The Duchess of Gracechurch Trilogy, Book 3
Heat Factor: Tame. There is a very sexy waltz, though.
Character Chemistry: More introspection than interaction.
Plot: Duke regrets lack of connection to wife and children, sets out to change his life.
Overall: A quiet read.
Reading The Duke’s Regret was a very different experience from reading my standard smut. There’s no melodrama, the passionate embraces are barely described, and the prose feels a bit old fashioned. Actually, the whole thing feels a bit old fashioned, like Kullman is trying to channel Georgette Heyer, or to capture non-anachronistic Regency language, or something. Unfortunately, because she doesn’t have Heyer’s sparkling wit, the end result does at times feel a bit… stodgy.
With that said, however, there were some really lovely things about this book. The old fashioned language may be stodgy, but it also means that we have a distinct lack of anachronistic feminist hoydens, which is a nice change of pace. The characters have interesting conversations about things like forms of address or how to properly educate their children, which is maybe not sexy, but it is important when you’re actually building a relationship around more than sex.
The basic premise is that the Duke of Gracechurch, while spending time with a friend who lost a son at Waterloo, realizes that he has no relationship with his wife of twenty years, not to mention his children. They were married young, in an arranged match, and he focused his love and energy on his long-term mistress (who predated his marriage). However, his mistress has been dead for years now, and he realizes that he’s lonely, so he sets out to reinsert himself into his family.
One thing that works really well is the dynamic that Kullman builds between Gracechurch and his wife. Gracechurch, in classic imperious duke fashion, shows up at the house and inserts himself into the daily routine and starts calling his wife “Flora” after twenty years of calling her “Duchess” – and Flora, rightly, calls him out on his nonsense. He doesn’t just get to decide that things are better because he wants them to be. He doesn’t just get to call her Flora, if the last time he used her given name was on their wedding day. He has to earn his place back in the family. So there is a bit of wooing and a bit of seducing, but a lot more of their time together sees him apologizing, or asking for a second chance, or just engaging in honest conversation. The conflict for Gracechurch, then, is how to build a relationship with people whom he has been benignly neglecting for years, and it doesn’t come easily and magically with a bit of tree climbing. (Letting his 18 year old son drive his fancy gig does help, though.)
The conflict for Flora is whether or not to take the risk on letting her husband into her heart. She has no assurances, after all, that he has really changed for good. She barely knows the man, and has no idea what is going on with this whim of his. Because the conflict is so personal, there is very little melodrama, and the internal processing that Gracechurch and Flora go through is realistic.
Though I wouldn’t say that Gracechurch and Flora have great chemistry, there is one fabulously sexy scene where they dance together. A waltz! In the country! Now I finally see why this was so scandalous:
His leg pushed between hers, causing her skirts to stroke her inner thighs with a delicious friction that had her pressing closer, seeking more. But then he turned her away so that they danced hip to hip, facing in opposite directions, but looking back flirtatiously in silent communion. He was extraordinarily inventive in varying the usual turns and holds but she had no difficulty following him. This was dancing of a different degree to any she had ever experienced, reminding her of whispered associations of a gentleman’s performance in the ballroom to his process in the bedchamber.
Most of the time, however, things are much more prosaic, and focused on the day-to-day realities of what it means to share a life with someone. Am I swooning or crying or laughing? No. Can I imagine these characters in the context of their setting and enjoy watching them work out problems using tools that felt historically accurate? Absolutely.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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