Saturday, September 26, 2015

Complications Afoot: The Reluctant Duchess by Sharon Cullen

Lady Sara Emerson was jolted out of her dull provincial life by her cousin’s murder. Now that the killer seems to be targeting her, Sara seeks help from the man who was once her cousin’s fiancĂ©, Gabriel Ferguson, Duke of Rossmoyne. With his towering frame and fiery personality, Ross cuts an intimidating figure. Living under his protection, however, has its own hazards—like the sudden urge Sara feels to take their relationship in new, exquisitely inappropriate directions.

Dazzled by the social graces of his betrothed, Ross never noticed her shy, blushing cousin. Looking at Sara now, though, he’s drawn to her lovely eyes and calm disposition. Funny how a year away from the hustle and bustle of the tonchanges a man. But Ross has no intention of allowing a woman to interfere with his plan to return overseas. He will simply capture the murderer and set sail once again. The problem is, with her beguiling lips and heavenly touch, Sara makes him never want to leave home—or his bed—again.

I think it is safe to say that I have read hundreds of historical romance novels, short stories, and novellas, and have come to feel that I cannot ever again read one that conforms to one of several formulas that seemed to be the templates all historical novel authors followed.  Most assuredly, there are some authors whose work has indeed set the bar for all who follow, but even those novels often begin to all sound or feel the same.  Such is not the case with this new novel by Sharon Cullen.  She is an author who seems to find bits and pieces to toss into the action of her stories that bring in the twists and turns, the complications and the angst that make a story come alive and stop it from being just another historical.   I am ever amazed at the creativity of some many writers and Ms Cullen is one of them.

Suffice it to say there is a heroine who is reluctant to be one, much less reluctant to become the talk of the ton by marrying one of its most distinguished members.  The Duke of Rossmoyne is known for being the erstwhile fiance of a murdered woman as well as going abroad to India as the Queen's ambassador and peace negotiator.  Returning to London is not his idea and from the moment his foot lands on English soil his life becomes something he has been trying to avoid for years and wants to be shed of as soon as possible.  

Those familiar with the latter years of Queen Victoria's reign will recognize some of the difficulties this man encounters as he is hoping to make quick work of reporting to the Queen and then hastening back to his Indian home.  It is not to be.  Her majesty was known for being a difficult woman to deal with, a troubled woman who has never let go of her grief over the death of her Prince Consort, and who then proceeded to cause almost everyone in the kingdom to take a back seat to that grief.  Thus, Ross is stuck, and in being stuck, he is also made aware of several things he had hoped to avoid.  One, the allure of his dead fiance's cousin, a woman he had previously never noticed;  and two, the danger that arises to her which then causes him to be increasingly concerned for her personal safety.

All in all, this is a wonderful read and one that will please those readers who really love a colorful, complicated, energetic historical romance.  No long drawn out monologues, just lots of interaction and a balanced amount of introspection on the part of the main characters.  Just nicely proportioned, I would say.  And most of all, for those of us who really love the English language, this book is written well, uses good vocabulary, proper tenses, and doesn't overuse adjectives, one of my personal pet peeves.  I highly recommend this novel and hope that all of you who love historical fiction will enjoy it as much as I did.  I give it a 5 out of 5 rating.

Please check out The Book Binge for more really great reviews.

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