cover image Heir to the Duke

Heir to the Duke

Jane Ashford. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-1-4926-2156-0

Ashford (Married to a Perfect Stranger) makes a strong start to her Duke’s Sons Regency series with a story that affirms the value of being yourself and having fun in the process. The ostensibly staid Lady Violet Devere escapes the tyrannical social control of her grandmother by marrying Nathaniel Gresham, Viscount Hightower. She passionately breaks out of her shell and asks her new husband for a season in Brighton, a daring new wardrobe, and the dismissal of the dour servant from her previous home. This delights Nathaniel, who needs to be distracted from the seriousness of keeping his prankster younger brothers in line. Then Violet’s discovery of a family secret threatens to destroy her newfound sparkle and joy. The playful tone is enhanced by delightful period terms, such as tatterdemalion, sprinkled throughout the text. Ashford’s heroes favor flexibility in matters of fashion and bearing, but they stand firmly against moral lapses, keeping the book’s ethics unproblematic. Nathaniel’s likable family makes just enough of an appearance to fuel anticipation of his brothers’ future matches. Agent: Jennifer Weltz, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. (Jan.)