Caroline Linden, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-9971494-2-5
Historical Romance, 2013
When I Met My Duchess was originally published in the indie anthology At the Duke’s Wedding back in 2013, and I believe this one was also part of a boxed set once upon a time. Don’t be taken aback by the price I listed above – I purchased the trade paperback version of this book, hence the price, due to Amazon not wanting scummy third world people to patronize their digital bookstore – the actual digital copy should be priced much lower.
Anyway, the story. Gareth Cavendish, our Duke of Wessex hero, believes that he has met his perfect bride-to-be in Helen Grey, the daughter of Sir William who has mismanaged his finances and decided to haul his daughter off to a marriage that would benefit both families. When the story opens, Gareth heads off to meet his bride-to-be for the first time (everything up to that point has been handled by his secretary James Blair), only to find himself attracted to the eldest daughter Cleopatra Barrows instead.
Cleo is considered dead to her father because she dared to marry a man of trade once upon a time, although she notes that her father doesn’t mind using the funds from her shop to keep himself and the rest of the family to a certain standard of living. She is here for her sister, whom she is happy for, especially since Gareth is so handsome… until she learns that the whole marriage thing is handled like a cow sale by all parties, and poor Helen is clearly unhappy about her impending nuptial.
This is a novella, so the usual limitations apply. Although in this case, the limitations stand out more than before because there are issues like the hero and the heroine being of different rungs of society’s ladder. Having these issues pretty much swept under the rug due to the lack of space is pretty galling, because the very issues that are swept away are the same ones that make this story different from the usual same-old, same-old fare offered in the Regency-era historical romances out there.
And this story is refreshing in many ways. Cleo is not blind to her father’s BS and even calls him out on it in the end, which is glorious. Both she and Gareth have a very nicely done relationship development, as both seem to really know one another in all the ways that matter by the time the happy ending smacks everyone in the face. It is easy to see that James and Helen are smitten with one another – the author actually makes this very clear from the very first page – but those two are pretty adorable in their own way. There are no clear cut stereotypes here.
Which is why, as I’ve said, it is disappointing that this story comes to a close when I feel that the party could have been longer and so much more fun as a result. I like this story, I’m glad to have read it, but I really wish it had been a full length story and made far more of an impact.