If you’ve read this blog since its auspicious beginning, then you know that I really like Sarah MacLean’s historical romances. Her characters are unconventional—not only within the 19th century British world they inhabit, but within the romance genre.
The Day of the Duchess might just be MacLean’s most unconventional yet. This is the story of Seraphina (Sera, for short) and her husband Malcolm, two people who were once connected by love—or something close to it—and now, by the wreckage of their relationship. The book begins with Sera returning to London after three years away to petition Parliament for a divorce from her husband, the Duke. She wants to own a tavern free and clear, and she also wants to be free of Malcolm, and vice versa. Malcolm is less amenable to her divorce plans, and he devises his own plan to keep her: he’ll require that she find him a new wife and then she can get her divorce. Sera acquiesces, because she is one formidable woman and she knows what she has to do to get what she wants.
From the beginning of the book, we’re thrust into a heated battle between two adversaries who are wracked with strong feeling for the other. Sera is reminded of the child they lost and the way Malcolm turned her away after he learned that she trapped him into marriage—not to mention the fact that he was caught cheating on her at a garden party. And Malcolm is torn with regret and shame and would do anything to win Sera back, despite her protestations that there is nothing there worth saving.
In short, The Day of the Duchess is not light-hearted romantic fare. This is a book where the characters’ emotions and feelings are on the line, and the reader wonders if it’s possible to redeem their relationship and Malcolm, the adulterous-husband-as-a-love-interest. As we know, cheating spouses aren’t sexy, so MacLean really took on a task for herself with this book.
If I’m being honest, I would say that I prefer my romance novels to be a bit lighter. Conflict and drama are integral parts to the romance novel, but this one was slightly too weighty to win my unqualified love. Still, there’s no denying that the book is skillfully written and MacLean deserves major kudos for tackling some very unromantic topics in her romance novel. The Day of the Duchess is an impressive, sensual addition to her catalogue and further proof that she is a really great writer.
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