Thursday, March 2, 2017

ARC Review: If the Duke Demands by Anna Harrington

Series:     Capturing the Carlisles #1
Pub. Date:Feb. 28, 2017
Publisher:Forever Grand Central
Length:368 pages

If the Duke Demands features an altruistic and exuberant heroine that will endear herself to most readers, and have you hoping she wins her HEA. 

Miranda Hodgkins grew up with the Carlisle family as the orphaned niece of their tenant farmer. Known for being reckless and troublesome, the Carlisle boys still see Miranda as the irksome sprite who followed them around their estate. But when Miranda wants Robert Carlisle (the middle brother) to notice her as a woman, she decides the best course of action is to sneak into his room scantily clad following a masquerade and attempt to seduce him. Her plan was going extremely well, until she realized she was in the wrong brother's room! You really couldn't dislike like Miranda. She genuinely cared about people and wanted to help wherever someone needed... yet trouble seemed to find her no matter her good intentions. She had a bit of a black cloud over her head when it came to accidents and unintended consequences, but she didn't let that affect her joie de vivre. Her positive attitude was contagious and I found my mood improved as I was reading. 

Sebastian Carlisle, Duke of Trent is a reformed rake. After their father died, all of the rambunctious and roguish Carlisle brothers had to sober up and take on familial responsibilities, none more so than Sebastian. Now Sebastian is a staid and boring duke, focused on the duties of his new position in life - including finding the perfect duchess and siring an heir. I felt bad for Sebastian. Guilt over losing his father has driven him so far to the side of responsibility that he has forgotten how to be happy. When he finds himself sponsoring the exasperating and vivacious Miranda for a season, he is both drawn to and repelled by her. It wasn't a complication that he desired while he was on the hunt for a wife. But Sebastian has to learn that he deserves happiness before he can see which lovely lady would make him the perfect wife, helpmate and duchess.

This relationship fell into the forbidden romance spectrum. Sebastian's family was awarded a duchy, so he is one of the highest peers in the realm. He believes he will need a wife of excellent breeding, gracious manners and superb hostess abilities. He definitely cannot marry the orphaned niece of his tenant farmer, who most of the ton would view as no better than a barmaid, regardless of her cheerful demeanor. There was a bit of push and pull between these two... they were drawn to one another, but their stations seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle. Harrington did a good job at drawing you into the torment of this situation, particularly from Miranda's point of view. She was such a genuinely good person that you really felt bad for her. I loved the banter, arguing and flirting between Sebastian and Miranda - it was probably the highlight of the story for me.

Capturing the Carlisles is a spinoff of The Secret Life of Scoundrels series. If you are like me and have not read that entire series yet, I would encourage you to read How I Married a Marquess so you get the backstory on the Carlisle family. There were a number of references to Josie (the Carlisle daughter) and other family history and I felt like I was missing something during those parts. Despite that, however, I slogged along just fine through this story without being totally confused. I just would have liked to know that backstory because I like those details as I am reading. 

I voluntarily reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, Forever Grand Central.