She was young and healthy. She was educated. She came from gentry, and she was willing to disrobe in front of him .
Most importantly, she was desperate.
When Emma Gladstone works up the courage to walk up to the Duke of Ashbury’s residence and ask that he finally settle the bill for his ex-fiancé’s wedding gown, she’s only thinking that she desperately needs the funds owed her for the necessities of life. Rent, coal, food. Never in her wildest dreams would she have ever thought that the scarred, brooding war hero would instead offer to make her his duchess. Either this is a cruel joke, or…. no, this must be the duke having a bit of fun with a lowly seamstress.
The Duke of Ashbury knows that he must marry in order to sire an heir. But what woman would ever want to spend her days, or most importantly her nights, looking at his hideous burn scars? He’s all to aware of how terrible he looks, after all his former bride-to-be became violently ill after seeing his disfigured body. But he needs a bride, and when a young, healthy woman conveniently shows up on his doorstep he decides she ticks off all his wifely requirement boxes. Now he just has to get her to agree to his proposal.
True story, just the other day I finally sat down and watched the live action version of Beauty and the Beast and had an entire conversation with my husband about how while it was my favorite Disney movie and that I enjoyed this new version, I had always thought that I would have been much happier had Beast not turned into the handsome young man at the end, but rather remained in the form Belle fell in love with. As soon as I opened THE DUCHESS DEAL and realized it was a Beauty and the Beast type story I got just a little bit more excited. I mean I read the blurb, but really had no idea what this book was about other than maybe a duke who marries a seamstress and the rules they decide will govern their marriage of convenience. Not that I cared really, because after all this is Tessa Dare and she always has the best words.
Everything was wrong. Everything was right. Everything was possible.
I will admit to being entranced with this couple almost from the first page. Ashbury the scarred, brooding aristocrat who is convinced that his appearance is so dreadful that he scares woman and children, but has a sort of sarcastic, self-deprecating humor that appealed to me right away. And brave, sweet Emma who after being thrown out of her home by her father, walked to London with nothing and created a new life for herself as seamstress to the ton. I could tell from their first conversation that this couple would be magical. They have this back and forth banter that was playful, funny and absolutely adorable.
Ash is determined to not be hurt again by rejection, so he sets up a few rules for their union. No kissing, no emotional attachment, just quick, perfunctory beddings in the dark of night and as soon as Emma becomes pregnant they will go their separate ways and she will be free to live in the country in her own home. But Emma has other plans and immediately sets out to challenge Ash’s rules. She requires that they have dinner together most evenings and she doesn’t want to refer to him as either Duke, or Ashbury, or George, and sets out to find the perfect endearment for her new husband. His scars don’t frighten her at all, and she is more than willing to be a lusty participant in the marriage-bed.
Of course, it’s not long before this couple falls hard for each other. There are a few subplots that help drive the conflict; Emma’s desire to help a woman in a bad situation, Ashbury’s nightly activities as the Monster of Mayfair and their interactions with Ash’s ex, but overall this story is simply about two people falling madly in love. It’s a lush, romantic, sexy love story. I positively adored watching Emma get to know the charming, protective man she married and Ash realizing that his wife loves and lusts after him just the way he is.
I’m so excited for this new series. Being that it is titled Girl Meets Duke, I have a feeling that a few of the side characters Emma befriended are bound to meet their own dukes and fall in love. Ms. Dare always delivers the very best in romance and THE DUCHESS DEAL is yet another love story that has found a permanent spot on my favorites list. Final grade- B+
Time stopped. The raindrops seemed to hang in the air. For this moment, there was no before and no after. There was only now, and now was everything.