain in 1818 (and only 11 in England), around the time this book takes place. Dukes were rare and part of the peerage (ruling class) in England and, therefore, would not have been allowed to actively put their lives at risk. After all, the plot of this novel hinges on how very important it is that he have an heir, just to put a full-stop to the point.

But . . . but . . . but . . . what about the Duke of Wellington? He not only fought, he was one of the leading commanders of the British Army at Waterloo!

Arthur Wellesley was the fourth-born (third surviving) son of an Irish earl. As a non-inheriting son, he was expected to have a career—sons below the second (the “spare”) were destined to go into the church, the army, or the navy in the late 18th century. Wellesley enlisted in the British Army as a young man, long before he held any titles himself. It was many years later that he was, first, elevated to Viscount in 1809 (due to his battlefield victory at Talavera in the Peninsular Campaign), then to the rank of Earl of Wellington in 2012 after liberating Madrid, and finally was made 1st Duke of Wellington in 1813 after Napoleon’s abdication. And Wellington himself was not in the vanguard of the troops when they went into battle; rather, he was more likely to be found at the Army’s headquarters, making the plans and decisions.


Anyway . . .

Ash went off to war, ordinance blew up in his face, and now the left side of his face/body is covered in burn scars. His fiancee not only left him, but vomited in reaction to seeing just the scars on his face when she declared she couldn’t sleep with that for the rest of her life. Frankly, she dodged a bullet, because the exterior package wasn’t nearly as bad as the interior with this “hero.”

And the heroine . . . well, she doesn’t have much personality, other than loving to sew dresses from curtains and having daddy and ex-boyfriend issues. As a seamstress, she has befriended a client named Davina who, Emma discovers, is in a delicate way, which is bad, given Davina is not married. The idea that she could help Davina by accepting Ash’s outlandish marriage proposal—a plan which would also entail Emma’s immediately getting pregnant herself and being sent out to live at the duke’s country house—is built up as one of the driving motivations to get the marriage-of-convenience plot rolling. Yet when it comes down to it—instead of spoilers, I’ll just leave that thread with my final status update: Wait . . . what happened to Davina?

Was the book horrible? No. (That’s why I reserve one-star ratings for DNF/did not finish, because I’m not at all shy about quitting books I don’t enjoy.)

Will I be rushing out to try another Tessa Dare book? Not any time soon.

My rating matrix:
5 STARS = one of the best I’ve ever read
4 STARS = a great read, highly recommended
3 STARS = it was okay
2 STARS = I didn’t enjoy it all that much, not recommended
1 STAR = DNF (did not finish)

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Get Motivated: Make Yourself WORK!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Procrastination is that little horned devil who sits on your shoulder and whispers in your ear, telling you about all the other things you need to do before you sit down and write. You need to do more research. You need to create a better outline from which to work. You should update your computer or printer. You need a new dictionary and/or thesaurus. You slept late this morning and are two hours off schedule, so maybe it would be better to start the book tomorrow.

Thankfully, there is an angel sitting on your other shoulder who is shouting, “Get to work. Now!” Listen to your angel. If writing is the way you make your living, you’ll make yourself work. If you don’t, you won’t get paid.

~Beverly Barton
The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists
(Andrew McAleer, Ed.)
p. 115

Fun Friday Favorites: Screen Kings | #EyeCandy

Friday, February 16, 2018

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these posts, so I thought I should start with something really eye catching. 😉

I had the idea for this a while back, and it began with #2 on this list . . . but the rest of it took a while to come up with—because there are shockingly very few of them in the films/shows I watch.

Favorite Kings (real or fictional) Portrayed on Screen
10. Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III (The Hollow Crown)

9. Tom Hiddleston as Henry V (The Hollow Crown)

8. Colin Firth as George VI (The King’s Speech)

7. Damian Lewis as Henry VIII (Wolf Hall)

6. Sean Connery as Arthur (First Knight)

5. Alan Rickman as Louis XIV (A Little Chaos)

4. Yun-Fat Chow as Mongkut (Anna and the King)

3. Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa (Black Panther)

2. Rufus Sewell as Marke (Tristan + Isolde)

1. Kenneth Branagh as Henry V (Henry V)

Did I miss your favorite(s)? If so, please share yours in the comments!

Talk About It Tuesday: Your Favorite #ValentinesDay Memory

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Let’s talk!

