The Winter Duchess by Jillian Eaton

Their wedding was the event of the season… A shy wallflower, Caroline hasn’t the faintest idea why the Duke of Readington chose her to be his bride. She could ask, but that would mean speaking to him…and truth be told she’d rather have a conversation with the devil. Her new husband may be one of the most powerful men in all of England – not to mention the handsomest – but he’s also cruel, callous, and has a heart colder than ice.

But it was never meant to be a love match… Eric married Caroline for one simple reason: he wasn’t in love with her. Having seen firsthand how love can bring a man to his knees, he’s determined not to make the same mistakes his father did. Which is why he’s going to spend just enough time with his new bride to assure himself of an heir before he leaves her and returns to London. At least that was the plan until a winter storm leaves them stranded. Now every time Eric turns around he finds himself stumbling over the wife he never wanted…but is slowly beginning to desire.

….or was it? As cold winds howl outside the manor, inside of it a duke’s heart is finally starting to melt as he finds himself falling for the one woman he was never supposed to love…but can she love him in return?

Titles in the A Duchess For All Seasons series include:  The Winter Duchess –

Title:  The Winter Duchess
Series:  A Duchess For All Seasons #1
Author:  Jillian Eaton
Published:  November 18, 2017
My Rating:  4 stars

Eric, Duke of Readington would make a very good villain.  Very good.  It was only because I kept going between hatred and pity for this man that he never reached that true evil man status for me.  Eric had an extremely messed up childhood as he watched his mother use his father’s love for her to completely control their household.  If she wanted something, she turned on the tears until she got it, if she was upset about something she brought out the angry tantrums until she got her own way.  Meanwhile, Eric’s father truly loved his wife and being a man in love tried his best to meet her demands leaving him a broken man, deep in his cups and slid into an early grave.  With these as his parental guidelines as to what a marriage is, perhaps his behavior could be explained… but certainly not overlooked.  For Eric was a cruel, heartless cad to his young wife – and seemed completely clueless as to why she was often upset at his words or actions.

Caroline is a beautiful, shy young woman who has been overpowered by her difficult mother all of her life.  In many ways she has absolutely no clue how she got to be standing at this alter with a man who doesn’t seem to like her much, vowing to love and honor him for all of her days.  Her confusion will intensify as they travel to what is to be her home far from the streets of London, after all her husband has made it clear that he wants an heir but not a wife.  Here she will try to find a way to connect with her husband, a way to find a love somewhere within this odd marriage.  Unfortunately, Caroline will face many more days of confusion, tears and disappointments… until that moment when she has had enough.  And perhaps in his fear of losing her, Eric can begin to see just how badly he’s performed in the world of a married couple.  Now with Christmas eve upon then, can they turn an almost tragedy into a new beginning – only time will tell.

It was very easy to have sympathy and affection for Caroline – and equally difficult to even tolerate Eric, let alone like him for the majority of The Winter Duchess.  I have read a lot of Historical and Regency Romance during my lifetime, and I honestly cannot recall when I loathed a main character more.  Eric barely redeemed himself by the story’s ending – so I claim the option to give him the benefit of a doubt, but it’s a big doubt.  What will be interesting is that this couple will make an appearance in another of Ms. Eaton’s series – that would be interesting to see how they fare now that Eric’s attitude adjustment has been in place for a bit of time.  *grin*

In all, I enjoyed this couple’s story.  It’s true that I had strong feelings about them both, and really, isn’t that any author’s intent to make us feel about her characters?  There is just enough of a lost boy that peeks out in Eric’s thoughts and conversations to keep our hopes alive that he can and will change.  And certainly seeing Caro show off her newly formed backbone was a delight.  I would recommend The Winter Duchess to Historical or Regency Romance readers, simply be aware that these characters are going to bring out the emotions in you as you read.

I own a Kindle edition of this story.

This review first appeared on my Romantic Historicals blog.

Available in paperback and for the Kindle

 

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