Friday, March 18, 2011
Seducing the Duchess
Charlotte, Duchess of Rutherford, fancied herself in love with her husband until their wedding night when he revealed that he had only married her for revenge. Her brother Ethan had run off with the Duke's fiance three days before the wedding and Philip, the Duke, saw Charlotte as the best way to get back at him. Philip's revenge was hollow as Ethan was disowned by the family and moved to Europe before he could see the farce play out. For three years Charlotte and Philip live together, but lead separate lives as she nurtures her hatred for the man who betrayed her. She is determined to get a divorce so she flaunts her many lovers around town and behaves scandalously by gambling and drinking. As time goes by Philip starts to feel guilty over the way he treated Charlotte, and notices that he misses her; misses being her friend, misses her company and her laughter. He finds himself going out of his way to be with her and he realizes that he made a terrible mistake and is in fact desperately in love with her. Determined to win her back and make a splash he forcibly removes her from her many admirers and ensconces her in his country estate.
Philip makes a deal with Charlotte in the hopes of gaining more time with her; he says he will petition for a divorce, and he writes a letter to his solicitor right away, if she will teach him to be a better husband for his next wife. Charlotte is excited at the prospect of finally being free of the man who betrayed her, but she admits to being uncomfortable preparing him to marry another woman. As she gives him mini lessons on how to please a wife, she makes it clear that he has failed miserably in this regard and he sets out to gain her favor. He is kind, he buys her thoughtful presents, and he tries the best that he knows how to let go of his lordly pretensions and be comfortable around her. But Charlotte cannot forget what Philip did to her, even as she finds herself beginning to fall under his spell again. Philip fears being vulnerable and is scared to admit his feelings for Charlotte, even while recognizing that it may be the only way he can win her back. Things begin to look good for the two of them when another possible betrayal rears it's head and Charlotte is back to not trusting Philip or her own judgment. Philip fears he has lost her forever and must lay his pride and his hopes on the line in one giant last ditch attempt to prove that he is honest and that they can love each other happily.
I loved that Charlotte was independent and not scared of being a sexual being in public, but I was not too crazy about her doing it just for revenge against Philip. She was self assured and confident in her place in society, but not all that exciting in general. While what Philip did was quite awful and I understand that she was upset and found it hard to trust him again, I felt like it dragged on far too long. I felt like he made it clear that he had changed and had difficulty remaining invested in the story once it was clear that there really was nothing standing in their way and she were just creating roadblocks. I did like that Philip's declaration of love did not magically solve everything as it does in so many romance novels where those three words from the hero signal the end of all conflict and the resolution of the book. I liked Philip as the brooding and tortured hero who had difficulty coming to terms with his deep emotions toward the woman he never expected to love. I loved his attempts to truly earn Charlotte's love as they were so sweet and simple and showed that he really cared about her. Some of his attempts were immature and backfired horribly, like when he tried to make her jealous, but it just showed how desperate he was and he was wiling to try anything.
The relationship was definitely the central plot of this story and the majority of the story was dedicated to them falling in love with each other. Because the past played such a large part in their relationship I was hoping that there would be some more flashbacks to key moments, but the flashbacks were sadly brief and far between. Despite Charlotte being quite the seductress and Philip being a very virile, there was very little sex in the book, it was brief and not that sexy, and it was not until the very end. My biggest confusion in this book came near the end when Philip suddenly became convinced that it was his status in society and his dedication to behaving in ways fitting to his station that had driven Charlotte off. Suddenly he was trying to act more like a commoner, he was burning pictures of his stately grandfather who instilled the sense of betterment in him, and thinking about giving up his title. This was odd as this had nothing to do with why he betrayed Charlotte or why she was mad at him and it did not make sense to me why this was suddenly an issue. There was a nice little side story regarding some brief attempts to reconcile Charlotte with her estranged family that could have been really interesting, but it was far too short unfortunately.
Rating: There were definite moments in this book and Philip was quite great, but I did not like Charlotte and the problems between them went on for far longer than warranted.