Jul 22 2013 1:50pm

First Look: Manda Collins’s Why Dukes Say I Do (July 30, 2013)

Why Dukes Say I Do by Manda CollinsManda Collins
Why Dukes Say I Do
St. Martin’s / July 30, 2013 / $7.99 print & digital

Even in London society—where everyone knows what you did last season—you never know who’s next in line to walk down the aisle…

With her whirlwind social life in London, Lady Isabella Wharton has little interest in the customs of the country. But when her godmother asks her to pay a visit to her bachelor grandson in Yorkshire, Isabella can’t refuse. It behooves her to please the old dowager, since she harbors one of Isabella’s most scandalous secrets. So off she goes to see the newly-titled—and notoriously rustic—Duke of Ormond…

Trevor Carey doesn’t care about what goes on behind ballroom doors. He is content with the simple life—and isn’t ashamed to admit it to a society flirt like Lady Isabella. But the country air brings out a different side of Isabella—one full of longing and passion. Can her sophistication be hiding a desire for love? When a blackmailer from the city arrives to threaten Isabella, Trevor will shield her from harm—even travel to London. Can the duke tackle the ton on Isabella’s behalf …and manage to keep her all to himself?

Dislike at first sight is as common in romance novels as love at first sight. Too often for my taste authors do such a good job of convincing me that the hero and heroine dislike one another that I have difficulty accepting that their dislike has turned to love. This was not the case with Why Dukes Say I Do, because in this first book of her Wicked Widows series, Manda Collins shows how and why her hero and heroine’s perception of one another changes, a change that begins soon after their initial meeting.

Trevor Carey, Duke of Ormonde, happens upon Lady Isabella Wharton when her carriage has had an accident and almost immediately concludes that she is “some sort of social climber who had come to Nettlefield in search of the new duke to beg some favor of him.”  When he finds that she is his grandmother’s messenger sent to see that he comes to London to take his proper position in society, he acquits her of being a social climber but is nevertheless convinced that she is a frivolous, town-bred woman who cannot survive more than a few days in his world.

Isabella’s expectations of Trevor are based on what his grandmother has told her, and so she is prepared for a yokel. Before she realizes that the man who stopped to help her is the Duke of Ormonde, Isabella thinks he is a provincial worker, a mistake he encourages by adopting the dialect. She’s not terribly impressed with him even when she realizes that he is the duke, but she has to admit early on that neither he nor his home is as rustic as she anticipated.

“First the fellow she assumed was a common laborer turned out to be the Duke of Ormonde. Then the house she’d expected to have all the elegance and appointments of a shepherd’s cottage turned out to be a sturdily built manor house.”

I particularly appreciated the scene where Isabella and Ormonde discover that the other has a sense of humor. I think the importance of shared laughter receives too little attention in romance fiction despite a sense of humor often showing up among the ideal qualities readers look for in heroes and heroines. Shortly after they laugh together, Isabella and Ormonde also find out that they can talk to one another. Ormonde admits his surprise to himself: “He’d expected Isabella to be incapable of conversing about anything but the latest on-dit, but she had proved knowledgeable on a variety of topics, including, to his great surprise, the glamorous world of crop rotation.” By the end of their first extended conversation, they have shared bits of their pasts and their opinions on a variety of topics—the way people tend to do when they are learning to know one another.  How refreshing to spend time with a hero and heroine who laugh together and engage one another in real conversation.

As Isabella and Ormonde spend more time together, they continue to make discoveries about one another. They are not so consumed by immediate and irresistible lust that they lose interest in one another as people. They see beyond the superficial social masks that people construct. Ormonde described Isabella as “icy” early on, but after she joins him in visits to his tenants, Ormonde concludes that “She might seem on the surface to be a selfish beauty, but there was genuine interest in people beneath her veneer of sophistication.” For her part, Isabella recognizes that far from being the dull provincial she once thought him Ormonde is “a true gentleman” who is devoted to his younger sisters and appreciates his tenants, whom he knows by name and family history, as people. “His easygoing manner was, she realized, just as much a disguise as her own iciness.”

Because they have seen the person beneath the social façade, they grow to trust one another. Thus, they reach a point where there is no need to preserve secrets. Indeed, Isabella admits to feeling relieved when she feels free to tell Trevor of the threats she has been receiving. She is not really surprised when he confesses that he has been making decisions about the business of the Ormonde duchy for some time.

Their physical relationship intensifies in conjunction with their emotional relationship. There is one lovely scene that surely is a candidate for sexiest handholding scene. Ormonde removes one of Isabella’s gloves, and then she removes one of his.

Wordlessly he entwined their fingers and held her hand against his. Palm to palm.

There was something about the feel of his naked hand against hers that was more intoxicating than a kiss, more intimate than sex.

“Our hands fit well together,” Trevor said quietly.

I believe Trevor when he speaks these words, and I understand his words contain innuendo and metaphor. I believe his and Isabella’s declarations of love, just as I believe in their HEA, because I watched as their perceptions of one another shifted and deepened. It’s the HEAs that I truly believe in that keep me reading romance.

Learn more about or order a copy of Manda Collins's Why Dukes Say I Do, out July 30:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & NobleBuy at Indiebound



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.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Post a comment