Author: Terri Brisbin
Genre: 19th Century England (I have no idea if it’s Regency or Victorian)
Series: Stand Alone (Yay!)
Reason for Reading: a Send Me No Flowers premise
The Duke and Duchess of Windmere have been married for 7 years and have a barren marriage. It is both physically barren (the Duchess has never gotten pregnant) and emotionally barren.
One day, overhearing his doctors talking about a terminal case, the Duke believes that he has less than a year to live. After indulging in self-pity and getting roaring drunk, he decides to set his will in order and make sure that his mother, his wife, and his mistress will be financially secure after his death. He gives his mistress her conge and generous parting gifts. He knows his mother, the Dowager Duchess, will always have her homes. However, he finds out that the Duchess would face an uncertain future if he dies without producing any issue.
When the Duke got drunk, the Duchess knew that something has happened. She follows him to their country estate in the hope that they might get closer as they used to be in the first year of their marriage when her husband was just the Second Son and not the Duke overwhelmed by the grandeur and rigid demands of his position after his older brother’s death.
The title of the novel is misleading. The Duchess’s next husband is never named altho the Duke does make up a laundry list of candidates. The book is less about the Duke looking for his replacement than it is about dealing with barrenness.
The barrenness is the symbol of their marriage. In the Prologue, you see the Duke in one of his weekly visits to the Duchess’s bed and it’s a clinical procedure with the Duke thinking of the Dukedom the whole time. As the Duke reaccesses his life and starts to fall for his wife, he begins to want pregnancy for her own sake. To me, this part was probably the most poignant part of the novel.
I love Troubled Marriage stories so enjoyed TDNH. This is my second Terri Brisbin after the medieval The King’s Mistress (a B- read) and I can see that Brisbin is unafraid to have far-from-perfect H/Hs in both books, which I applaud.
The thing I did not like was that there was nothing in the book anywhere that told me whether it was Regency period or Victorian. Also, I found the Duke rather on the dumb side and too easily manipulated by the Dowager Duchess, the villainess of the story. As a rule, I dont necessarily mind dumb H/Hs as long as they are equally matched in stupidity. (My favorite example of well-matched dum-dums is in Beast by Judith Ivory.) However, the Duchess was a bit smarter than the Duke. She knew something was up immediately and the Dowager had to work a lot harder to manipulate her. I couldnt help thinking their HEA was a bit dubious as long as the Dowager was in their lives.
Am I ever gonna read another Terri Brisbin? That depends. If she does one with another of my favorite tropes, then Yes. Otherwise, No.