Book Review: The Duchess by Bertrice Small

My most recent choice for my Bookshelf Cleanout was The Duchess by Bertrice Small. Historical fiction of any sort is always interesting for me, and since I do write a lot of romance I end up reading a lot of it, too!

The Duchess: A Novel by [Bertrice Small]

From the Cover:

As the daughter of the richest man in England, Allegra Morgan attracts a number of fortune hunters willing to overlook her flawed pedigree to gain her enormous wealth. Her most ardent suitor is the arrogant but impoverished Quinton Hunter, duke of Sedgwick, who has little to offer a prospective wife except his grand title. Allegra decides that if she must marry, she might as well be a duchess. So she agrees to the match with one condition: her husband must never ask for her love. She has seen the misery love can cause and has vowed to give her heart to no man–especially a dangerously alluring duke.

Quinton is dazzled by his new wife’s grace and fortitude, as well as the fierce desire that rages between them. Despite his best intentions, he finds himself falling in love with her. Then the terrors of the French Revolution hit close to home, and the two of them set off on a treacherous adventure that could cost them everything . . . including their final chance at happiness.

What I Loved: Bertrice Small certainly did her research on the period. I know what a difficult task that can be, especially when it comes to clothing. Given the detailed description of every outfit, this was clearly not a problem for the author. The political happenings of the world are often mentioned, and these do have some impact on the characters. The dialog was well written, and most of the main characters were fleshed out and easily distinguishable.

What I Didn’t Love: While there’s plenty of historical detail, some of it is dumped into the story in a heap of exposition that’s poorly disguised as dialog. I wouldn’t mind this method too much, except that I don’t think anything more than a line or two was needed in these instances.

While I was interested to see how a very poor man with a title and a very rich girl without one would work out, I thought the first half of the book dragged quite a bit. Toward the end, the main characters go on an adventure that, while not unenjoyable, felt like it was just dropped in to give the plot some oomph before the end.

I have to be honest here: I really didn’t like the love scenes. While they were passionate, they were rather unrealistic. I can’t say I was a fan of the word choice in these scenes, either, but I acknowledge that’s often a matter of preference.

Rating and Recommendation: There are definitely some things about The Duchess that had me complaining, but considering that there really is a story here (and an arc for both of the main characters), I have to give credit where due. It wasn’t my cup of tea, and I probably won’t seek out more by this author, but I can’t say it was particularly bad, either. I give it a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. I think, if anything, this book proves that everyone is looking for something different.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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