Dear Lady Truelove . . . I have fallen in love, truly and completely in love, for the first time. The man whom I hold in such passionate regard, however, is not of my station. He is a painter, a brilliant artist. Needless to say, my family would not approve . . .
Henry, Duke of Torquil, wouldn’t be caught reading the wildly popular “Dear Lady Truelove” column, but when its advice causes his mother to embark on a scandalous elopement, an outraged Henry decides the author of this tripe must be stopped before she can ruin any more lives. Though Lady Truelove’s identity is a closely guarded secret, Henry has reason to suspect the publisher of the notorious column, beautiful and provoking Irene Deverill, is also its author.
For Irene, it’s easy to advise others to surrender to passion, but when she meets the Duke of Torquil, she soon learns that passion comes at a price. When one impulsive, spur-of-the-moment kiss pulls her into a scorching affair with Henry, it could destroy her beloved newspaper, her career, and her independence. But in the duke’s arms, surrender is so, so sweet . . .
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he story moves quickly and keeps you wondering if the stick will ever come out
I love the quick pacing and realignment of long-standing social norms that came repeatedly in the Victorian era, and Guhrke brings us one such heroine in Irene, granddaughter of a Viscount, although her mother’s disinheritance as a result of her marriage leaves Irene title-less, and less than enthusiastic about the aristos. Her father, after her mother’s death nearly ran the family business (a newspaper) into the ground, and only Irene was there to pick up the pieces. She did so by moving from conventional news of the day to cater to the scandalous: printing scandals and other tidbits sure to amuse the tonne. She is opinionated, often angry, intelligent and wholly driven, with little time for social niceties, secure in her own sense both business and personal.
Henry is the Duke of Torquil, and one who takes his every responsibility seriously. From his allegiance to the Tory party, his estates and tenants, his sisters and even his own widowed mother’s happiness and social standing, he’s got his life ticking along according to plan. Eventually he’ll find a ‘suitable’ woman to marry, one that won’t overtax his emotions, for he wants simplicity at home. But a letter,written by his mother to Dear Lady Truelove is printed, and he learns of his mother’s plans (and the Agony Aunt’s concurrence) to remarry, an Italian artist some 17 years her junior. Harry is incensed, and intends to have the paper rescind the advice, remove the stain, and leave his family in peace. Where he then, hopefully, can repair some of the damage and move onto his own interests.
And nothing, absolutely nothing, goes according to his plan. Irene is rude, infuriatingly undaunted by his position or power, wholly uninterested in hearing his points, and the first woman to completely excite him in years. While Henry wants nothing more than to live an orderly and ordered life, neatly set out in ways that dismiss personal preferences in favor of ‘how it has always been done by people like us’. Those are things he’s comfortable with. Not these messy emotions, devil-may care attitude, and choices made because the mood strikes and desire is there, no matter what others may think. Irene lives in that world, doing what is necessary to survive, acting on desire and need rather than because of the rules. It’s a great juxtaposition between these two, as neither really understands the other or their seemingly stubborn adherence to rules (or scoffing at them). Henry is so stuck in how things have always been, and rather pedantic about it all, that his realization that personal happiness can be a goal, not a byproduct, and it doesn’t have to mean you have shunned your position almost comes too late, even though he does realize it, fully, in a heartfelt letter sent to Irene.
Wonderfully rich and clever: from the complete opposites in personality and life approaches to the palpable electric attraction and fascination between them, the story moves quickly and keeps you wondering if the stick will ever come out of Henry’s butt, with or without Irene’s help.
I received an eArc copy of the title from Avon Addicts via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Exciting to read