Desert Isle Keeper Review

The American Duchess
(This DIK review was written by a reader)

Joan Wolf
1982, Regency Romance
Signet, $2.25, Amazon ASIN 0451119185

Grade: A
Sensuality: Subtle

The American Duchess is an entirely character-driven Regency Romance. Perhaps it is best described as a "A Year in the Life" of our two main characters.

Tracy Bodmin is an American heiress whose father, William, was born a poor English cottager. Through his own hard work and ambition, he became one of the richest shipping magnates in America. Now, having been told he is dying, he brings Tracy to England to arrange an advantageous marriage for her. William Bodmin wants blue blood for his only child; and he wants his grandchildren to be of the nobility.

Adrian Deincourt, Duke of Hastings, is a man with everything - lineage, title, charm, grace, manners, good looks - except money. His recently deceased father left him with a mountain of debts and no income to support his estates. Adrian needs to marry a fortune but is inclined to be rather fastidious.

Adrian and Tracy meet and marry, their reasons clear. He needs her money, and she wants to make her dying father happy. But sometime during the honeymoon they discover they like each other. Each is drawn to the other by attraction, admiration, and - love? This is when things become complicated, because the very reasons for the marriage now become vulnerabilities for Tracy and Adrian as they fall in love and become more and more unsure of the other's true regard.

Wolf carefully differentiates Tracy from Adrian. They are as dissimilar as night from day. Tracy is vivacious and open, perceptive and democratic. Adrian is aristocratic, absolutely capable and diplomatic, all noblesse oblige. And therein lies another problem. Tracy, being a true American, is against everything Adrian stands for, but she is attracted to him because of who he is. He is "so noble a noble," and she finds she cannot resist him. I found Wolf's exploration of the philosophical and moral differences between English aristocracy and American democracy to be rather fascinating.

Wolf's prose is spare but affecting. The dialogue is not stilted, and we never see Adrian (or Tracy) blathering on. Every word Adrian says is carefully considered, and that is part of his appeal. He is perfectly in control of himself and his surroundings. In this light, the unexpected intensity of his feelings for Tracy, who is really just the girl next door, is quite touching.

It would be easy to talk about The American Duchess if it were full of murder or poisonings, carriage chases, vicious betrayals, or steamy sex, but it is not. It is the quiet exploration of a marriage relationship between two very different but very likable people. If you are looking for a good character-driven romance, I urge you to find and read The American Duchess.

LLB: This review was written before Rachel joined our review staff.

-- Rachel Potter

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