When You Wish Upon a Duke
By Isabella Bradford
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: July 31, 2012
One night shortly after Lady Charlotte Wylder, the eldest daughter of the late Earl of Hervey and his countess, rescues her youngest sister’s cat from a tree, she learns that she has been betrothed since she was in her cradle to James Augustus FitzCharles, the third Duke of Marchbourne. Sometime later Charlotte and her duke meet face to face when she has again climbed a tree, this time on the duke’s estate, to rescue Fig the cat. The two quite literally fall for one another as they tumble from the tree. Tree climbing will continue to figure prominently in this story.
Charlotte is a free-spirited innocent, and her duke is a bit on the stuffy side, very concerned about appearances and about the scandalous connection that made him a duke with royal blood in his veins, the great-grandson of a king. Some conflict based on their very different natures is inevitable, and March’s fear that their lusty coupling is inappropriate for his lady duchess leaves Charlotte to wonder what happened to her merry groom and the lovemaking she thoroughly enjoyed. There’s also a villain who creates a spot of bother, but this is fundamentally a light-hearted book. All problems are resolved with a certain humor, and even the villain’s just deserts, while no doubt painful to him, don’t deprive him of life or limb.
Charlotte and March are endearing characters. I thought they were wonderfully paired, and I believed in their HEA. They both change in the course of the story, something that I’ve learned not to count as a given. Charlotte gains maturity and the confidence to refuse to let Charlotte the person be submerged in Her Grace, the duchess. For his part, March has to let go of his obsession with propriety and appearances. His attitude is more understandable as more of his past is revealed, but he must learn to trust not only Charlotte and her love for him but also his own integrity.
When You Wish Upon a Duke is a book that will make readers smile, but it is lifted above the status of a merely amusing book by the detailed look it offers of the domestic life of a duke and duchess in Georgian England. From descriptions of Charlotte’s quarters in the ducal mansion to the clothes she wears and the food served to the ducal couple, the setting is vibrantly rendered. I especially liked the scene where the duke asks Charlotte to call him March, the name his intimates use, and she agrees to do so if he addresses her by her first name. Both customary behavior and the way this relationship will depart from the customary are revealed in this brief exchange.
I found it refreshing that although there is an arranged marriage, March and Charlotte are eager to fall in love with one another and committed to one another’s happiness. It was also pleasant to encounter a hero who was neither a rake nor a recluse brooding over nameless wrongs. The focus of the novel is unswervingly on the hero and heroine, but readers see enough of Charlotte’s sisters, especially the youngest, to trust they will prove interesting heroines in their turn. I must admit the one scene that disturbed me was Charlotte’s parting from her family. Their disappearance from the story was convenient for the narrative, but the manner seemed heartless. March has a cousin whom I found interesting and would like to see more of. I have a suspicion about him, and I will be interested in seeing if I’m correct. If I’m wrong, I’ll just have to imagine I’m right.
Lest you think that Isabella Bradford is a debut author, I hasten to include the information that it is a pseudonym for Susan Holloway Scott, who has written five excellent historical novels under her own name and more than thirty historical romances as Miranda Jarrett. Having enjoyed books written under both those identities, I expected to enjoy this one. My expectations were met.
The second book in the series, When the Duchess Says Yes will be released September 25 with the final book in the trilogy, When the Duke Found Love, to follow on November 27. I look forward to both of them, but I’m also hoping for more historical fiction from Susan Holloway Scott. And the covers of books two and three are even more gorgeous than the cover of WYWUAD.
There seems to be an epidemic of authors writing under several names. Do you find it confusing? Do you always know if you’re reading a true debut author or meeting one you’ve read before in a new guise?