Jun 3 2014 5:00pm

First Look: Madeline Hunter’s The Accidental Duchess (June 3, 2014)

The Accidental Duchess by Madeline HunterMadeline Hunter
The Accidental Duchess (Fairbourne Quartet)
Jove / June 3, 2014 / $7.99 print & digital

When Lady Lydia Thornton is blackmailed over the shocking contents of a manuscript she once wrote, she must go to the most desperate of measures to raise the money to buy back the ill-considered prose: agreeing to an old wager posed by the arrogant, dangerous Duke of Penthurst. At least Penthurst is a man she wouldn’t mind fleecing—and she’s confident she’ll win.

Penthurst long ago concluded Lydia was a woman in search of ruinous adventure, but even he is surprised when she arrives at his house ready to bet her innocence against his ten thousand pounds—a wager he only proposed to warn her off gambling.

When she loses to a simple draw of the cards, Lydia is shocked. Now, her problems are twofold: a blackmailer determined to see her pay and a duke determined to tame her rebellious ways. One misstep and Lydia could find herself ruined—or bound to the seductive man who would make her his duchess.

Lady Lydia Thornton—the heroine of Madeline Hunter's latest, The Accidental Duchess—is a bit of a hellion, a headstrong girl with very firm opinions. Her opinion of the Duke of Penthurst is not at all favorable.

…she possessed a grievous dislike of the duke for several excellent reasons. One was that he really did fight duels with lesser men, and gest away with it. The other was this proud way in which he spoke to her from on high, but also with too much familiarity.

But it's mostly the duel. A year earlier, Penthurst dueled, and wound up accidently killing, Lakewood, the man Lydia loved and expected to marry. Since Lakewood's death, Lydia's wildness has taken on alarming proportions and she now finds herself being blackmailed. Of course Penthurst knows something's wrong and must stick his nose into things. She finds her opinion of him changing, if not into liking, at least away from absolute loathing, and makes a decidedly handsome declaration when a compromising situation forces them into marriage.

“We will have one of those dreadful marriages of duty and strained patience with each other. Of brief couplings in dark beds and ritualistic family life. If you would be content with that, you would have married years ago. You deserve better. You really do.”

Not long after the marriage takes place, Lydia takes some time alone to revisit the place where she fell in love with Lakewood and reexamine the relationship.

It occurred to her as she walked up the path to the cottage, that if Lakewood walked beside her now and she looked over at him, he might not match her memories either. His face survived in a golden glow too, didn't it? Perhaps she would see faults she had never noticed. He might have ears that were too big, or eyes too close together. Her girlish love had made him an Adonis, but she doubted the truth had been even close to that.

She suspected the real Lakewood could not measure up to Penthurst, for example. The duke did not need some girl's infatuation to make him more than he was. That was true in everything, not only his face and form. Even if her were not a duke, or even a peer, or even a man of property and wealth, he would be formidable. That was not a word that she recalled Lakewood evoking.

Lydia's growing maturity goes hand in hand with her being able to some to terms with the illusion of her time with Lakewood and appreciating the reality of Penthurst.

Learn more or pre-order a copy of The Accidental Duchess by Madeline Hunter, available June 3, 2014:

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Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com.

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