About the Book
Set on a crumbling English manor estate during the height of the Roaring Twenties, an American duchess must decide how much she's willing to risk for the life she truly desires…
It's 1922, and New York heiress Zoe Gifford longs for the freedoms promised by the Jazz Age. Headstrong and brazen, but bound by her father's will to marry before she can access his fortune, Zoe arranges for a brief marriage to Sebastian Hazelton, whose aristocratic British family sorely needs a benefactor.
Once in England, her foolproof plan to wed, inherit and divorce proves more complicated than Zoe had anticipated. Nigel Hazelton, Duke of Langford and Sebastian's older brother, is as austere and imposing as the family's ancestral estate. Still reeling from the Great War, Nigel is now staging a one-man battle against a rapidly changing world—and the outspoken Zoe represents everything he's fighting against.
When circumstances compel Zoe to marry Nigel rather than Sebastian, their heated quarrelling begets passion of another sort. But with Nigel unwilling to change with the times, will Zoe be forced to choose between her husband and her dreams?
I've been on a "books similar to Downton Abbey" bend of late. I've enjoyed a few recent offerings from Deanna Raybourn, but those books aren't all set in England, and An American Duchess had the estate setting I've wanted to read.
Zoe comes off as a wild and carefree flapper type, but we see she knows when to pull back when it comes to emotion. She needs a marriage to secure her wealth, but her plans to marry the second son of a titled family fizzle when her intended wants more out of the deal. During her visit to Brideswell, she catches the eye of the brother, a reluctant Nigel - scarred from Great War physically and psychologically. Amid wagging tongues they marry and make a go of a life together.
I had looked forward to this story - the time and setting, and the imperfections of the H/H provided a nice bonus. I felt, though, the story might have been too long as it seemed to drag in places. Nigel's cold exterior paired with Zoe's headstrong attitude became trying, to the point of aggravation. Through the second half of the book they become exaggerations of their respective characters - the flapper who feels she has to shove everybody into the new century, hesitation be damned, and the old world duke who scoffs at everything.
Plotlines involving minor characters - the Duke's sisters, each of whom have goals that don't fit the societal norms - resolve too quickly, and not quite to my satisfaction, which makes me wonder if a follow-up story is planned.
I didn't hate it, but wasn't wowed. If you enjoy 1920s set romance, though, you may wish to try it.
Rating 2 1/2 to 3 stars
Leigh Ellwood is the author of "Love's Dominion" in the WTRAFSOG 9 box set (AMZ ~ BN ~ Kobo) and "A Different Class" in the Box of 1Night Stands, Vol. 2 (ARe ~ Kindle ~ NOOK).