I’ve had my complaints and issues with the Scandal and Scoundrel series ever since the release of the first book, The Rogue Not Taken. But, honestly? Sarah MacLean landed on my auto-buy list with Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake and I can’t imagine a time when I won’t get excited butterflies seeing that she has a new release. My anticipation over Seraphina and Haven’s story began when Sophie (Sera’s sister) walked onto the page in the opening of The Rogue Not Taken and pushed her cheating brother-in-law into a fish pond. Sera seemed so sad and without hope, and Haven completely unredeemable. I mean how does an author redeem a hero who was first introduced while in a scandalous embrace with a woman, not his wife? But that’s the beauty of second chance romance, and this author, she does it and she does it beautifully.
“I am Seraphina Bevingstoke, Duchess of Haven. And I require a divorce.”
When this book opens, Sera has been missing for two years and seven months. Haven has been desperate to find her, searching all over the world for his wife. Then suddenly she reappears, in the middle of Parliament, asking for a divorce. You see, Sera isn’t the same distraught woman who fled her husband years before, she’s stronger and has found herself in her years away. She is a business owner and finds joy in performing in her tavern. Well, it will be her tavern once she secures a divorce from her estranged husband. Only Haven has no desire to grant a divorce to his wife. In fact, he’ll do whatever it takes to win back her affection. To forget the past and start anew. If he has to lie and plot and insist that she help in finding her replacement, so be it.
And while that is the beginning of this book, it wasn’t how Sera and Haven began.
The way I feel about you… Her words now– soft and full of temptation. I’ve never felt anything like this.
He hadn’t either. As though light and breath and hope had flooded the room, filling all the dark spaces. Filling his lungs and heart. And all because of her.
Regardless of how this couple was first introduced, they didn’t start out bitter and angry at each other. No, they meet at a ball and Sera’s wit and beauty capture Haven so fully that he immediately knows that he has met the woman fate intended for him. They meet clandestinely over the next several months, falling deeper into passion and love. Only, Haven doesn’t formally court his Sera, doesn’t visit with her family in their home, and never asks her father for her hand in marriage. Seraphina’s mother worries that he is playing with her daughter, especially since the ton still thinks the Talbot family beneath them and has labeled the five Talbot sisters The Soiled S’s. She has a plan that will help Sera nab her Duke, and since he is what Sera wants most in life, she agrees. Which is the beginning of years of pain, betrayal, and bitterness between the Duke and Duchess of Haven.
“You haunt me,” she said, the worlds unlocked. “You have haunted me every day since I left.”
I’m not going to give any more of this couple’s history away. It unfolds exquisitely and poignantly through flashback scenes and you simply must experience it all for yourself. Yes, The Day of the Duchess jumps back and forth between the past and the present. How it all went wrong, who lied and cheated, where their heads were at during this time period, and Haven almost three years later desperately trying to win his wife back. I went into this book knowing it would be emotionally draining and filled to the brim with hurt and sadness and passion and pain. I believe I might have mentioned a time or two that I hoped to see Haven grovel and beg for forgiveness because HELLO he cheated on his wife and if there is one thing I can not abide in my romance it is cheating. What I didn’t expect was to be positively transfixed by this couple.
The love they still have for each other, even after everything that has gone before, practically pours off the page. Yes, there is still anger, but mostly because these two have never resolved anything between them. When he felt betrayed Haven lashed out at his wife repeatedly, then completely shut himself off from her and Sera, after months of begging, simply disappears. So much hurt between them, each person making mistakes, some worse than others, but nothing was ever resolved. I kept expecting to dislike Haven, but I never did. From almost the first page I could see how distraught he was over his past behavior and how desperate he was to keep his marriage alive. He knows he made mistakes and is fully willing to own them if Sera will only give him another chance.
Sera has been burned and broken by her husband and wants nothing more than to leave her past behind her. She wants to have the freedom to live freely and on her own. She is supported by her sisters, who travel with her to Haven’s country estate as she fulfills her end of the bargain to find her husband a new wife. I have always adored Ms. MacLean’s heroines and Seraphina is no different. Strong, independent, smart, and utterly willing to do what she must do to gain her independence. I love the relationship she has with her sisters and how they support each other unwaveringly. If she wants a divorce, they are there to make sure she gets it. But, when she and Haven finally have to spend time together after so many years all that passion and anger and unresolved resentment comes pouring forth and despite her desire to be free of her marriage, she realizes that she never, not for a moment, stopped loving her husband. She fights it though, and oh but I totally understood why.
Before I wrap this up, let me just say this book ended exactly, 100% the way I had hoped it would. It was romantic, and swoon worthy and made this couple’s HEA completely believable. There is a lovely epilogue that was just icing on the cake of this second chance romance. So, lovely.
To me this book was perfection. My heart ached, I laughed, I cried, and in the end, I was left sighing and with a contented smile on my face. Highly recommended. Final Grade- A
She adored the barely there edge of this control, reveled in it, played at it with her hand, her breath, her lips, sliding over him with a feather-light touch, claiming his size and strength and his desire. Marking him as hers.
So much so that she whispered there, “Mine.”
“Always,” he replied without hesitation. “Forever.”