The Duchess War is a beautifully written book about the unlikely romance between a Duke and a woman without hope for her future. Especially a future with a man she loved.
That’s not to say that parts of it didn’t frustrate the hell out of me.
Robert, the Ninth Duke of Clermont, was simply trying to escape the crowds by hiding out in the library curtains when Minnie Pursling accidentally joins him. The scene is embarrassing for her on many levels but it was quite funny for me. Robert finds Minnie interesting. She hasn’t a clue who he really is and calls him out on his “skulking”. He is transfixed by her sultry voice and realizes there is much more to this woman hiding behind a mousy appearance and persona. And he’s right.
Robert is attempting to right all the wrongs perpetrated by his father. He is distributing flyers on the sly about worker’s rights that are getting people all riled up. He also doesn’t believe The House of Lords should have as much power as it does. And Minnie is on to him. She demands he cease his activities at once because they are putting her in danger. Minnie has spent a good part of her life hiding a painful secret and Robert’s antics worry her more than she can let on. When he refuses to stop, she declares herself at war with him.
What follows is an almost overly complicated but still lovely romance. The “overly” bit is the reason for my frustration. I enjoy character driven romances and this is one, don’t get me wrong, but the road to love, happiness and forevermore was filled with too many obstacles and even an out of character move or two that caused me great distress. In the hands of probably any other romance writer, these plot moves would have been a deal breaker for me. Still, something always made me keep chugging along every time I was about to put it down unfinished; the witty banter, the interesting secondary characters, the clumsy and realistic sex, or the connection between Robert and Minnie. I’m glad I stuck with it because before it was over I actually got all teary eyed by the beauty of some of the final scenes. This so rarely happens because I’m a jaded, black hearted grouch when it comes to romances. So if you’re anything like me and choose to pick this up and get so frustrated you want to quit I recommend you keep on going to the very end. I’m not going to lie and say I wish some things had happened differently and that the two had functioned as the “allies” they kept saying they wanted to be but I can’t say skip it either because then you’ll miss out on the really good stuff.
Despite the plot complications, twists, betrayals and non-communication mucking things up I still very much enjoyed the characters of Minnie and Robert. In Minnie’s presence Robert gets all fumbled up and says and does foolish things that charmed me. Both felt undeserving of love and were broken in different ways by their early years but together I thought they fit perfectly. They have faults, fears, phobias and insecurities that cause them to make some frustrating choices but they’re not a hopeless mess because they also have big, forgiving hearts. I have to say all of this strife made them really work through their issues and work to stay together so when the book ends with an HEA I believed in it.