Reviewed by Ambrea
The Duke of Ashbury—Ash to his friends, if he had any—is a man faced with a problem: he needs an heir, but, in order to get an heir, he first needs a wife. Not necessarily a tall order for someone with a title and wealth beyond measure, but Ash has suffered a disastrous end to his military career, he’s badly scarred, he’s been jilted by his fiancée, and he’s become a curmudgeon and a recluse. He fears he’ll have no luck convincing any lady to marry him—that is, until he meets Emma Gladstone.
Emma has spent the last several years as a seamstress, so she’s no stranger to hard work or demanding nobility, but even the Duke of Ashbury manages to surprise her. He broods, he glowers, he menaces. He has a sharp tongue and a quick temper, and he has the audacity to ask her to marry him on the spot. She knows a marriage would never work between them—or would it?
Admittedly, Tessa Dare’s books are sometimes hit-or-miss for me. For instance, I really liked reading Romancing the Duke, but I didn’t much care for Do You Want to Start a Scandal? (Truthfully, I can’t even remember picking it up, but if Goodreads says I’ve read it, I’ve read it. Probably.) Likewise, I enjoyed When a Scot Ties the Knot, but I felt only lukewarm toward A Lady by Midnight, I wasn’t a fan of the Once Upon a Winter’s Eve novella, and I kind of hated How to Catch a Wild Viscount.
But I’ve found The Duchess Deal, which is narrated by Mary Jane Wells, is an absolute treat.
I originally listened to the audiobook last year and I enjoyed it so thoroughly that I finished it within two days. I listened to it a second time a few months later—and, earlier this year, I listened to it again, because I have definitely fallen head-over-heels in love with this story.
The Duchess Deal is humorous and fun, light and sweet, and, in a way, it’s comforting. I always know it’s going to have a happy ending and, more to the point, I know that I’m going to enjoy Ash and Emma’s banter as they navigate their marriage—and their baggage—and, in time, create something meaningful. I loved the way they interacted and, in particular, I loved how wonderfully Mary Jane Wells narrates the novel.
Although I think the subplot with the “Monster of Mayfair” was a bit unnecessary—not unenjoyable, just not needed—I really liked reading and listening to The Duchess Deal. In fact, I think I can honestly say it’s one of my favorite romance novels of all time. (Historical romance, that is. My favorite contemporary romance novel is currently a tie between Jennifer Crusie’s Faking It and Tawna Fenske’s Making Waves, but that’s a different conversation.)
Overall, The Duchess Deal is a great read. It’s light, it’s fluffy, it’s humorous and sweet; it isn’t overwrought or terribly angsty, and it isn’t overinflated. It falls into that Goldilocks category—not too short and not too long, not too saccharine sweet and not too dark. It’s just right.