REVIEW of The Reluctant Duchess (Ladies of the Manor, #2), by Roseanna M. White

Reluctant DuchessRowena has never felt loved by her father, a harsh Scottish earl who plans to force her into marriage with a man she fears and loathes. All she wants is to escape the certain doom which will drive her to the same despair her mother lived and died in. When the chivalrous Brice Myerston, Earl of Nottingham, visits the neighborhood, circumstances and people conspire to throw them together, and before Rowena knows it, she is trapped into the impossible situation of marrying a man she barely knows.

Brice has charmed his way through London society for years without entangling himself with any debutantes. But when a skittish and frightened Rowena is dangled in front of him, he abandons meaningless flirtation to listen to the words God is telling him: “Love her.” The two embark upon the unknown journey of matrimony, getting to know each other as strangers. But they have more problems to contend with than their own awkwardness and misunderstandings–the curse of the mysterious jewels from the previous book in this series seems to be following them, as are the villains who will stop at nothing to obtain the priceless red diamonds….

This story deals with heavy themes of rape and abuse and the healing that comes afterwards. Brice was a remarkable hero in the story, feeling called to save Rowena, marrying her, and falling in love with her afterwards. Rowena was well-portrayed and earned my sympathy, although I did not particularly care for the pervasive rendering of her Scottish brogue in the dialogue. This story could stand alone but makes more sense following the first book to understand the history of the characters’ relationships and the ongoing saga of the curse of the Fire Eyes.

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