The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
Book One of the Girl Meets Duke series
Publication Date: August 22, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…
Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.
His terms are simple:
- They will be husband and wife by night only.
- No lights, no kissing.
- No questions about his battle scars.
- Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.
But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
- They will have dinner together every evening.
- With conversation.
- And unlimited teasing.
- Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…
What I Liked:
You know those readers who have this author they love and they seem to LOOOOOOVE everything the author writes? And in your head you're like, chill, we know you're a huge fangirl/fanboy, you would never dislike anything that author wrote. Yeah, sometimes I catch myself rolling my eyes at people like that (you know, when you're like okay Jan we already know you're going to love the book, we get it). That is terrible of me and I should really stop that because I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. When it comes to Tessa Dare? I have yet to read a book of hers that I didn't absolutely love (or at the very least, adore). Granted, this is only the seventh book of hers that I've read... well, I guess that's a lot. She has written twenty, if I've counted correctly. Anyway. The lowest rating I've given any of those seven books is four stars and that is pretty much the definition of fangirling. I love this author's books. I can't help it. I know I'm not alone. Please don't judge me!
The Duchess Deal is book one of a brand-new, unconnected series by Tessa Dare. The Duke of Ashbury came back from war horribly scarred, due to a rocket blowing up in his face. It destroyed much of one side of his face, and all down that side of his body. His engagement to a lady of good societal status has been broken. His estate is not in the best shape, due to him being gone at war for so long, and then in recovery when coming back from the war. Ashbury needs a wife, and a desperate one, at that. What does he do when Emma Gladstone, seamstress of the wedding dress that Ashbury's ex-fiancee was to wear? Well, he marries her, the seamstress, who was in need of a bit of money. Emma isn't repulsed by the Duke's scars - if anything, she is intrigued by them. She agrees to marry him and to follow his terms. She'll get pregnant and move into the country house, where she'll give birth and raise the child. No affection, no kissing, no lights on when they have relations. But both of them will discover that falling in love isn't something they can control, and all of Ash's rules won't stop love.
I don't even know how to write this review! This book was fabulous - can I leave it at that and call it a day? This book made me smile, giggle, swoon, fan myself, and swoon all over again. I adore marriage of convenience stories, and this one did not disappoint. Of course it didn't! Tessa Dare never disappoints. (Unrepentant fangirl here.)
I felt like this book was more about Ash than it was about Emma, though the story was told from both of their POVs and both of them had huge stakes and backstories and roles in this book (not just one or the other). The author spends a lot of time characterizing and perfecting Ash's personality, demeanor, self-loathing... trust me, you'll want to hug this guy over and over, while reading this book. Ash seems like a moody, grouchy, cold recluse, but he is so noble and selfless. He thinks of everyone before he thinks of himself - his tenants, his estate/staff, his dukedom (hence the haste to marry - to produce an heir so the dukedom will go to a suitable heir), random strangers in the streets of Mayfair. Ash is so misjudged, and it hurt me to see how badly he thought of himself. He thinks he is a monster because of his scars, and he never goes out to town or to societal events that a duke should attend. I feel so bad for him, because he totally has the right to wallow, but at the same time, you want him to think more highly of himself and to stop letting his ex-fiancee's treatment of him affect his attitude towards himself.
Yeah... the ex-fiancee is a terrible person. Ash is the one who broke the engagement, but because the ex-fiancee couldn't stand the sight of him. How awful of her.
Emma is almost like the opposite of Ash. She is a ray of sunshine, a dash of positivity, a parcel of happiness. She agrees to marry him for several reasons, one of which is that she can't stop thinking about him, after their first meeting. Emma is so selfless and kind, and like Ash, she wants to help others more than she wants to help herself. The difference is that Ash does a lot in secret, whereas Emma is more direct and deals with the people she helps. I love how Emma is so accepting of his appearance, his grouchiness, and his stubbornness. She never thinks to abandon him and leave him to his fate - in fact, she always hopes that he won't send her away to the country house when she becomes pregnant (which was their agreement). Emma is patient and sweet, exactly what Ash needs.
