Heroine: One of three girl cousins, gorgeous Deirdre Cantor is in the running to inherit her grandfather’s fortune. In order to be the heiress though, she needs to wed a duke and she knows just the future-duke to wed! He’s a man she’s admired from afar. Originally, he was engaged to one of her cousins, but then was jilted for the younger brother prior to the wedding. This gives her the perfect opportunity to propose the match to him.
Hero: Calder Marbrook, the Marquis of Brookhaven and future Duke of Brookmoor, needs a wife… but mostly because he needs a permanent mother figure for his young woefully misbehaved daughter. (The child comes as a shock to the heroine after they wed… even though she saved news clippings on him for years.)
Review: This book did not work well for me as an audiobook. The narrator, Susan Ericksen, was fine, but the problems with the book are exasperated in audio format. The hero treats the heroine like a misbehaving child within seconds of reaching his country estate. If she doesn’t become the wife/governess he needs her to be for his daughter, he’ll not pay for dresses and won’t let her attend parties or go to London for the society… Apparently, he’s too distracted by his wife’s breasts to take his foot out of his mouth. How can this autocratic alpha bully not handle the nurses and governesses taking care of his child… or even his willful child? The secondary character romance and the setup for the next book’s romance were distracting, and for me, unwanted. Also, how can Diedre think that the best revenge on her husband is to actually do as he says and take his daughter in hand? That doesn’t make sense. Although, I did like the stepmother/stepdaughter relationship.
Hero: The Duke of Courtland is known for his subversive bedroom behavior and his uncomfortable preferences. He’s also known for his rigid control and decorum… but that just confirms these “uncomfortable habits.” He’s a dom and is into spanking – the news reaches his father-in-law and fiancée and suddenly he’s jilted while the bride runs off with another. Determined to leave it behind, Court goes to a house party and comes across a most intriguing creature.
Heroine: Miss Harmony Barrett is a spinster in the making. She’s been on the marriage mart for five seasons and is still unmarried. She’s very good at repelling gentlemen of consequence away – but who wouldn’t repel a greasy overblown aristocrat, decades older than yourself? She’s not even allowed to waltz since the debacle at Almacks. A genuine bluestocking, Harmony prefers her books on Mongol hordes over idle chitchat with girls her own age. When it comes to the hero and Mongols, she’s a bit of an airhead.
Review: Harmony is a heroine determined to land herself in the suds. She wants to see a Roman wall so badly she runs off without telling anyone. Lucky for her the Duke was interested in her safety to the point of willingly leg-shackling himself to her in order to fulfill her stubborn desire. (Heroine believes for as long as possible there will be no consequences to her misadventure.) The story is definitely erotica and for the most part works really well and comes across sexy. But as with most BDSM set-ups the hero is unaware of when he takes it too far and it causes emotional and physical strife for the heroine. That’s always difficult for me especially when the reasoning behind the “big punishment” is so stupid. Court wants Harmony to be a society duchess, but he’s oblivious to her own desires and the fact that she’s apparently incapable of proper behavior in front of company. He tries to mold her into something she’s not and that there is the “uncomfortable habits” for me. I quite liked the heroine just as she was – earnest, eager, and ditzy. The heroine pulls off a “perfect submission” as an innocent punishment for the hero (she’s really trying to be exactly what he wants.) It becomes very clear to Court that the perfect sub and featureless woman is not what he truly desires… and then comes the groveling. Epilogue was meh for me. Overall, why it works so well is how much it reads like a “normal” Regency romance novel with a little extra added.
Narrator: Emma Kent is great. She makes the heroine sound young and airy (and occasionally earnestly ditzy). She handled the bedroom scenes very well and in a way that pulled you further into the story. In my opinion she was integral in how the novel read to listeners. I can’t think of another narrator that would have fit as perfectly as she did.