Saturday, January 8, 2011
How to Marry a Duke
Tessa Mansfield has resigned herself to remaining unmarried but that does not stop her from arranging marriages for the wallflowers of the ton. Tristan, the Duke of Shelbourne, has recently restored his family fortunes after his wastrel father gambled it away, and has decided it is time to marry. He is intrigued by the voluptuous beauty he meets at a ball, but when he learns who she is he realizes she is off limits and hires her to make a match for him. Tristan wants a quick, painless, courtship and hopes to find a woman he desires as he does not want to become like his father and go philandering all over town. Tessa's parents had had a love match and she only arranges marriages that are founded in love so she decides to surprise Tristan and sets up an arrangement she hopes will lead him to find a woman he can love. She chooses 24 of the ton's most eligible ladies and they will all "compete" to win the hand of the duke. Tristan is not at all pleased with this turn of events, but agrees to the bizarre courtship, partly because it means he will get to spend more time with Tessa.
Although Tessa is loath to admit it, she is enjoying spending time with Tristan and it is not long before they are pushing the boundaries of propriety by meeting in private to discuss the courtship, where both of them take advantage of the opportunity to admire and get to know the other. As time goes on Tessa discovers that watching Tristan flirt with the pretty young girls in the ton turns her stomach, but she knows that she will have to get used to it. Tessa is thrown for a loop when Richard Mortland, her best friend's brother and her childhood "sweetheart," returns from being presumed dead. Richard seduced Tessa when she was younger and she was crushed when she learned he only wanted her for her money and now he is threatening to reveal their past if she does not marry him. Tristan senses that something is wrong and wants to help this woman who has come to mean so much to him, but things come to a head one night and Tristan is furious when he learns the truth. He must make one beautiful attempt to win her back and prove that she is the greatest matchmaker when making marriages based in love.
I was really excited to discover a debut author and reading the back blurb made me really hope that I'd found a winner and I wasn't really disappointed as the book was excellent for a debut. Tessa was wonderful and even though at times she could be starry eyed, such as her desire to only match marriages for love, but overall she was incredibly intelligent, self assured, and realistic about her life. I also liked how she rooted for the underdog and her desire to see the wallflowers married off was genuine and I liked how dedicated she is to her job. While it may seem like she threw away happiness too quickly because of her lost virginity, to me it seemed more true to life than the books where the heroine loses her virginity in Victorian England and everything is okey-dokey. When consequences surfaced she dealt with them very well, and I absolutely loved that she sought help to solve them, and didn't try to do it herself like so many heroines. The Richard Mortland plot was very well done and provided an opportunity for Tristan to shine as the perfect hero for Tessa.
Tristan was just as great and I loved reading about the changes he underwent throughout the novel as he came to realize that he did want a marriage with love. He cared about the feelings of others and he made so many decision based on keeping the girls in the competition happy and it showed that he respected Tessa's opinions. He proved himself the alfa hero when Tessa was in need and I loved his possessive/ protective feelings towards her and how take charge he was when his woman was threatened. And I don't want to put out any spoilers, but the end was my absolute favorite happy ending scene I've ever read; it was so romantic and made me fall in love with the characters all over again. Tristan and Tessa were incredibly attracted to each other and there were some scorching hot scenes between them, but unfortunately no sex until the VERY end, which was disappointing. There were times when the writing seemed a bit sloppy in the form of an information dump or awkward conversations between characters, but overall it went smoothly and was a fun and fast read.
Rating: I very much enjoyed this book, especially Tristan and the happily ever after, but the absurdity of the bridal competition and some sloppy writing kept it from being perfect.