One of my absolutely favorite tropes to read is a couple who is already married and working towards their happily ever after. I know there are some readers and reviewers out there who think a marriage before the end of the book somehow ruins the tension of the book, but I’ve never seen it that way. We’re in the historical romance genre, and if your characters are heterosexual, there’s like a 99.88% chance they’ll get married, so why does it matter when it happens?
I mentioned in the review for The Courtship that the biggest aspect of the Percy/Esther relationship I was eager to read more about was the manner in which Percy’s illegitimate children came to live with the household and was raised as one of the Windham children. The Duke and His Duchess purports to tell that story.
I like this novella a lot less than the first one mostly because I feel like this is the wrong space to tell the story Grace Burrowes had in mind. She not only wants to address the presence of Devon and Maggie, but also a larger problem within the Windham marriage as Percy and Esther await the inevitable death of not only his father, but his perpetually ill elder brother. There’s a dark cloud over everyone in this book, but Burrowes wasn’t interested in this part of the story or doing anything with the world she set up back at Morelands.
I found myself frustrated with Percy and Esther for a few reasons I’ll get into in the spoilers section, but there was just too much plot for so little space and none of the stories were told with the capability I expect from Grace Burrowes. But this novella does what it sets out to do and explains why Devon and Maggie have been raised as part of the legitimate household. It’s fine, but honestly, you probably don’t need to read it more than once.
I’m really disappointed in the space devoted to Percy and Esther’s relationship because I don’t understand how the candid and forthright Esther of The Courtship has become the Esther in this book after five years. During literally their first conversation, Percy was so comforted by her presence and trusted her so quickly that he confessed that he shot his superior during an ambush to avoid a massacre of natives. I don’t buy that within five years these two wouldn’t have just…talked about their issues.
The entire conflict with Percy and Esther is their inability to be honest and open with each other. I’m not saying I don’t think that’s not a thing that could happen after five years of marriage and four children, I’m saying that this shift in their characters and relationship isn’t motivated or explained. I think Esther was suffering from post-partum depression and I get that Burrowes can’t call it that but I just don’t think there was enough there to really make it work.
I also found it fascinating that both Percy and Esther thought about the fact Percy might take a mistress. Percy even considers it because he doesn’t want to get Esther pregnant again, as they’re very fertile and repeated pregnancies have drained her health. I’m not mad that it’s in here — it’s clear that they’ve both been brought up with this expectation of society marriages — but I wanted a bit more between them on the subject.
I guess that really sums up this book for me — I just wanted more. All of the elements are there, but nothing goes far enough.
The Duke and His Duchess
Overall One of my absolutely favorite tropes to read is a couple who is already married and working towards their happily ever after. I know there are some readers and reviewers out there who ...