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Robert Blaisdell, 9th Duke of Clermont, bears his title with unease. Brought up in a dysfunctional family, with a cold and absent mother and a father whose abhorrent acts of indiscretion included rape, has left Robert burdened and ashamed of his aristocratic privileges.
Wilhemina (Minnie) Pursling accepts that she is required to marry to secure not only her future but those of the beloved aunts who have raised her. With no fortune, position nor beauty to her claim, she cannot afford to be choosy.
When Minnie discovers the real reason for Robert's visit to her town of Leicester, she decides to blackmail the duke by threatening to reveal the truth. Robert proposes instead that he should pretend to be courting Minnie, thereby covering his real motives and actions. And at the same time bettering the marriage prospects for Minnie after he has left.
It would be understandable for readers to think the plot continues from this point as a courtship-of-convenience, perhaps leading to the inevitable-of-convenience. Readers of historical romances would know that is the expected and predictable path. But this is Courtney Milan and predictable is not in her vocabulary! The plot and characters are layered and complex. The romance is complemented with the intriguing mystery of Minnie's true identity. The prose and dialogue is mature and clever, interspersed with subtle humor.At times the story is heartbreaking as both Robert and Minnie’s childhoods are revealed.
Written with a keen understanding that historical fiction does not have to rely on romance tropes, flowery narrative or excessive and overly-graphic sex scenes to convey the passion of a man and woman falling in love, “The Duchess War” is an intelligent and beautiful story for grown women and a romance for the girl who still believes in fairy tales. Heartily, even passionately recommended!