I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My Fair Duchess by Megan Frampton
Series: Dukes Behaving Badly #5
Published by Avon on February 28th 2017
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Also in this series: One-Eyed Dukes are Wild, Why Do Dukes Fall in Love?
In Megan Frampton's most recent installment of The Dukes Behaving Badly series, an unexpected duchess proves that behaving badly isn't exclusive to the Dukedom.
The Unexpected Duchess
Archibald Salisbury, son of a viscount, war hero, and proficient in the proper ways of aristocratic society, has received orders for his most challenging mission: Genevieve, Duchess of Blakesley. How she inherited a duchy isn’t his problem. Turning her into a perfect duchess is. But how can he keep his mind on business when her beauty entices him toward pleasure?
It was impossible, unprecedented…and undeniably true. Genevieve is now a “duke”, or, rather, a duchess. So what is she to do when the ton eyes her every move, hoping she’ll make a mistake? Genevieve knows she has brains and has sometimes been told she has beauty, but, out of her depth, she calls on an expert. And what an expert, with shoulders broad enough to lean on, and a wit that matches her own. Archie is supposed to teach her to be a lady and run her estate, but what she really wants to do is unladylike—run into his arms.
Also by this author: One-Eyed Dukes are Wild, Why Do Dukes Fall in Love?
I fell in love with this charming novel from the very beginning. Author Megan Frampton’s considerable wit was on display from the first page. When Genevieve inherits the Duchy of Blakesley, she is at a complete loss as to what is required to run the numerous estates or move about in Society. Her helpful godmother offers the assistance of her very proper, very organized, steward, the former officer Archibald Salisbury.
My Fair Duchess utilizes a series of letters preceding each chapter that serves as both foreshadowing and as insight into the minds of the main protagonists, Genevieve, Duchess of Blakesley and Mr. Archibald Salisbury, Capt. (Ret.). The proffered letters have language stricken through that allows Genevieve and Archie’s true feelings to be revealed in a creative, and often amusing, manner.
Dear Aunt Sophia,
How are you?
I am desperate.I am doing well.
Your staff is a disgrace.In reviewing your current situation, I would advise you to keep only a few members of your current staff…
Mr. Archibald Salisbury, Capt. (Ret.)
Dear Mr. Salisbury,
Why are you writing me a letter when we are exisiting in the same household?
Thank you for the correspondence
although I am still baffled as to why you are writing. . . .
You need a new wardrobe.
We all agree on that, even your blind grandmother.
As the novel progresses, and Genevieve and Archie’s reluctant friendship blossoms into a much deeper and more meaningful connection, as he helps her learn her role and offers “Duchess Practice.” The way they sign off their missives is the first indicator that something is beginning to shift between them: the formal “Mr. Archibald Salisbury, Capt. (Ret.)” morphs into “Archie” as “Duchess” becomes simply “Genevieve.” Additionally, the tone of the unsent/stricken portions becomes softer, loving, and increasingly intimate. We see Genevieve and Archie fall in love and struggle with their disparate social positions through their actual interactions and all the things they long to say to one another. It’s rather heartbreaking, really.
. . . I will remain until
I no longer feel this pull toward you, no longer feel this palpable urge to touch youall of your immediate concerns are properly addressed.
If I hadn’t become a duchess, and needed help, I would never have met you. But because I am a duchess, I can never—well, you know. That. Again.
I wish it were possible to both be yourself and be someone else.. . .
Of course, Genevieve and Archie do talk and do take increasing physical intimacies. Although, any culmination of their mutual desire is not addressed until all issues between them and their future happiness are resolved. [Translation: it’s a slow burn physical romance but a steady-burning emotional connection.]
It’s refreshing to read about a woman being the one with the superior wealth and social position. Yet what really makes My Fair Duchess work is how much Archie has to offer Genevieve: his experience and confidence in her make him useful to her on an intellectual and emotional level.
Societal convention and expectations are nothing in the face of unconditional love and mutual respect, as author Megan Frampton proves with intelligence, humor and some amazingly well-rounded characters.
