Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Day of the Duchess

The Day of the Duchess (Scandal and Scoundrel #3) by Sarah MacLean (2017)

Malcolm Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, hasn't forgotten about his wife since she day she left. He searched everywhere for her, and now she is back and she wants a divorce. But that isn't easy in Regency England and the only way Malcolm will consent is if Seraphina helps him find a new wife. So they're off to the country together to meet some eligible young women and determine which one the Duke should marry. Of course his only plan for the summer is to win back Sera, the only woman he truly cares about.

This is a great setup because the hero and heroine are already married. But boy did they both mess things up early in their relationship! They had been in love, but Sera wasn't certain he wanted to actually marry her because of her family's reputation so she tricked him into marriage. He was outraged, thinking this meant she didn't actually love him, and wanted nothing to do with her. They were brought together again briefly by an event that turned tragic, and that's when Sera fled to America and started a new life. But her goals now involve owning a business, and married women can't own property, hence her need for a divorce.

You might remember the Dangerous Daughters from my post about The Rogue Not Taken, the heroine of which was Seraphina's sister. In fact, during one memorable scene Sophie found Sera's husband, Malcolm, in a compromising position with another woman and pushed him into a fish pond. Now, Sera has brought all of her sisters with her as she undertakes the job of finding Malcolm a new wife. It's quite a support system too, especially given how much they all dislike him for making their sister miserable. Sera's sisters are outspoken and hilarious, though I keep confusing them all with each other since their names all begin with S.

Of course it all becomes obvious very soon that Sera is just as much in love with Malcolm as he is with her, despite all they've been through together. They both hurt each other in pretty intense ways and getting past that is difficult. In this way, this is probably one of the messiest and realistic romances I've read. The current story is alternated with flashbacks to their early relationship and all the events that surround it, so the full story is filled in as we go. This is pretty common in books these days, but I don't think I've read a romance structured this way, so that was a nice surprise as well.

As one would expect from any novel by Sarah MacLean, it's filled with cheeky humor. In the scene when Seraphina first meets Malcolm and addresses him as "my lord" he responds by telling her it should be "Your Grace." To which she replies: "How did you know how throughly women enjoy being corrected by men? And over forms of address, especially. It is a great wonder that none of us have ever fallen in love with you."

In another part, when Malcolm says he wouldn't trust Sera's sisters around unmarried men because of their reputations, she laments: "Oh, yes. Poor unmarried men, weak-willed, doughy boys with neither control nor intelligence. So easily marked and ruined by women-- ever more powerful...Poor, sad men, so kind and blameless, fairly wandering the streets in their impotent impressionability." I really enjoyed Sera a lot.

But her sisters were just as cutting. When a man tells Sesily what he thinks he wants, she responds, "I do like it when a man tells me about myself. It's positively aphrodisiacal." To which he says "I'm an American, my lady. Don't flummox me with all your big words." It was all so very satisfying.

When I began this series, I think I assumed there'd be a book for each of the five sisters, but then the second book was about someone outside of the family, and a couple of the sisters got married between books. I know MacLean has a new series coming out so this might be it for this series, except for what I think will be a novella about the relationship between Sesily and the aforementioned American. At any rate, I'm sure whatever she writes will be her usual mix of smart, feminist, fun and delightful.

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