Book Review: Catherine Winchester’s The Reluctant Duchess

Posted November 13, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the author as a free story in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Catherine Winchester’s The Reluctant Duchess

The Reluctant Duchess


historical romance on January 19, 2013 and has 328 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.
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An historical romance set in England. I’d guess around the time of the Peninsular War at the start of the 1800s.

My Take

I will confess that I only read 28% of the story — at one point, I found myself hoping I’d see that I was 50 or 60-some percent through … I was so down when I realized I was just over a quarter through it, and I couldn’t make myself swallow anymore of it. It was simply too hard to believe Winchester is this ignorant of the time period and its manners and mores, when she understands what a courtesy title is but not how to apply titles, and it’s this ignorance which completely destroys the story for me. Winchester would have done better to create her own country. Heck, she’s created everything else, all she had to do was change the names of England, London, and the county, and it would have been more believable.

The duchess knows about Annabelle and confides in her; she bakes with her. She’s the sister of one king and the daughter of a mad king as well as the only one who got married. Which doesn’t jive with any English king I know of. I certainly can’t see a king marrying only one daughter off — and to an English duke — when it was much more common to use them to cement alliances.

I can say one positive thing …I did like the twist Winchester put on this damsel-in-distress trope, and I do like a strong female character.

For a house party to which Lavinia has invited so many people, there isn’t much party interaction, especially with Lavinia and Richard spending an awful lot of time with Annabelle at the dower house or in its kitchen.

I do wish Winchester would decide if Frank was the name of Annabelle’s barman or Frederick.

No, I know how it’ll end, and I usually enjoy reading how the author intends to get us there, but I simply cannot bear such a lack of attention to the truths of a period or the leaping from one scene to the next with no development to that scene — Richard grabs Annabelle and kisses her (4% into the story) — hey, it’s insta-love time. And made me see him as either an idiot or a predator. It’s almost all tell with very little show … All this bad, and it’s compounded by her need for a proofreader! No, no, it’s so bad, that it’s not worth the reading.

The Story

A titled young lady is making her own way in this world and attracts attention — some in admiration, some…not.

The Characters

This is only 28% of the way in, so these are only the characters to that point

Annabelle “Anna”, Lady Wyatt, is the daughter of a marquess and now-insane mother. After her father died and her half-brother inherited the estate, she, Eveline her mother, and a select group of servants — Sal, Ruth, Ethel, Frank, and Bessie Jones (her mother’s lady’s maid) — fled with her inheritance. They managed to find Minnie at the workhouse. She opened a coffee shop which is where she met Duke.

Richard Armstrong, The Duke of Hampshire, has recently inherited his title and has resigned from the army. Ada Braddock is his current mistress. Lavinia is his mother, the now-dowager duchess and the daughter and sister of a king, *eye roll*. James was her beloved husband and Richard’s father. Smithers is the too-familiar butler at the country house. Carol is the lady’s maid Lavinia loans Annabelle while Sarah and Mary are the kitchen maids and Jinny is the parlor maid.

Lord Jonathan Rhyman is a friend of Richard’s and anxious for him to join him in politics. Sophie is his wife.

Frederick Wyatt is the Marquess of Dorset and Annabelle’s vicious half-brother.

Lords Bellingham and Pierce are editors of the Review and the London Times, respectively. Lord Waltham, Louise/Louisa Birkenstock (the niece of the Bishop of Winchester), and Sophie are some of the guests at Lavinia’s weekend house party. Dr. Medway is the physician attending Annabelle’s mother.

The Cover and Title

The cover is probably the best part with its summer-day sky and Richard’s palatial home with a partially undressed Richard and “Anna” embracing in the sky above.

The title is probably accurate, for Annabelle would be The Reluctant Duchess.

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