1845, Lady Sophia’s Drawing Room
“There’s only one solution,” Lady Sophia said, passing the letter to Archie as he felt his stomach drop. And his carefully ordered life teeter on the verge of change. “You’ll have to go to London to sort my goddaughter out.” She embellished her point by squeezing her tiny dog Truffles, who emitted a squeak and glared at Archie. As if it was his fault.
He resisted the urge to crumple the paper in his hand. “But the festival is in a few weeks,” Archie said, hearing the desperate tone in his voice. He did not want to ever return to London. That was the purpose of taking a position out here in the country after leaving the Queen’s Own Hussars a year prior. His family was there, and his father, at least, had made it clear he never wanted to see him again. What’s more, he did not want to assist a helpless aristocrat in some sort of desperate attempt to bring order to their lives. Even though that was what he was doing in Lady Sophia’s employ. But working for her had come to have its own kind of satisfactory order, one he did not want to disrupt.
“There is work to be done,” Archie continued, hoping to appeal to his employer’s sensible side.
Although in the course of working for her he had come to realize his employer didn’t really have a sensible side, so what was he hoping to accomplish?
“Didn’t you tell me Mr. McCready could do everything you could?” Lady Sophia asked. “You pointed out that if you were to get ill, or busy with other matters, your assistant steward could handle things just as well as you.”
That was when I was trying to get one of my men work, Archie thought in frustration. To help him get back on his feet after the rigors of war. And Bob had proven himself to be a remarkably able assistant, allowing Archie to dive into Lady Sophia’s woefully neglected accounts and see into her investments, neither of which she paid any attention to.
Lady Sophia placed Truffles on the rug before lifting her head to look at Archie. Who knew, in that moment, that he was doomed. Doomed to return to London to help out a likely far-too- indulged female in the very difficult position of being a powerful and wealthy aristocrat.
Perhaps it would have been easier to just get shot on the battlefield. It certainly would have been quicker.
“It’s settled.” She punctuated her words with a nod of her head, sending a few gray curls flying in the air. “You will go see to the new duchess and take care of her as ably as you do me. Mr. Mc-Cready will assist me while you are away.”
Archie looked at the letter again. “This duchess is your relative?” he asked. That would explain the new duchess’s equally silly mode of communication. An “unexpected duchess,” indeed. What kind of idiot wouldn’t have foreseen this circumstance? And done something to prepare for it?
“She calls me aunt, but she is not my actual niece, you understand,” Lady Sophia explained. “She is my goddaughter; her mother married the duke, the duchess’s father. It is quite unusual for a woman to inherit the duchy.”
“Quite,” Archie echoed.
“But it happened, somehow, and since I don’t know anything about being a duchess . . .” Because I do? Archie wondered. But there wasn’t anybody else. She wouldn’t have asked Lady Sophia, of all people, unless there was nobody else.
Or if she was as flighty and confident as her faux-aunt. A scenario that seemed more and more likely.
“The only thing Mr. McCready can’t do is attract as much feminine interest as you do, Mr. Salisbury.” She sat back up and regarded him. “Which might make him more productive,” she added. She leaned over to offer Truffles the end of her biscuit.
Archie opened his mouth to object, but closed it when he realized she was right. He wasn’t vain, but he did recognize that ladies tended to find his appearance attractive. Lady Sophia received many more visitors, she’d told him in an irritated tone, now that he’d been hired.
Bob, damn his eyes, smirked knowingly every time Archie was summoned to Lady Sophia’s drawing room to answer yet another question about estate management posed by a lady who’d likely never had such a question in her life.
Archie responded by making Bob personally in charge of the fertilizer. It didn’t stop Bob’s smirking, but it did make Archie feel better.
“And you will return in a month’s time so you can be here for the festival.”
“Sooner if I can, my lady.” If this duchess needed more time than a month, there would be no hope for her anyway. Country life suited him; he liked its quiet and regularity. It was a vast change from life in battle, or even being just on duty, but it was far more interesting than being the third son from a viscount’s family. A viscount who disowned his third boy when said boy was determined to join the army.
Meanwhile, however, he had to pack to head off to a new kind of battle—that of preparing a completely unprepared woman, likely a woman as flighty and often confused as Lady Sophia, to hold a position that she was entirely unsuited for.
Very much like working with raw recruits, in fact.