Tristan, the Duke of Shelbourne is a man with a mission: find a wife he can tolerate as long as they both shall live. No love is necessary—nor desired. But how to choose amid a dizzying array of wealthy-yet-witless candidates? Hire London’s infamously prim and proper matchmaker. Then pretend she’s not the most captivating woman he’s ever met . . .
Helping a devilish Duke create a contest to pick his perfect mate is the kind of challenge Tessa Mansfield relishes. Her methods may be scandalous, but she’s determined to find the notorious bachelor more than a wife—she’ll bring him true love. Yet when Tessa watches the women vie for the Duke’s affections, she longs to win his heart herself. And after a stolen kiss confirms Tristan’s desire, Tessa knows she has broken a matchmaker’s number one rule: never fall in love with the groom.
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Considering the amount of praise covering the cover and inside of this book from top romance authors, I had expectations for this debut. Very high expectations. Needless to say, Vicky Dreiling’s first book (although with some flaws) overall doesn’t disappoint with its fast-paced, funny, The Bachelor-meets-Emma story about a sceptical duke and an ambitious matchmaker who unexpectedly falls in love with her own client.
I really liked Tessa, the matchmaker, though other reviewers might find her manipulative, petty, and silly. She is a relatively young woman, and like Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse, makes mistakes but ends up growing on you. I promise you there is a good reason for the way she is. Tristan was great as well, starting off like a shallow rake, but ending up revealing other greater qualities.
The premise for the plot was a bit over the top and anachronistic to be honest. 24 girls all competing for a duke’s hand in a The Bachelor-like setup? It’s a great idea for modern TV but doesn’t translate that well into frills and laces. Still, it was a fresh idea, and despite the implausibility of it, was still well pulled off, considering the physical limitations of the time between men and women. I applaud Vicky for adhering to the social rules while still making funny ‘tests’ for the competitors.
I also enjoyed getting to know some of the competitors more and was so happy when I found out one of them will be getting her own book. I liked how well-rounded they were, not your cardboard cut-out of the typical contestants, i.e the bitch, the nice girl etc.
However, I found the writing was a bit inconsistent (but this is a debut after all) and it seemed to change styles from one chapter to another. At the very start, the writing felt forced, almost as if she was trying too hard to make herself sound funny. It was also very repetitive at times. Afterwards, though, the writing improved and she seemed to develop her own style by the end of the novel.
I also expected the novel to be wittier with great banter between the hero and heroine. Though there was some wit, most of the novel was plot-driven. The good side? It was very addictive though because of the competition and had me up all night just to finish it and to find out what the next test was and who would be eliminated next!
Stories about matchmakers are generally full of hilarious antics (who can forget Jane Austen’s Emma’s bungled attempts at matchmaking!) and in this area, How to Marry a Duke excels. The plot was hilarious, had some good twists and kept me glued to the page. Once you get over the huge implausibility of 24 girls openly competing for the duke’s hand in full view of society, the novel is a fun ride!
Sensuality Rating: Hot (Love scenes are short but explicit)
Verdict: Addictive, hilarious and fun! Don’t start this one at night 😉
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars