Roseanna M. White. The Reluctant Duchess. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.
With the last episode of Downton Abbey behind us, Edwardian England feels like a distant memory. Granted, I know there are plenty of people who would be excited to see more movies, books, and television focused on that historical period. Fortunately, Roseanna M. White has been producing some excellent stories that definitely fit the bill.
As the second novel in Ms. White’s Ladies of the Manor series, The Reluctant Duchess picks up soon after the events of The Lost Heiress. In order to keep the Duke and Duchess of Stafford safe, they willingly place a priceless treasure in the hands of their friend, Brice Myerston, the Duke of Nottingham. He intends to distance himself and the treasure from the people willing to resort to murder to possess it. However, he soon finds himself visiting the Highlands with his family. There he meets Lady Rowena Kinnaird, an heiress in her own right who must escape from an abusive family and a violent fiancé. Brice offers an unexpected solution to Rowena’s problems, although she finds herself encompassed in his elaborate plan to protect the treasure at all costs.
Ms. White offers an intriguing follow-up novel to The Lost Heiress. With a newfound focus on the Scottish Highlands, The Reluctant Duchess presents a unique story reminiscent of Downton Abbey’s later seasons.
Overall, I quite enjoyed reading The Reluctant Duchess. Ms. White creates a nice, character-driven story that will capture the attention of readers interested in Edwardian England. However, I found myself somewhat distracted by the novel’s somewhat generic plot and use of relatively few historical details. I thought The Lost Heiress was rather brilliant, in part because of its unique focus on the leading lady’s backstory in Monaco and interest in the newest innovations. In comparison, The Reluctant Duchess offered far less historical connections to the time period, which resulted in many aspects of the novel appearing remarkably similar to Regency-era Christian fiction titles. Other than a periodic reference to a car being driven for transportation purposes, the story never took on the time period-specific or unique qualities of The Reluctant Duchess. Most readers will likely focus their attention, instead, on the characters themselves and appreciate the Highland flair introduced to the novel by the inclusion of Lady Rowena’s presence in the series. Likewise, they will relish the opportunity to see the continuation of the storyline and characters from the series’ first novel.
Fans of Ms. White’s other works, particularly The Lost Heiress, will want to read The Reluctant Duchess. Likewise, those interested in novels with British settings or storylines similar to those found in Downton Abbey will also find the book to be a worthwhile read. Ms. White utilizes a moderate plot and relatively approachable writing style that makes The Reluctant Duchess a nice read.
A Lady Unrivaled, the third novel of Ms. White’s Ladies of the Manor series, will be arriving in September 2016!
Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for an advanced copy of The Reluctant Duchess!
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