cover image The Duchess

The Duchess

Jude Deveraux. Pocket Books, $21 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-68971-1

Mutual deception lies at the heart of this agreeable romp set in 1883 Scotland. American money (Claire Willoughby) is to snare a Scottish title (Harry, 11th duke of MacArran). But Claire's parents are bankrupt and spend Claire's dowry on their own lavish pleasures. Unknown to the Willoughbys, Harry's family is also penniless and counting on Claire's inheritance to upgrade their 12th-century estate, Bramley House. On a prenuptial visit, Claire meets an enigmatic rogue named simply Trevelyan. In fact, he is the true duke, Harry's older brother, and leads a spectacular double life as a Sir Richard Burton-esque explorer, Capt. Frank Baker. Recuperating from a debilitating illness, Trevelyan hides in a carefully concealed section of Bramley House. Claire, restless and inquisitive, stumbles through secret passageways and locates Trevelyan's exotic nook. Unaware that he is Harry's brother as well as the explorer whose books she has read with such eagerness, Claire strikes up what begins as a spirited friendship with Trevelyan. Soon Claire entertains second thoughts about Harry, who is far too devoted to his horses and to his mother, the sinister Duchess Eugenia. Written with a light touch and a quick wit, this latest offering by veteran romance novelist Deveraux ( Mountain Laurel ) contains numerous surprises in its final, exuberant chapters. (Oct.)