What happens when an impoverished duke with a reputation for being a rogue collides with a strong-willed heiress who wants to explore the world? An unlikely friendship…and unexpected passion.
Reading romance is mostly about a feeling. The heroine can work, or the hero can work, but for the book to actually do so, there needs to be a spark. A moment on the page where all of the sudden, it’s clear. These people — even if they just met, even if it doesn’t make one iota of sense — must end up together. Christi Caldwell‘s Desperately Seeking a Duchess hits you with that moment very early on, in a way that makes the rest of the book a delight.
As a long-time romance reader, I despair at the thought of comparing everything to Bridgerton as if that is the only romance series to ever exist, but the mainstream popularity of the show makes the comparison necessary in this case, if only to get some people interested. You want family vibes? Desperately Seeking a Duchess has those in spades, and the dynamic between Courtland and his siblings is sometimes as interesting as the romance brewing between him and Cailin.
Which is not a knock on the romance at all, the kind of friends-to-lovers romance novels don’t actually go for as much, because …I mean, we just want the lovers part to happen ASAP, please and thank you. There’s something exhilarating, however, about seeing two people connect in the way Cailin and Courtland do, mostly because we — and they — realize it’s more than friendship, but circumstances, their own stated desires and oh yes, “the ways of Polite society,” continue to keep them apart.
Regency requires a bit of a suspension of disbelief, but there’s hardly any need for it with this book. In many ways, Cailin behaves the way I feel I would if I were stuck in this time. We all have to make the best of our circumstances, of course, and she doesn’t have the benefit of having experience the freedoms we have today — even if we still have a long way to go — but part of what works so well about her as a heroine is that she isn’t exactly what we expect out of a Regency heroine, even if in many ways, she is the typical romance heroine.
Then there’s Courtland, who is very interesting because of his family, but still wholly captivating outside of them. Not that he’s perfect, he’s anything but, and our first impression of him is more about the spark than about convincing us the character is all that great. Which is why the family aspect works as well as it does, it humanizes him, and it does so in a way that’s easy to understand. He loves his family. He’d do anything for his family. That’s pretty easy to understand.
And if his family would do anything for him too, well …that’s matter for another book, isn’t it?
Desperately Seeking a Duchess works because the main couple works, but it doesn’t work just when the two are on the page together, it still works when they’re not, when we’re going through our expected momentary angst, when the characters don’t seem to get what everyone else understands. And if you couple that with the fact that the book is a pretty fun, easy read, then you have the perfect romance novel to curl up with and just relax.
Desperately Seeking a Duchess by Christi Caldwell is available today wherever books are sold. You can read the full synopsis for the book below:
Cailin Audley doesn’t fit in with Polite Society. A life spent among the working class taught her to value her independence in a way no newfound fortune or glittering ballroom could ever erase. When a major misstep sees the new heiress whisked away to the English countryside, Cailin soon realizes the vexing lengths her family will go to see her settled. But having risked her heart once before, Cailin has no interest in the men of the ton–especially not the frustratingly charming Duke of St. James.
Courtland Balfour, the Duke of St. James, devoted brother and notorious rogue, despises what he must become–a fortune hunter. But with the ducal coffers drained by his late, spendthrift of a father, Courtland knows his duty lies at the altar and he will do anything to ensure a future for his siblings. Just his luck that the one lady who could make this new fate bearable, who enflames him like no other, is the one woman who wants nothing to do with him or his title.
But when an act of desperation inadvertently lands he and Cailin at the heart of another scandal, Courtland knows better than to waste his chance. Surely he can convince Cailin to love him?