Friday, June 3, 2016

The Duke's Disaster - Grace Burrowes (Sourcebooks Casablanca - Apr 2015)

Series: True Gentlemen (Book 1)

Noah Winters, Duke of Anselm, exercises the pragmatism for which he's infamous when his preferred choice of bride cries off, and her companion, Lady Thea Collins, becomes his next choice for his duchess. Lady Thea's mature, sensible and even rather attractive-what could possibly go wrong?

As a lady fallen on hard times, Thea doesn't expect tender sentiments from His Grace, but she does wish Noah had courted her trust, lest her past turn their hastily arranged marriage into a life of shared regrets. Is His Grace courting a convenient wife, or a beautiful disaster?

Good book. Noah is ready to marry and in his usual cool headed way chooses the woman he thinks would best fit his needs. But when that woman chooses someone else, Noah simply sets his sights on on her companion instead. With her charge getting married, Thea will be out of a job. When Noah proposes, he also offers to support her younger sister and guide her brother. It's too good a deal to pass up, but there are things he doesn't know that could make a big difference.

I wasn't sure at first if I was going to like Noah. By his own admission he is not a nice man. He certainly doesn't have the smooth moves of so many romance heroes. And when Thea's secret comes out, he doesn't react well. He's pretty harsh with her and I figured it was going to take the whole book for him to redeem himself. But instead, I found that he was determined to make the marriage work, and the way he went about it was pretty sweet.

I did like Thea. She has been through a lot but is a survivor in the best sense of the word. After the deaths of her parents she went to work as a companion in order to take care of her younger sister. Her younger brother, who inherited their father's title, is lazy and ignores his responsibilities. The life of a companion is not an easy one, and after what happens at a house party, Thea deals with the memories and consequences as best she can. However, her ability to trust is shaken, and confiding the truth to Noah immediately is impossible for her to do, leading to trouble on their wedding night.

I really enjoyed the development of their relationship. For all that he claims he is not a nice man, Noah is actually very considerate of Thea. I loved the way that they used the time to get to know each other. In doing so, they realized that they actually like each other, which makes them both hopeful for the future of their marriage. There are some very sweet, and occasionally very funny, scenes as they both adjust to being married. I loved their morning routine, as Noah deals with a non-morning loving Thea, by fixing her tea and stealing bits of her breakfast while they plan their day. Thea also makes sure that Noah understands his responsibilities as a husband, when she points out some of his actions that need changing. Through it all, they learn more about the person they married, and about themselves as well. Though neither had expected or wanted love in their arrangement, love is what they got. I especially liked seeing the changes that Noah experienced.

The biggest issue they have to deal with is the matter of trust. Noah's reaction to her secret was understandable for a man of his time, but it still hurt Thea to see the way he jumped to conclusions about it. She had made a couple of attempts to tell him before their marriage, but he wasn't listening. As the time passed after the wedding, and Noah got to know Thea, he began to suspect that there was more to the story than he had believed. His mistrust of her in turn caused him to keep a secret of his own. Thea's past experiences make her wary of trusting Noah, which is why she had so much trouble confiding in him to start with. She believes that wariness is justified when she discovers what he had been hiding. But just as Noah doesn't know the whole story of her past, Thea doesn't know the entire truth of Noah's secret. I got a bit frustrated with them both, as so much angst could have been avoided if they had just talked to each other. But the gaining of that trust did make for a good story.

Part way through the book we discover that what happened to Thea has far-reaching consequences. Someone isn't at all happy about Thea's rise in status and is determined to make her pay for it. That person isn't a surprise, and the lengths he goes to are quite disturbing. The confrontation at the end is very intense. I loved seeing Noah's rescue of Thea. We also get the full and horrifying story of what actually happened to Thea from one of the people involved. That was truly unexpected and helped Thea close the door on that memory.

I really enjoyed the various secondary characters. Noah's sisters and their husbands were a lot of fun. They all had terrific marriages and I liked the effect they had on Noah. The way that Noah reacted to the various bits of marital advice her received was pretty funny, especially as he came to realize how accurate it was. I also loved the way the sisters took to Thea right away, in spite of her fears about her reputation. Their example also gave Thea more motivation to make her marriage work. I loved the two little girls. Their obvious adoration of Noah was a good indication of what a good man he really was. They also provided some truly lighthearted moments when things might have gotten too intense.

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