Not Even for a Duke
Not Even For a Duke is a story about a widow determined not to be taken in by love again, only to unexpectedly meet her match.
Aurora Sherborne has everything she needs, and as the Dowager Countess of Radcliff, she is in control of her destiny. Her first marriage was a living hell, and Aurora is determined never again to put her safety in another’s hands. With the support of her friends, Aurora throws herself whole-heartedly into charitable works, and the establishment of a girls’ school on a property she owns. Unfortunately, she is constantly besieged by her meddling mother, who is determined to see her daughter remarried and has commenced throwing eligible bachelors into Aurora’s path.
Garrett Winslow has just inherited his father’s dukedom, and has returned from his travels abroad. Despite the distance and years passing, Garrett has never stopped loving Aurora, his childhood friend and playmate. By the time Aurora returned from school, her father had already organized a match for her, leaving Garrett heartbroken. As he takes up management of his estates, he cannot stop thinking about Aurora, and hoping that perhaps she aspires to more than friendship.
I loved both Garrett and Aurora; they are well-written and excellently characterized. I love a man who pines, and Garrett does, but he is also incredibly respectful and always puts Aurora first. He is unfailingly patient with her, and always treats her like an equal. Aurora is a sensible, kind and intelligent person who has been terribly traumatized by her marriage. This trauma causes her to behave irrationally at times, but the people around her care deeply and ensure that she is taken care of. Aurora isn’t hysterical or unreasonable, she just can’t see past her experience of marriage, and this makes it hard for her to see the truth sometimes. There is a particularly poignant scene where Aurora’s friends ask her why she would never consider marrying Garrett, because she knows he loves her and would never hurt her. She can’t give them an answer that makes sense, because her judgement is being clouded by her PTSD. It’s almost humorous as her friends look aghast at one another, unsure of what to do.
I loved the cast of characters, who are all interesting in their own ways; I would definitely consider reading some of the other books in this series.
The one thing I was not a big fan of was the number of truly awful men who were scheming and targeting Aurora as a prospective bride. It would make sense to have one or two men in the book who pursue her, but you would think from the story that she has a big flashing light over her head that says PLEASE ABUSE THIS WIDOW. It seemed more than a bit contrived that almost every man who is interested in her is a bad guy. It does at least make narrative sense that her mother was the primary source of the unwanted suitors problem; it’s completely in character that Aurora’s mother, who never gave Aurora a season and married her to a man she’d never met, would see Aurora being unmarried and childless as a failure. But I thought it was out of character that Aurora would seek a husband with whom she could have a businesslike marriage and lead separate lives, and consider men she barely knew. Aurora has ALL of the trust issues, and as a reader I wasn’t convinced that she would seek a convenient marriage in this way just because she wants a child. I would have thought she’d be more likely to consider marrying a man – like Garrett – she knew she could trust to keep to the arrangement, and I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t look amongst her acquaintances for a good candidate.
Despite those reservations, Not Even For a Duke is a charming read, and a fun story about second chances at love.