Share in the comments your favorite Valentine’s Day memory.

Whether from childhood or something you did or experienced as an adult; whether romantic or funny, uplifting or even embarrassing (though how that could be a favorite memory, I don’t know!), please tell us about your favorite memory concerning Valentine’s Day. And if it’s something you’ve written about on your own blog before, please share the link!

#Library Haul for the Week of 12 February 2018 | #amreading

Monday, February 12, 2018

I don’t know about you, but when it’s time to check books out from the library, it’s kind of like a Lay’s potato chip thing—I can never “eat” just one. And since I never know for sure exactly what I’m going to feel like reading at any given moment, I always check out multiple options at a time.

These days, this entails hours spent on the part of my local library’s website where all of the digital items are cataloged, as I’m going to be checking out ebooks and/or audiobooks. Not only is it easier to carry around ten library books/audiobooks when they’re digital, but since they return themselves automatically when the due-date arrives, I never have to worry about overdue books anymore!

Since I just returned a bunch of books and checked out another group this weekend, I thought it might be fun to share my haul. And I’d love to see yours, too!

My Library Haul for the week of 12 February 2018

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Currently Reading)
I do still have my original paperback of this from childhood; however, it’s so fragile that I didn’t want to risk damaging it, so I checked the ebook out from the library instead.

      It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

      “Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

      Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

The Secret Book of Kings by Yochi Brandes

      Stories are deadlier than swords. Swords kill only those who stand before them, stories decide who will live and die in generations to come.

      Shlom’am, a young man from the tribe of Ephraim, has grown up in the shadow of several secrets. He wonders why his father is deathly afraid of the King’s soldiers, and why his mother has lied to him about the identities of those closest to him. Knowing his parents won’t divulge more than they have to, Shlom’am sets out on his own to unearth his mysterious past.

      At the height of his journey, Shlom’am encounters the Crazed Princess. Princess Michal, daughter of the ill-fated King Saul and discarded wife of the illustrious, dangerous King David, seems doomed by the annals of history; hellbent on seizing the throne, David wiped out her father’s line and left her isolated…and plotting. Only Michal knows the shocking circumstances of Shlom’am’s birth. Only she can set into motion his destiny to become Jerobaam, the fourth king of Israel.

      The Secret Book of Kings is a sweeping biblical epic filled with court intrigue, romance, and rebellion. It engages with the canonized stories of the Israel’s foundation and turns them on their heads. Brandes, known for her profound familiarity with Jewish sources, uncovers vibrant, adversarial men and woman buried deep in the scriptures and asks the loaded question: to what extent can we really know our past when history is written by the victors?

The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway

      The Bronx, 1891. Virginia Loftin knows what she wants most: to become a celebrated novelist despite her gender, and to marry Charlie, her best friend, neighbor and first love. Yet when Charlie proposes to another woman, Ginny is devastated; shutting out her family, she holes up and obsessively rewrites how their story should have gone.

      Though Ginny works with newfound intensity, success eludes her—until she attends a salon hosted in her brother’s handsome author friend John’s Fifth Avenue mansion. Amongst painters, musicians, actors, and writers, Ginny returns to herself, even blooming under John’s increasingly romantic attentions. Just as she has begun to forget Charlie, however, he throws himself back into her path, and Ginny finds herself torn between a lifetime’s worth of complicated feelings and a budding relationship with a man who seems almost too good to be true.

      The brightest lights cast the darkest shadows, and as Ginny tentatively navigates the Society’s world, she begins to suspect all is not as it seems in New York’s dazzling “Gay Nineties” scene. When a close friend is found dead in John’s mansion, Ginny must delve into her beloved salon’s secrets to discover her true feelings about art, family, and love.

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

      England, 1815: Two travelers—Rachel Katzman and Liam Finucane—arrive in a field, disheveled and weighed down with hidden money. They are not what they seem, but colleagues from a technologically advanced future, posing as a doctor and his spinster sister. While Rachel and Liam aren’t the first team of time travelers, their mission is the most audacious yet: meet, befriend, and steal from Jane Austen.

      Carefully selected and rigorously trained by The Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics, disaster-relief doctor Rachel and actor-turned-scholar Liam have little in common excerpt their extraordinary circumstances. Circumstances that call for Rachel to stifle her independent nature and let Liam take the lead as they infiltrate Austen’s circle via her favorite brother, Henry.

