51makvpi-clA couple of months ago, I received the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Valerie Bowman’s The Untamed Earl. I have been reading historical romance novels for many years, but that was my first experience with Bowman’s books. I enjoyed The Untamed Earl, and was excited when I remembered that I had a couple of her other books on my Kindle. I tend to collect books when they are on sale, and come back to read them later.

I decided to start with The Unexpected Duchess, the first entry in the “Playful Brides” series. I had mentioned in my review of The Untamed Earl that there were some scenes with the hero’s sister and her friends, and that I would have had a better appreciation for their friendship if I had read the previous books in the series. So what better place to start than the beginning?

Lady Lucy Upton is a very loyal friend. Her friend Cass declares that she does not want to marry war-hero-turned-duke Derek Hunt, but she is too shy to tell him herself. Lucy takes it upon herself to speak for her dear friend Cass, and tell the new aristocrat that Cass is just not interested. She tries an indirect approach: speaking for Cass in a scene reminiscent of Cyrano de Bergerac, and she tries a more direct approach too.

Derek is not quite sure what to make of this situation. His reasons for wanting to marry Cass are personal; a dying friend recommended Cass, and made Derek promise that he would marry her. At first, Derek is irritated by Lucy’s interference, but he quickly realizes that he enjoys sparring with her. The attraction is mutual, as our Lady Lucy is horrified to discover that she is becoming attracted to the pesky man who won’t leave her friend alone.

This was a charming book. It’s very funny, and I was continuously smiling as I read through the book. Every woman needs a friend like Lucy. She’s an interesting heroine because she is so unconventional. I daresay that she might be a tad too unconventional; I was shocked when she describes to Derek what she did at her debut. I can guarantee that such an incident would not have been forgotten as easily as it seems to have been.

I would recommend The Unlikely Duchess. This book will appeal to fans of Julia Quinn and Eloisa James. I am pleased to have discovered Valerie Bowman, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the Playful Brides books, as well as her other series.



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