It is a truth universally to be accepted by readers of historical romance that a young woman, if beloved by the man of her dreams, will blossom under the sun of love and acceptance. This proves to be true for Boston-bred Penelope Clayton in Callie Hutton's The Duke's Quandary. After the death of her father, a noteworthy botanist and her frequent collaborator, Penelope moved back to England, where she lived a quiet life in the country. Surrounded by plants and books, Penelope’s sole interaction with the outside world is in her secret role as a male botanist—one with a growing reputation in the field. This pastoral existence, like Eden, cannot endure, and one day Penelope’s aunt writes to say that a London Season is a must.
I feel I would not be doing justice to my sister’s memory by allowing her only child to rusticate in the country, faced with no more of a future than life as a spinster.
Penelope is socially awkward and a bit clumsy as well, mostly because she has not been encouraged to wear her glasses in public. Who of us could glide through life if we couldn’t see where we were going? When Penelope arrives in London she does not make a particularly good impression on the young Duke of Manchester and his bevy of sisters.