cover image THE DUCHESS' LOVER


Julie Beard, . . Jove, $6.99 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-515-13277-9

Set during the late Victorian period, Beard's newest (after Very Truly Yours) is a descriptive love story that emphasizes the tensions between the social classes. Olivia Thorpe, the newly widowed duchess of Brandhurst, and Will Barnes, a garden designer and frustrated portrait painter, share a heated, spontaneous night together following the death of Olivia's husband, but it isn't until a year later that they are forced to face the consequences of their actions. Unbeknownst to many, the duke's death was not due to natural causes. He was murdered, and Olivia's power-hungry nephew intends to drag the scandal out into the open and accuse her of the deed. After all, the duke was stabbed with her letter opener, and she had plenty of motive—her husband was abusive. Will, however, is determined to find the killer and salvage Olivia's reputation, even if it means giving up their love. A subplot focusing on the plight of female factory workers is woven seamlessly into the plot, and a cast of full-bodied secondary characters augment the narrative. The resulting book is a multifaceted read that paints an accurate portrait of a bygone era while tugging on the reader's heartstrings. (Apr.)