A Duchess in Name is the first novel in the Grantham Girls series by Amanda Weaver. Without a doubt one of the best and most accurate historical romances I’ve ever read. Grab your copy today!
[Some Spoilers; For Mature Audiences]
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of my favorite things about historical romance is the fairy tale feel to them. I love how someone without a title can snag a Duke and live happily ever after. That being said, I’m well aware that there were more arranged matches than not that ended up in bitterness than happiness. A Duchess in Name straddles that line very delicately.
A Duchess in Name has a couple of things that I’m not really fond of in romance, and I still really liked it. To be honest, I couldn’t put this book down, and I became so invested in the characters. I was ragey at Andrew for not speaking to Victoria about his assumptions, especially since he’s such a smart man. I was fiercely proud of Victoria for standing strong and taking control of her life after he left her all alone.
The reason the story evokes such a strong emotion is because Amanda Weaver can lay down a backstory in such a subtly elegant way.
We know that Andrew doesn’t trust Victoria because he thinks she’s like his own mother: a woman after a title who ended up being completely faithless and horrible. We know Victoria doesn’t have high expectations for marriage because it’s been drilled into her head as long as she can remember that someone will marry her for her money, not for love, and her parents don’t care much about her beyond what title she can land.
“Silly romances. They’re no better than fairy tales.”
Amelia sighed. “Oh, but this one is deliciously racy. And the hero—”
That’s just it,” Victoria cut her off. He’s only some man in a book. We’ll never meet him, and if we do, we won’t be allowed to marry him.”
Their marriage comes out of the blue for both of them. The circumstances of which are a mystery to Victoria. She only knows that the Duke of Waring has no money left, and his heir will marry her so that the family stays afloat. Andrew, the Earl of Dunnley, is a much better option than the lecherous old men that have been sniffing around her since she came out the season before.
Before her wedding, she feels that she could be happy with Andrew. He’s kind and seems like he’s willing to make a go of their relationship. However, the day of the wedding, he’s cold and distant. He takes her to Briarwood Manor, the family’s last estate, for their wedding night then after taking her virginity and sealing their marriage, he leaves for Italy before she wakes up the next morning.
Over the next year, in Andrew’s absence, Victoria comes into her own. She takes the reins at Briarwood and begins restoring it to its former glory.
One of the many things she had discovered about herself over the past eight months was that she possessed an astonishing propensity for taking charge.
She still doesn’t understand why Andrew hates her, though, or what he’s doing in Italy, or why he doesn’t write her back when she sends him regular updates about the progress of the estate.
Once the Duke of Waring dies, Andrew returns to England for the first time since the wedding eight months before. Victoria knows he won’t stay, and she’s accepted that their marriage is in name only, but she desperately wants a child. Seducing Andrew doesn’t take much effort at all, and afterward, she’s the one who leaves his room. By morning, he’s still gone, though.
The following summer, Briarwood Manor is nearly fully restored and Victoria invites Andrew’s sisters, Louisa and Emma, to stay with her instead of staying with a companion their mother normally hires. Her seduction from the previous November didn’t work, and she’s still without a child of her own.
During all of this, Andrew has been hiding away in Italy. He lives with his mistress, works on his archaeological dig, ignores Victoria’s letters, and casts her as a title-grabbing villain. You see, the night before the wedding, he found out a shocking bit of information that turns him against Victoria completely.
In the end, it’s his mistress. Yes, his mistress, that convinces him to go back to England and give married life a try because someone that writes as often as Victoria and seems so kind couldn’t really be putting up too much of an act. Plus, he hasn’t reached for her intimately since he came back from his father’s funeral. So, in the end, the mistress breaks up with him and sends him home to his wife.
Over the summer, he’s back in England, and he decides to put forth effort to get to know his wife for the first time. She’s been writing him letters, letting him into her life, but he’s given her nothing.
It was time to win the heart of his wife he’d very nearly thrown away. He could only hope it wasn’t too late.
They reconnect and things are going so well, but there’s a breakthrough at the site in Italy, so Andrew leaves again. This time he has no mistress to return to which is fine because he realizes how wonderful Victoria is. He writes her often and is going to invite her come to Italy to stay with him while he works.
While he’s away, Victoria goes into London and overhears talk about herself and the Duke. How their marriage was a simple transaction of money and title because Andrew, the Duke of Waring, lives in Italy with his mistress.
Victoria is gutted by this revelation and things spiral out of control after that. Victoria ends up in a sickbed and Andrew rushes home from Italy to be at her side. Once he’s there, he realizes he has much more to work out than just getting her healthy again.
The ending of the book wraps up, but it felt insincere on Andrew’s part to me. I know it’s absolutely normal of that time to have a mistress, but Andrew lost my respect the moment he accuses Victoria of taking a lover in his absence (way back at his father’s funeral) and gets angry with her for evading the question. All the while, he’s been living in Italy with his mistress.
Despite that, A Duchess in Name is too well written to be ignored. Its emotions beg to be felt, the pacing is outstanding, and the tension radiates off the page, both the good and the bad kind. In short, it’s an angst fest that pulls at your heartstrings, but still keeps you believing that things can work out.
If you’re a fan of historical romance, you won’t want to miss this one!
Many thanks to the author for an advanced review copy.