My Scandalous Duke
Theresa Romain / November 15, 2016 / $2.99 digital
After three years of widowhood, Eleanor Palmer is ready for a second marriage. The first time she married the younger son of an earl, “the most flashy, dashing rogue in London,” after three season of vainly hoping Nicholas Bradford, heir to the Duke of Hampshire, would look at her with something other than friendship. This time Eleanor is ready for respectability, stability, and children. She has no illusions that Nicholas, now the Duke of Hampshire, will be more than a good friend. The man she is looking for will be “the most proper, the stolidest, the most staid man possible,” the very opposite of the scandalous duke.
Theresa Romain uses color throughout her novella to contrast the life Eleanor has been living and the life she thinks she wants with the vibrant life that love can offer. The prodigality of her husband forced her to give up the fashionable wardrobe of her girlhood and make do with refurbished gowns during her eight years of marriage. After her husband’s death Eleanor dyed her worn gowns the black of deep mourning. Nicholas thinks of them as “Plain and jetty, they bled the color from her face and made her look wan.” More recently, she has worn half-mourning: “Some were dyed again in grays and lavenders—wan colors for a widow’s half-life.”
Eleanor’s true nature is revealed in small details such as a favorite shawl, a birthday gift from her beloved brother, “a heavy gold silk embroidered in intricate patterns of red and rust” and her favorite flowers, red roses, “Great large ones.”
With Nicholas to offer his mother’s fashionable house for the London season and to escort her to card parties and balls, Eleanor is set for her husband hunt. She finds a worthy suitor almost immediately, and he is quite taken with her. He is all that Eleanor thought she wanted, but he turns her world pale and gray. He brings her pink roses, and as they walk together, the sky changes from sun-drenched to “a pewter shade that belied the early hour.” The worthy suitor’s hair “shone the same pewter as the sky.” Most telling of all, just before she accepts his proposal, “she felt…sort of pewter inside. A little gray, not as shiny or precious as she’d hoped.” Afterwards Eleanor contemplates her reflection in the mirror: “In the glass, her eyes looked shadowed. Had she not known their color, she would not be able to tell what it was.”
In contrast, when Eleanor attends a ball with Nicholas, she is vivid. She carries the red roses he has given her. Nicholas thinks of her laughing face as “a sunbeam backed by the purple of nightfall.” Her gown completes the picture:
She was wearing a simple gown tonight, but it was a color. Not a mourning gown; this one was deep, drenched, vivid even in the low light. The color of wine on a just-kissed mouth. Her eyes were curious and liquid.
When Eleanor makes her decision that her suitor, though doubtless worthy, is wrong for her, she exchanges “the white and black gown . . . that was so severely elegant” for an old gown in which she feels pretty, “her blue gown and her hair was properly a-tumble.” When Nicholas looks at her he sees not just tumbled brown hair but “Brown with a hint of red in it, that looks rich and wild by the light of a candle and like spun copper under the noon sun.” The reader can rest assured that Eleanor and her scandalous duke can look forward to a happy and colorful life.
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Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724.