Posted by: Jennifer | April 18, 2009

Secrets of a Duchess – Kaitlin O’Riley

O’Riley, Kaitlin. Secrets of a Duchess. (New York: Zebra, 2007). ISBN – 9780821780923.

Main Characters: Caroline Armstrong and Alexander Woodward, the Duke of Woodborough

Date: 1865

Place: England

Description from book:

Amid the seductive swirl of London’s high society, a woman plays a dangerous game – with her heart . . .

On the death of their beloved father, Caroline Armstrong and her sister are whisked away to London by their grandmother. Though determined to please her doting relative, there is one thing Caroline vows she will never do: marry.

Handsome, tall, and titled, Alexander Woodward, Duke of Woodborough, is the catch of the Season – but he doesn’t want to be caught. He finds a kindred spirit in the witty Caroline and makes her a scandalous proposition: they will pretend to court to dissuade any overtures of marriage. . .

Caroline thought she would be safe for the Season – and that her deepest secret would remain locked away. But with each minute spent with Alex, she finds herself increasingly enraptured with his kindness. . . his kisses. Caught up in a dizzying dance of desire, Caroline accepts another proposal from Alex – one that puts her in the most dangerous position of all. . .

My Thoughts:

This is a book that has been in my To Be Read pile for a long, long time – as such, I didn’t have much in the way of expectations about the story. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by the book. I was very taken with the main characters – Caroline and Alex – and their relationship. On a balcony, Alex meets a woman who doesn’t know who he is – and isn’t interested in sizing him up for the role of husband. And, he can’t resist this. Caroline had been very clear about her refusal to even consider marrying. However, Alex seems to believe that she is the only woman for him. In order to spend more time with her, Alex suggests that they fake a courtship. Such a relationship would allow Caroline to drop her act to scare off potential suitors. He convinces her that it would also allow him breathing room from the marriage-minded mamas.

From the beginning of their relationship, it was obvious that the two belonged together. Slowly, we get a sense that Caroline believes she can’t marry, and that it has something to do with another man. But, the main reason isn’t very clear. Eventually, we figure that she believes she can’t marry because she had physical relations with the other man, Stephen. Yet, this isn’t the whole story. Caroline does begin to develop serious feelings for Alex, but continues to be very confused. Added to all of this is the ire of one Lady Madeline Maxwell – who had believed herself to be Alex’s future bride. Madeline does indeed make lots of trouble for Caroline and Alex, but, of course, is thwarted by true love.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. There were some bizarre things in the plot: Caroline actually married Stephen before he left for America, Stephen tells people that he married Caroline when the ceremony was fake – when she was married to a duke, Caroline kept quiet about the marriage because Stephen told her to, and Caroline married Alex believing that she was already married. Some of these facets of the story line don’t make a great deal of sense to me. Fortunately, these issues didn’t ruin the story for me. I liked Alex and Caroline too much for that. And, Alex’s mother was a riot. She ranks up there as one of my favorite supporting characters!!

Read first April 17, 2009

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