Joint Review: The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

Reviewed by Joanna & Jen

Jen: Oh wow! How I loved this this book. It had two things going for it right off the bat. One, it was written by Tessa Dare who is one of my absolute faves in historical romance. And two, it is a Beauty and the Beast trope, which is also a favorite of mine. I am thrilled to say that not only did it come through on the promise of its premise, it was even better than I expected.

Joanna: I have something to admit. *looks embarrassed* I’ve never read any Tessa Dare.

Jen: Jo! I am so sorry for you.

Joanna: I know! I can’t tell you how it happened, but I have settled the score with this beauty. It’s sparkling, pacy and lighthearted, and I laughed out loud time and time again.

The tale takes the form of a rich man, who is in need of a wife, propositioning a woman who turns up in his library. Well, she is wearing a wedding dress, so why not? Emma is a seamstress, and she was commissioned to make the dress for the duke’s fiancé. The problem is the fiancé took one look at his face, after he returned from the Napoleonic war with horrific injuries, and fled. Ash wasn’t much bothered about the woman but of course it secretly hurt his feelings. He’s a hoot. Grumpy, irascible and yet witty, damaged and secretly kind.

He and Emma agree to conceive an heir together then she’ll be given her own house in the country where she’ll live independently, but super wealthy and with the lovely title of duchess.
Of course Emma has her own story. She’s a vicar’s daughter, fled to London after an event with her family. She has a character of resilience and great forbearing. She’s certainly tough enough to stand up to Mr Grump and enjoys challenging him. Their conversations were brilliant.

“Miss Gladstone, you don’t seem to understand how this whole intruding-on-a-duke’s-solitude business works. You should be intimidated, if not terrified. Yet there’s an appalling lack of hand-wringing in your demeanor, and no trembling whatsoever. Are you certain you’re merely a seamstress?”

“Your Grace, you called my work ‘unicorn vomit.’ You asked me to disrobe for money. Then you made the absurd declaration that you would make me a duchess, and that I should visit your bed on Monday. This entire interview is nonsensical and humiliating. I can only conclude that you are making sport of me.”

He lifted one shoulder in an unapologetic shrug. “A scarred recluse must have some amusement.”

His pursuit on Emma was equally funny:

“I need a new waistcoat.” “It’s a dressmaking shop. We don’t offer gentlemen’s attire.” “Very well, I’m here to order a gown.” “A gown for whom?” “What does it matter?” He made an annoyed gesture. “For a particularly ugly woman, approximately my size.”

She gathered his hat, cloak, gloves, and walking stick and pushed them into his arms. “And now I must ask you to leave. I need to be getting home.” “We can accomplish both those things at once. I’ll take you home. My carriage is just outside.” “Thank you, I prefer to walk.” “More convenient still. My feet are even closer than the carriage.”

I made thirty-three quote highlights in this book. I think that’s the most I’ve ever recorded.

Jen: I believe it. I was laughing out loud as I was reading. But that’s the thing about Tessa Dare, her writing finds such an amazing balance between humor and emotion. Yes, I laughed, especially with all of Emma’s ridulous endearments, but I also cared about these characters. The way Ash fell for Emma without even realizing it… how he wanted to protect her and be her champion even before he could recognize why… I just loved it.

Joanna: What I found refreshing was that neither wanted the affection of the other, but both obviously needed it, and that makes for the most delicious pushing and pulling. In the spirit of the tale being light hearted, neither were angsty and there was just the right level of loss, or fear or love to make my heart thud. It stayed light the whole time – here’s proof with my last quote, I swear:

Ash wanted to hurt that someone back. With something sharp. And deadly. He was hardly an empathetic man, but he was offended indeed when someone dared to threaten anyone in his protection. And Emma was now in his protection. Hell, she was in his arms. Standing this way, with the top of her head tucked under his chin, he felt like a battered, scuffed-up case made to hold something delicate and lovely. He could also see straight down her frock.

Ash’s disfigurement and a penchant for wandering the streets at night has the London press up in arms about the Mayfair Menace. Emma is on a mission to save a young woman in an unfortunate position, as well as to make some positively odd friends, and then there’s the matter of Ash’s previous fiancé.

This woman is a witch who hurt Ash badly, though theirs wasn’t a love match. I wanted for a far greater comeuppance for this woman but it wasn’t to be by the time the plot resolved.

Jen: That didn’t bother me so much, though one thing did niggle. I know every book has to have some kind of black moment, but I was just a tiny bit disappointed in the one here. Not enough to change how much I loved the book, but it was probably the single thing that kept it from being completely perfect for me. I don’t want to spoil it, but I will say that while what happened was not completely out of character for Ash, it was a regression from where Dare had taken him in the book and it bummed me out a bit. But hey, it’s always darkest before the dawn. You need to dark to appreciate the light and all that.

Joanna: Overall I found this great for a fast read of decent quality. I wouldn’t recommend if you like historical accuracy. Instead it’s a quirky and cute story with excellent dialogue.

Jen: I loved it like chocolate. Melted chocolate covering Jason Momoa.

Joanna’s rating: B
Jen’s rating: A-

*ARC provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon

The Duchess Deal
by Tessa Dare
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Publisher: Avon

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