The Once and Future Duchess by Sophia Nash

ONCE
The Once and Future Duchess by Sophia Nash
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 Pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Bluet

A duchess in time saves a noble line . . .

In theory, the Duke of Candover is the most eligible peer in the realm. But in truth, he has a deep aversion to the merest hint of marriage, not to mention two botched engagements which have marked his jaded soul. Now, after a debauched bachelor party that causes public outcry, the Prince Regent is demanding that it’s Candover’s turn to be brought to heel. And Prinny secretly believes that Isabelle Tremont, the Duchess of March, is precisely the lady up to the challenge.

Isabelle must marry, but a day of reckoning with the man she’s loved for years is her greatest fear. If Candover insists she’s too young and innocent for a seasoned world-weary man like him, there’s no shortage of other candidates. Gentlemen of prestige and position. Gentlemen whose attentions are driving Candover to jealous distraction. Yet one abandoned moment under the stars hints that if they can put aside pride and duty, then a love once denied might just be their destiny.

Isabelle is a rare creature, a duchess by birth, rather than by marriage. As such, she, along with the unmarried dukes, are being pressured by the Prince to marry immediately. Though she’s young (only eighteen) she’s mature and has been in love with James Fitzroy, the Duke of Candover, forever. She decides that she will take one shot at happiness, and propose to James, choosing to make it sound like a logical union, with no mention of love. While James knows that Isabelle is fond of him, he is shocked at her proposal, and turns her down as gently as he can. Though he has feelings for her, he has secrets, and has made promises which won’t let him marry her and also keep his word.

Now resigned to a loveless marriage, Isabelle begins the search for a husband. As James watches her, it slowly kills him, although he firmly believes he can’t have her for himself. James and Isabelle were such wonderful characters. James is always putting duty and honor first, trying to meet everyone’s needs, while feeling unworthy. Isabelle is so much in love, and it’s agonizing to watch her joy die a little more each day as James becomes farther out of her reach. James watches this happen, and realizes that she is building walls around her heart, just as he has.

The author, Sophia Nash, took this happy ending right down to the wire. I have to admit that I was beginning to have doubts, myself, that things were going to turn out right. I found this to be an emotional and very satisfying read, and I highly recommend it.

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