I'm a huge fan of Tessa Dare. I've read most of her books and was really excited to get my hands on this. One of her earlier novels, When a Scot Ties the Knot, is one of my all-time favourites and this story is written in a similar style, with non-stop funny banter between the characters. Having said that, after reading several historical novels back-to-back I did have trouble getting into it at first. The way the protagonists talk to each other is very 21st century and not remotely the way a 19th century duke and seamstress would speak to anyone of their era, let each other - they would probably never even meet. However, once I'd got over that, I absolutely loved The Duchess Deal.
When the Duke of Ashbury returns from the war horribly scarred ("Faulty rocket at Waterloo. You have precisely three seconds to move past it. One. Two...") his fiancée can't bear to look at him and calls off their engagement. In dire need of a wife and heir (so his estate doesn't fall into the hands of his 'toad of a cousin'), when seamstress Emma Gladstone explodes into his study demanding payment for the bridal gown his fiancée has cancelled, he asks her to marry him instead.
"If it's a wife you want, surely you could find many women - many well-bred ladies - who would be willing to marry you."
"Yes, but then I'd have to find them. This saves me so much effort."
Emma is not a fool and, although it takes her a couple of days (she's not entirely sure he's serious), she soon accepts. She thinks she might even grow to love the Duke, and is hoping for a real marriage, but the Duke has a few rules...
There are two things about this novel that make it outstanding: the cracking dialogue and the brilliant characters - particularly the hero, Ash. I was about halfway through the story when the penny dropped. Ash is basically Deadpool - manically cracking irreverent jokes to hide his pain, both mental and physical. Ash had once been an extremely handsome man, now he considers himself to be a monster who frightens small children. It's not the only superhero reference. Ash's relationship with his butler is very Bruce Wayne and Alfred ('Batman'), the encounter with Trevor (the teenage boy who wants to be the sidekick of the 'Monster of Mayfair') reminded me of 'The Incredibles', and then there's that very steamy kiss in the pouring rain ... 'Spiderman'?
So, if you love historical romances written in a very traditional Jane Austen/Georgette Heyer style, you're going to hate this. But it you love witty, warm-hearted romantic comedy, with characters that leap off the page demanding your attention, you'll love it.
This was definitely a five-star read for me.
I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of The Duchess Deal, which will be published on 22nd February 2018.
Thank you to Tessa Dare, Mills & Boon and Netgalley for my copy of this book, which I received in exchange for an honest review.