Daring to Love the Duke's Heir
Janice Preston continues her Beauchamp Heirs series (featuring the children of Leo, Duke of Cheriton from the Beauchamp Betrothals series) with Daring to Love the Duke’s Heir, which sees the very proper and reserved Dominic, Marquess of Avon, meeting his match in the form of exactly the sort of young woman he can never consider as a potential bride. It’s a buttoned-up-hero-meets-free-spirited-heroine story, which I have to admit, is a trope I’m often a little wary of; some authors make their free-spirited heroines into annoyingly reckless, frequently TSTL caricatures who make me wonder what on earth the hero could possibly see in them. Fortunately, however, Ms. Preston doesn’t fall into that trap, and her heroine manages to be just the sort of breath of fresh air our hero needs while remaining firmly on the right side of the line between spirited and stupid.
Liberty Lovejoy and her siblings – her twin brother, Gideon and their sisters Hope and Verity – are in London for the Season following Gideon’s unexpected ascension to the title of Earl of Wendover. Liberty has no plans to attract a suitor; she was in love with her fiancé, who died of cholera some five years earlier and she has no wish to replace him, but she has hopes that her sisters will find good matches. Her brother, however, is giving her cause for concern, having got himself in with an undesirable set of young bucks who are clearly leading him astray, and having been unable to make Gideon see the error of his ways, she decides to take another tack. She’s led to believe that the man responsible for her brother’s sudden waywardness is Lord Alexander Beauchamp, younger son of the Duke of Cheriton, so she decides to speak to the duke, make him aware of her concerns and ask him to rein Alex in. When she arrives at the duke’s London residence however, she encounters Lord Alexander himself on the doorstep and tells him immediately what has brought her to Beauchamp House – only to discover that she’s not talking to Lord Alexander at all, but to his older brother Dominic, Marquess of Avon, who is widely known to be the most correct and upstanding gentleman in the entire ton. Oops. Liberty is thrown even further onto the back foot by the fact that this rather disdainful man has the face of a Greek God [and] the body of a warrior – but her irritation swiftly returns when the marquess tells her that her brother is undoubtedly following in the footsteps of many a young gentleman when faced with the delights London has to offer, and suggests that she is being rather too over-protective. This, of course, doesn’t go down very well, but Liberty is somewhat appeased when Avon says he’ll have a word with his brother.
Readers of Ms. Preston’s Beauchamp Betrothals series will no doubt recall Dominic, Leo’s eldest son and heir as being somewhat aloof and rather serious, intent on doing his duty and the right thing at all costs. Still intent on doing his duty, he has decided that it’s time he got married and secured the succession and is determined to choose a bride this Season, a young woman of good breeding, perfect behaviour and excellent bloodlines.
Needless to say, that young woman will be nothing at all like the outspoken Miss Lovejoy, whose flashing eyes, lively manner and lush figure Dominic can’t seem to banish from his mind. Berating himself for his folly and reminding himself of his late mother’s final request that he make her proud, he sets about making a list of the most suitable, eligible young ladies of the ton, determined to select one of them to be his marchioness. With the Season in full swing, it’s a simple matter to make arrangements for drives or walks in the park, to dance at balls and to pay morning calls… but it’s not so simple to avoid encountering Liberty Lovejoy, beside whom all the other very suitable, very proper young ladies start to appear stilted and insipid.
Daring to Love the Duke’s Heir is a marvellous slow-burn romance between two people who are, at first glance, complete opposites, but who really have more in common than it first seems. Dominic is so mired in the need to be the dutiful son, a need which stems back to his mother’s neglect when he was just a boy, that he has spent most of his adult life disregarding his own wishes and happiness. He’s driven to be the perfect son, the perfect heir, the perfect everything, but can’t see that the only thing those who love him really want from him is for him to be happy. Liberty has taken on a similiar role within her own family, that of looking out for everyone else and putting herself last, and has to come to a similar conclusion – that it’s alright for her to want things for herself. I wasn’t sure about her at first, because I found her need to ‘save’ Gideon from himself rather annoying; I understood her concern, but she came across as too sanctimonious and interfering. Fortunately however, she improves quickly and before long, I was enjoying her interactions with Dominic, which are extremely entertaining and well-written and rooting for them as a couple. He gradually starts to unbend in her presence, and though he fights his attraction to Liberty almost all the way, he is ultimately helpless in the face of it. I liked Liberty’s degree of self-awareness when she comes to realise that she’s ready to move on and find love again, and then again, when she tries to get Dominic to realise that he’s allowed to be happy and to want things for himself, even though those things may not include her.
Daring to Love the Duke’s Heir is a richly romantic, character-driven story featuring a couple who experience considerable growth (Dom especially) through their association, each offering the other something they badly need. I did take issue with the way Dom is constantly harking back to his mother’s insistence that he do his duty and make her proud; given she died when he was eight and had never shown him the merest scrap of interest or affection I found it difficult to believe that a man now in his late twenties would accord her words such importance. Other than that, however, I enjoyed the book very much and am pleased to give it a strong recommendation.