      But diagnosing Jane’s fatal illness and obtaining an unpublished novel hinted at in her letters pose enough of a challenge without the convolutions of living a lie. While her friendship with Jane deepens and her relationship with Liam grows complicated, Rachel fights to reconcile her true self with the constrictions of 19th century society. As their portal to the future prepares to close, Rachel and Liam struggle with their directive to leave history as they found it…however heartbreaking that proves.

What Angels Fear (Sebastian St. Cyr #1) by C. S. Harris

      It’s 1811, and the threat of revolution haunts the upper classes of King George III’s England. Then a beautiful young woman is found raped and savagely murdered on the altar steps of an ancient church near Westminster Abbey. A dueling pistol discovered at the scene and the damning testimony of a witness both point to one man, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, a brilliant young nobleman shattered by his experience in the Napoleonic Wars.

      Now a fugitive running for his life, Sebastian calls upon his skill as an agent during the war to catch the killer and prove his own innocence. In the process, he accumulates a band of unlikely allies, including the enigmatic beauty Kat Boleyn, who broke Sebastian’s heart years ago. In Sebastian’s world of intrigue and espionage, nothing is as it seems, yet the truth may hold the key to the future of the British monarchy, as well as to Sebastian’s own salvation.

Secrets of Sloane House (Chicago World’s Fair Mystery #1) by Shelley Gray

      One woman’s search for the truth of her sister’s disappearance leads her to deceit and danger in 1893 Chicago.

      Rosalind Perry has left her family’s rural farm in Wisconsin to work as a housemaid at Sloane House, one of the most elegant mansions in Gilded Age Chicago. However, Rosalind is not there just to earn a living and support her family-she’s at Sloane House determined to discover the truth about her sister’s mysterious disappearance.

      Reid Armstrong is the handsome heir to a silver fortune. However, his family is on the periphery of Chicago’s elite because their wealth comes from “new money” obtained from successful mining. Marriage to Veronica Sloane would secure his family’s position in society-the lifelong dream of his ailing father.

      When Reid begins to realize that Rosalind’s life may be in danger, he stops thinking of marriage prospects and concentrates on helping Rosalind. Dark things are afoot in Chicago and, he fears, in Sloane House. If he’s not vigilant, Rosalind could pay the price.

      Set against the backdrop of Chicago’s Gilded Age and the 1893 World’s Fair, Secrets of Sloane House takes us on a whirlwind journey of romance and mystery.

The Witch’s Daughter (Shadow Chronicles #1) by Paula Brackston

      My name is Elizabeth Anne Hawksmith, and my age is three hundred and eighty-four years. Each new settlement asks for a new journal, and so this Book of Shadows begins.

      In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree, she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate at the hands of the panicked mob: the Warlock Gideon Masters, and his Book of Shadows. Secluded at his cottage in the woods, Gideon instructs Bess in the Craft, awakening formidable powers she didn’t know she had and making her immortal. She couldn’t have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he would be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.

      In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life for herself, tending her garden and selling herbs and oils at the local farmers’ market. But her solitude abruptly ends when a teenage girl called Tegan starts hanging around. Against her better judgment, Elizabeth begins teaching Tegan the ways of the Hedge Witch, in the process awakening memories—and demons—long thought forgotten.

      Part historical romance, part modern fantasy, The Witch’s Daughter is a fresh, compelling take on the magical, yet dangerous world of Witches. Readers will long remember the fiercely independent heroine who survives plagues, wars, and the heartbreak that comes with immortality to remain true to herself, and protect the protégé she comes to love.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

      Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.

      Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.

      Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, American Gods takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You’ll be surprised by what – and who – it finds there.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

      Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

      Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate’s baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

What do you have checked out from the library to try?

#TBT Cute Boys in Sweaters

Thursday, February 8, 2018
tags: ,

Originally published February 20, 2013

Richard Armitage

Richard Armitage


Alex O'Loughlin

Alex O’Loughlin


Ryan McPartlin

Ryan McPartlin


Colin O'Donoghue

Colin O’Donoghue


Jeremy Renner

Jeremy Renner


Ewan McGregor

Ewan McGregor


Gerard Butler

Gerard Butler


Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill

Wednesday Writing Report — 7 February 2018

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Time spent: 1 hour (45 minutes writing, 15 minutes researching)
Words written: 872

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