I loved the staff of Ash's house! Khan is hilarious in his stoic way - a true companion to Ash, though he has served in the duke's house longer than Ash has been alive. The staff of the house are always plotting to force Ash and Emma together in some uncanny situation, like luring them into the attic and locking it, and leaving them at the country house with no carriage. They are desperate for Ash to fall for Emma because he needs someone, and Emma is a good "someone" for him.
Also, the cat. Let's not forget the cat, Breeches. I didn't totally like him at first, but I love how the cat latches on to Ash (who is grumpy and hates the cat). Ha!
The banter between Ash and Emma is so great! Sometimes is so sarcastic, sometimes light and witty, sometimes teasing. Ash is mostly grouchy, but as the story goes on, he becomes more open and outwardly kind. I love the playfulness that exists between them, even in the early times of their relationship when it wasn't quite playful yet.
The romance is lovely! Ash is attracted to Emma immediately, which is one of the reasons why he wanted to marry her from the moment he saw her. Emma is attracted to Ash, something that Ash doesn't believe at first. The two of them have such great chemistry, which leads to some pretty passionate sexy times. Guys. I feel like this is Tessa Dare's hottest book yet. Ash has a lot of pent-up intensity, and Emma... Emma loves his lovemaking. I adore this kind of physical relationship - they both come to know and understand each other's preferences, and luckily, they sync very well together. Things are hot and a little rough in the bedroom, but in a very steamy, very consensual way.
I love the myriad issues that Dare includes in this story. It's not just about Ash and Emma falling in love. The story deals with Ash accepting himself and his appearance, and gaining more confidence. It's about Ash getting past the psychological damage his ex-fiancee did to him. It's about Emma letting go of how her own father treated her when she did something that was a mistake. It's about Emma trying to help another woman who has done something similar to Emma's mistake. There is so much to love about this story. because there are so many parts of the story that come together to make a beautiful book.
I won't say more because I think anyone who is a fan of this author and/or is interesting in this book should experience it for themselves. I want to happy-cry every time I finish a Tessa Dare book! I think When a Scot Ties the Knot is still my all-time favorite book of hers, but this one isn't far behind. None of them are!
What I Did Not Like:
There is one tiny part of the climax that I didn't love, because it involves Ashbury swallowing his pride when Emma should have also swallowed hers. I definitely agree with Ashbury manning up and doing this and that, but I also think Emma should have backed down and swallowed her pride too. This is a huge pet peeve of mine in adult romance (across all genres - contemporary historical, paranormal, etc.). Emma had just as much to apologize and fight for.
It's not a huge deal and nothing to sink the book, just a pet peeve of mine that bothers me 99% of the time. In this case, it isn't so bad, but it's still there. Emma hurt Ashbury (in the climax) as much as he hurt her, so I wanted to see them BOTH make amends. Hence the four-star rating (as opposed to five stars).
Would I Recommend It:
I highly recommend this book to any historical romance fan out there! Start this new series and then go read some of her older books! I also recommend the Castles Ever After series and the Spindle Cove series. I need to read her books besides those, but yeah, you're pretty much safe with any Dare book that you choose. I'm loving her more recent more though! If you want fun, sweet, swoony, sexy historical romance, look no further. (Well, I could give you other recommendations of other authors' books too. But Dare does historical romance SO WELL.)
4.5 stars. You know why I'm rounding down. But seriously, this book was magical. It reminds me of The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane by Elizabeth Boyle, with a scarred and grouchy hero and a persistent and sweet heroine who won't leave him alone. And also has an annoying (but endearing) cat. Plus the sort-of hate-to-love romance. Except The Duchess Deal involves a marriage of convenience early on in the story, and I love that trope. Anyway, this book was awesome and you should not miss it if you enjoy adult historical romance!
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