Thursday, April 2, 2009

Only A Duke Will Do by Sabrina Jeffries ****

This is the second in the School for Heiresses series. The heroines are all graduates of Mrs. Harris's school for young ladies, nicknamed the School For Heiresses. This story takes on the changing politics in the 1820s in England, and the mixture of the romance and the politics makes it very interesting. To be honest, the first half or so of the book was starting to seem pretty average but the last third or so, where Simon and Louisa begin to struggle with their relationship and their politics is what made it a 4-star read to me.

Louisa is the bastard daughter of the king. She has vowed never to marry - for 2 reasons. The first reason is that she wants to remain a spinster in order to continue her political aspirations, but the real reason is that she watched her half sister, the Princess Charlotte, die in childbirth. 7 years before the start of the story, she was besotted with Simon, the future Duke of Foxmoor. He had seduced her, offered to marry her - then left her to serve in the English government in India for 7 years.

Simon came back from India a changed man. He was a hero for his actions in a battle there and was lauded to have served his country well. But his backstory includes a grandfather, formerly a Prime Minister, who had worked on Simon to train him to think love was impossible and that women were never to be trusted.

Simon is approached by the king and asked to marry Louisa in order to stop her political activities. Louisa is involved with a group of women working on prison reform. They go to the prisons to help the women there. The king believes Simon is the only man she'll agree to marry. But she proves harder to seduce now, having spent 7 years building up her shell.

Eventually he uses the one method to guarantee success - after she is seduced, he sets up a situation where they will be discovered, forcing a marriage. During this courtship, they try to bargain with each other so that each gets what he/she needs from the relationship - neither play fair, in my opinion, and this was the part that started to get on my nerves.

But after they are married, and he begins to support her side politically, she is lulled into thinking all will work out. But she isn't exactly forthcoming with him about her issues either - which forces another showdown after they are married.

The real conflict comes when Simon has to make a choice - stop supporting the reforms and force Louisa to stop as well, or miss out on his opportunity to realize his political ambitions. This part is where the historical aspects are mixed into their story and for me became more interesting.

So I went from a 3-star to a 4-star opinion at the end.

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