You may know how much I adore Tessa Dare and her romance novels by now, but you may still not understand why. So here’s a quick list for you: (1) She sent me the cutest postcard that I got in the mail on release day after work while my copy was sitting in the car; (2) Her Twitter account — all the yes; (3) Her books make me laugh out loud (sometimes twice in one page) and feel hope; (4) She writes relationships that I want to be real, her characters feel like friends, and returning to her writing is like catching up with friends you haven’t seen in a while. Basically, if you want to read something that’s going to improve your day exponentially, pick up a Tessa Dare book. The Duchess Deal is perfect if you haven’t read her before because it’s the beginning of her new series: Girl Meets Duke. So let’s get started!
Synopsis: The Duke of Ashbury returned from war with scars on half of his body that make him feel like a monster. He is a brooding, hunk of a man, with a Staff that cares so much about him and would just really like if he could stop being such a recluse and give them something to do again. Emma is a seamstress who spent an obnoxiously long time sewing the wedding dress for Annabelle, the Duke’s fiancé, who found his scars repulsive upon his return. Unfortunately for Emma, her bills are due and if she doesn’t get the money she’s owed for the dress, she’s going to be homeless. So she gets the courage up to ask the Duke of Ashbury for the money at his residence by showing up in the wedding dress, which the Duke decides is perfect because he needs an heir (and therefore a wife). The story takes off from there.
My Thoughts: You may have seen me on Twitter exclaiming about how much I loved this book and how much I needed it. I also read Bad Romance right before reading this and Bad Romance is a book about a toxic relationship, so to say that I was in a place where I needed a happy, good relationship is really just an understatement. Also, let’s talk about the fact that Tessa came through for the Resistance and quoted MITCH MCCONNELL in a historical romance novel. YAS, TESSA.
Isn’t it amazing? I just loved it. I squealed when I got to it, of course. So that was one of my favorite lines, but there were so many passages that I tabbed because I enjoyed them so much.
I do want to talk a bit about the relationships because, well, this is a romance novel, in case you didn’t know. I was really nervous at first, not because I don’t trust Tessa Dare to write a relationship I’m going to root for, but because this line hit a little too close to something I’d been having a lot of thoughts about anyway. So Mr. Kahn is the butler and really Ash’s only friend at the beginning because of Ash turning into a recluse. He, and the rest of the staff, are fully on board with Emma marrying Ash and they want them to fall in love so that Ash will be happier.
Mr. Kahn says to Emma, “He’s been alone and is determined to remain that way. He doesn’t trust anyone, but he respects those who challenge him. I suspect that’s why you are here. He’s angry, resentful, bored, in more pain than he lets on–and you’ll either be the making of him, or he’ll be the ruin of you.”
Women having to do emotional work for men in books is a super problematic trope that I want to throw out the window, burn, drown, etc, etc. because it’s a trope that has carried over into real life and I’m exhausted. However, in this book, Emma really doesn’t do emotional work for Ash, or at least, I did not read it in that way. She challenges him, of course, but more because she just demands what she wants and figures out how to make it happen. Ash starts to change not because of work Emma does, but because Emma reminds him that things aren’t terrible, that not everyone is going to see his scars and think MONSTER. His emotional issues also make sense and they aren’t some ridiculous hold over about his mother who made him hate all women. Seriously, what is with that trope? DO YOUR EMOTIONAL WORK, FICTIONAL MEN. (Also real men. Kthxbye)
Okay, rant over. Back to what I actually thought about The Duchess Dare, Emma makes friends with three other women, who are really intriguing and I’m so excited for each of them to have books. Lady Penny Campion loves to collect animals, er, take in animals? Not sure, but definitely not the traditional animals you see in books (unless we’re talking about The Hathaways series by Lisa Kleypas). The other two are Nicola Teague, who likes to read things women are definitely “not supposed to read”, and Alexandra Mountbatten, who works on clocks. I also adored that Emma brought over Alexandra to fix the clocks in the entire house and tried to give her several times what Alexandra had been charging because, “I know–all too well–what it’s like to be an unmarried young woman in London, working for a living at criminally low wages.” I’m so excited to continue in the series when the next one comes out, which is supposed to be sometime next year. Also fingers crossed it’s about Nicola and the guy in the bookstore because WHAT A MEET CUTE.
And then there’s the Batman storyline that came as a shock to me and I don’t want to spoil it so I will just say the Robin character? I LOVE HIM. I need him to have a book. Better go tell Tessa Dare on Twitter how much I need this to be a thing (because obviously that’s how you interact with authors on Twitter? I’m the worst, let’s be real).
So, yes, read this book or save it for after you’ve had a bad day at work where you apparently didn’t do anything correctly. Or after a day of adulting when your anxiety is like YOU FAILED THE BAR, oh, jk, that’s probably just a me thing. Anyways… If you read this, let me know in the comments below!