When a Duke Loves a Woman
When a Duke Loves a Woman, book two in Lorraine Heath’s Sins for All Seasons series, is the story of the unlikely pairing of a duke and a tavern owner. Gillie Trewlove leads what she considers to be a perfectly good life. Her family is extremely close-knit, and she owns a successful tavern, making her an independent woman. She knows polite society would be appalled at the very thought of a woman of good breeding working in such an environment, but the practical, level-headed Gillie has no reason to concern herself with what the upper class thinks.
When Gillie witnesses a well-dressed man being beaten and robbed in the alley behind her tavern, she hurries to his rescue. The man’s attackers flee into the night, and Gillie is able to bring the stranger inside and begin caring for his many wounds. She knows it’s not exactly seemly for a man who isn’t a member of her family to be in her residence, but she sees no other way of keeping him alive.
The Duke of Thornley – Thorne – can’t remember when he’s had a more horrific day. He was supposed to get married, but his bride jilted him at the altar, and he has no idea why. The two had been betrothed since childhood, and while they were never in love with one another, they seemed to hold each other in high regard. Thorne begins searching for his bride-to-be, and ends up the victim of a robbery gone wrong. Now, he’s fighting for his life in the house of a beautiful woman who is unlike anyone he’s ever known.
Thorne and Gillie are immediately drawn to one another, and, once Thorne is well enough to return to his own home, he begs Gillie to help him continue the search for his missing fiancée. Gillie knows it would be far wiser to cut all ties with the handsome duke, but she can’t quite bring herself to do it, and so, she’s drawn into the search.
AAR reviewers Shannon and Lisa sat down to share their impressions of this latest offering from Lorraine Heath.
Shannon: I’ve read a few of the author’s other British-set historical romances, and I found them to be quite satisfying. I’d heard wonderful things about the first book in this particular series, and, while I’m usually kind of a stickler for reading series in order, I decided to give this second installment a try. What about you? Did you read the first book, or was this your introduction to the Trewlove family?
Lisa: This is my first book in the series, too! I’ve been waiting for an excellent historical romance to finally surface and make itself known this year. This one…is definitely good, though not perfect. About high-to-mid range for a Heath in my estimation. What did you think, Shannon?
Shannon: That sounds about right. This isn’t my favorite of her novels, but it’s a great read all the same. In fact, Gillie might just be my favorite Heath heroine. She’s nothing like so many of the titled young ladies we read about in most of today’s historicals. I was drawn to her pragmatic nature, as well as to her kindness. Her backstory was quite interesting, and I’m eager to learn more about her and her family. What did you think of Gillie? Did you love her as much as I did?
Lisa: I positively adored brash, bold, fanciful, strong and wonderfully ridiculous Gillie!!! She was a perfect heroine; complex, vulnerable, but rough around the edges in a delightful way. Her backstory did a great job settling up the series that will follow.
Shannon: Thorne was a bit more difficult for me to warm up to. He seemed nice enough, but I sometimes felt he was just a little too perfect. I wanted him to have at least a couple flaws to make him seem more like a flesh and blood man. I did love his devotion to Gillie, and I also thought he treated his fiancée with quite a bit more compassion than a lot of men would have, and yet, there was something about him that niggled at me. Did you find him easy to like?
Lisa: I liked Thorne a lot more than you did, though I agree that a lot of his personal conflict was external. He did need a dot more ‘something’, but I liked his gallantry and beta heroism. The way he was over the moon for Gillie was fantastic.
Shannon: Perhaps it was the external nature of his conflict that bugged me. Speaking of Thorne’s devotion to Gillie, let’s talk a bit about the two of them as a couple. It’s not at all realistic that a duke and a tavern owner would be able to live happily ever after, but I was still really invested in their relationship. They had wonderful chemistry, and I had no trouble suspending my disbelief and cheering them on. They treated each other with such obvious respect and kindness, and I couldn’t bear the thought of them not spending the rest of their lives together. Sometimes, it’s nice to escape into a world where love really does conquer all. Did the romance end up working for you, or did you find it problematic?
Lisa: You actually pointed out the sole flaw I found with the plot; how heavily it borrowed from Cinderella! It was a darned good one, wasn’t it? Only Heath could write about two people falling in love while trying to sit up through the night to avoid concussion syndrome. They were as cute as a couple of buttons.
Shannon: What did you think of the rest of the Trewlove clan? We didn’t get to know any of them very well, but I found the glimpses we did get quite intriguing. I definitely plan to go back and read Beyond Scandal and Desire while I wait for the third book in the series to be released.
Lisa: I thought sometimes some of them leaned a little too heavily on cockney stereotypes, but otherwise I loved them too! Lavinia was also wonderfully sympathetic. I wish Thorne’s parents had been a lot less cartoonish and odious. Robin in particular was fun, the cheeky little cockney.
Shannon: You know, I’m not sure how I managed it, but I totally missed the Cinderella thing. Now that you mention it, I can totally see it, but it never occurred to me while I was reading the book. I guess I can’t be on top of things all the time. Anyway, you’re so right about Thorne’s parents being over the top. It was hard for me to take his mother seriously.
Lisa: What were the novel’s weaker points for you, besides Thorne? I think the only thing I’m willing to dock Heath for in this whole thing is the goofiness of the character’s names.
Shannon: Thorne was my main problem with the novel. It’s hard for me to completely love a book when something about the hero rubs me the wrong way. The romance itself was lovely, and almost all of the characters were easy to embrace. Thorne was just enough of a sour note to keep this from being a truly stellar read for me. The names were a bit strange, but I think that happens a lot in romance, so perhaps I’ve just grown accustomed to it.
Lisa: What’s your overall grade? I’m giving the book a solid A-; a good Heath, an enchanting Heath, a commendable and excellent historical romance, but not the best Heath I’ve ever read, leaning perhaps a little too hard on the Cinderella mythos.
Shannon: I’m going to go a little lower than you and give it a B+. There’s a lot to love here, but it didn’t quite make DIK territory for me.