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The Inconvenient Duchess, by Christine Merrill, is a Harlequin Historical romance. It was first published in October of 2006, and is currently available as a free ebook. Miranda Grey (great name), a woman with a mysterious past, arrives at the home of widowed Duke Marcus, as arranged by his dying mother. She wants to right past wrongs and protect the future.

Mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, I’m partial to historicals and I like a strong female character. For better or worse, Miranda has a goal and she sticks to it. She is equally adept at cleaning and taking charge of the servants. Her only weakness, and it is annoying, is an inability to detect a sleazy man. On the other hand, I’m developing an allergy to story lines where a forced or arranged marriage gradually turns into a love match. The sexuality is well written, with appropriate timing, passion and spark, but I am weary of men obsessed with virginity and proofs thereof. Love requires trust, not proof.

Plot concerns notwithstanding, Merrill writes well and introduces a number of secondary characters with depth and interest. At times the book reminded me of Pride and Prejudice or Rebecca. I almost wish there had been more background and character development, though it would dilute the romance story. There is also more room for details about the time period. Several chapters could be set in any era, and while this supports the universality of the situations, some of the fun of historicals is the history. I’m looking forward to reading more of Merrill’s work after this solid debut novel.

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