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To Marry the Duke    by Julianne Maclean order for
To Marry the Duke
by Julianne Maclean
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Wealthy New York heiress Sophia Wilson dislikes the notion that she's in London to land herself a rich husband. While she wishes to give her mother the acceptance she's always craved by marrying well, Sophia wants to be able to tell her future children that she married for love.

Sophia and her mother have already made the acquaintance of various upper crust ladies who've helped advise on proper behavior and deportment while mingling with England's very elite. Now they busily make the rounds of all the right parties. The wealthy and beautiful heiress immediately besots the gentlemen, yet no one man has caught Sophia's undivided attention. At least not until James Nicholas Langdon, Duke of Wentworth, makes an unscheduled appearance at a party that she attends. As he strolls into the glittering ballroom and the whispers begin, Sophia quickly finds herself beguiled by 'The Dangerous Duke' and the rumours that circulate like wildfire. After an introduction, she's determined to find out more about him and to understand exactly what is going on under his aloof yet fascinating exterior.

James would be the first to admit he attended this ball for mercenary reasons - he needs a rich wife to secure his family's crumbling finances. Word has gotten round that Sophia Wilson's father is offering a small fortune to the man who makes her his wife and a fortune is exactly what James' estates need to be set right. He is taken aback by Sophia's beauty and grace and finds himself further charmed by her intelligence, humour and passion for life. These emotions are foreign to James, who was raised in a house where such feelings were suppressed, sometimes violently. Despite his belief that there is no such thing as true love or passion, he knows he cannot let this unconventional woman slip through his fingers and quickly charms Sophia into marrying him.

Sophia couldn't be happier, certain she's found the man of her dreams. But once they return from a honeymoon in Paris and she takes her place as his Duchess, James' passion suddenly cools. Nothing is expected of Sophia other than to run the household, endure his husbandly visits to her bed and in short order produce an heir. Appalled by this cold marital arrangement, Sophia tells James so. At first he isn't swayed by her disappointment, but it soon becomes clear that his passionate and very unconventional American Duchess will have her way. The more she professes her love for him, the harder he finds himself able to resist.

In her Author's Note, Julianne Maclean explains that between 1870 and 1914 about a hundred American women married into the British aristocracy. She uses this moment in history as a fulcrum to launch this entertaining and sensual story, To Marry a Duke. While her secondary plot (involving blackmail and an old family secret) isn't overly original, great writing, sparkling dialogue and the love story between the two wonderful leads will keep readers flipping the pages to a satisfying ending. This is the first book of a proposed trilogy showcasing three American heiresses (sisters) who set their sights on British nobles. Here's hoping Ms. Maclean's next episode is as much fun!

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