“The Duchess Deal” by Tessa Dare

★★★★☆

Back to historical romances! (Yippee!)

I am so happy I might cry… well, not really, because this book was amazingly entertaining! I don’t think I’ve laughed so much by reading a book in years! I’m positively chuffed and in a good mood after finishing this (which is a lot to say for someone as picky as me!) 😌

Today’s female MC is Emma, a seamstress on some dire times. She had been commissioned to make a wedding gown for a lady but, following the breakage of the engagement by said lady with her prospective groom, Emma was left with a wedding gown and several hours of unpaid work. And she needed the money pronto.

However! Letters to the lady went unanswered (most probably ignored 😒), so what to do? Well, obviously go and request the payment from the groom: a duke!

Ash (or Ashbury, or Duke, or whatever) is our male MC. Because of an accident whilst at war, he got some pretty bad burns on his body, he’s got scars, etc etc etc… I’ve read a myriad of books with a similar plot, so I was a bit skeptical, “ANOTHER tortured hero? Both inside AND outside?! Uh…” So you see, I wasn’t in the mood for a pity-party or a gloomy atmosphere throughout the novel. But it didn’t turn out to be like that, and I was awfully glad.

Ash just needs an heir for his dukedom, therefore he needs a wife, therefore Emma is chosen as she just happens to be there and catches his eye 👁

You know, the start of the book gave me some eye-rolls. I understand fiction is fiction, but at the same time, I do enjoy a bit of credibility in books, in how people behave, etc… So when Emma knocks at the duke’s house wearing a wedding gown, is admitted without issues, and the duke just takes a look at her and decides she’s mighty fine as a prospective wife, that made me bark an ‘I-don’t-believe-this!’ laugh.

But I continued reading! And I’m glad I did, because even if it wasn’t as realistic as I like them to be, it still was a shining beacon in the middle of all this darkness that my library has been afflicted with lately 😥

The banter between the two main characters is amazing! I bloody loved all their jokes and dry humour, because… well, I am a sarcastic bitch too, if you haven’t realised yet 🤫

In this first instance, Emma is meeting Ash for the first time whilst wearing that wedding dress she needs to get paid for. Ash is less than impressed:

“I can’t even take the whole thing in. It looks like unicorn vomit. Or the pelt of some snow beast rumored to menace the Himalayas.”

Or how his calendar is full of very productive activities:

“Well, I’m afraid my schedule is quite booked for the rest of the week.” He flipped through the pages of an agenda. “Brooding, drinking, indoor badminton tournament . . .”

He has a way of playing with words which I absolutely love:

“No.”

“No,” he echoed.

“Yes.”

“Yes, no. Make up your mind, Miss Gladstone.”

He’s just so bloody witty I want to strangle him in a hug:

“Has it not occurred to you that I might have pursued you out of some genuine concern for your well-being?”

She gave him a doubtful look.

“I’m not saying I did. Only that it should have occurred to you.”

And his dry humour, as mentioned before, only gets better:

“I’m offering you a title and fortune. All you have to do is lie back in the dark, then spend nine months swelling up like a tick. What could possibly deter any woman from accepting?”

What indeed 🙂

And in another scene, Emma wakes up before Ash does. She muses how men always look good, even after a full night’s sleep (I wholeheartedly concur – those lucky bastards!) and so she takes some hasty time to sort her hair out and make herself a bit more presentable. She’s feeling pretty good for herself, so when the Ash’s eyes flutter open in the stark morning light, she was truly expecting for a heartfelt compliment… But what are his first words, you might wonder?

His gaze roamed her face and body. He scratched behind his ear like a flea-bitten dog and yawned loudly before reaching for his boot. “I’m dying for a piss.”

Charming 😃

Their banter is just about the most mundane of things – things other books don’t bother to mention – but I looooooved them:

“You’re not eating your soup,” he finally said. “It’s putting me off mine.”

“I . . . Never mind.” With a dutiful grimness, she took a tiny spoonful of soup.

He rolled his eyes. “Spit it out then.”

She froze, spoon poised in midair.

“Not the soup. Whatever it is you mean to say.”

And I laughed and snorted my arse off at this next one:

“You are such a man. And I’m stupidly attracted to you despite it. Perhaps even for it. Yes, I am certain it’s infatuation. I’ve felt it before.”

Now Ash was the one who became a maelstrom of irrational emotion. That emotion being jealous anger. “Toward whom?”

“Why should it matter?”

“Because,” he said, “I like to know the names of the people I despise. I keep them in a little book and pore over it from time to time, whilst sipping brandy and indulging in throaty, ominous laughter.”

Emma was great too at making me giggle:

“Can you . . . I’m feeling a bit fragile right now. It would mean a great deal if you’d hold me. You know, with your arms.”

Brilliant, Emma. As if he might have tried to hold her with his knees or eyelids without those instructions.

But also their love and relationship really grew on me too, and it was visible how well matched they were from the beginning.

She lavished both sides of him with equal attention and sweet, sweet tenderness, until he felt his two halves knitting together in the center. Somewhere close to his heart.

By the end, I was a sappy and well satisfied reader that couldn’t stop smiling and chuckling from remembered jokes.

I’m even sighing as I’m writing this 😅 Can’t wait to find a book in the future that is just as good, if not better! Here’s to always hoping 🥂

See you all next week!

Peace and love to everyone 😊

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