I read a full-length “Regency” historical romance recently that had absolutely no sense of place. It could have easily taken place on a Texas cattle ranch in 1968 as Regency London. I immediately thought back to my reading of that particular book while zipping through this short story by Ann Lethbridge. Why? Because this short story had more Regency flavor 100 times over than that full-length novel.
Julia Partridge is a widow who has fallen on hard times. Such hard times that she gets caught stealing. Coming to her “rescue” is a madam at a local brothel. Julia is to get auctioned off for one night, with one man – and in exchange she’ll get a pile of money. With no other options, and desperate for those promised funds, Julia agrees. Of course, she had no idea that the man who “won” her in the auction would turn out to be Alistair Crawford, Duke of Dunstan, a man so notorious for his reputation that his nickname is “the Dissolute Duke!”
Kudos to the author for actually giving readers a real rake. This is a guy who has privileged ennui stamped all over him. It’s practically oozing out of his pores. So yeah, it’s not like you fall in love with him as a hero the moment he steps on the page. I like that Julia faces issues that are very believable for the time period. A widow, with no family to rely on, and no nest egg stashed away for her by her dead husband. Not a lot of options.
As lovely as the sense of place was, and as much as I appreciated the author’s characterizations, there were moments in the romance that did give me pause. The author excels at the love scenes, evoking them in a slow, sensual manner. However, I couldn’t help feeling that a big reason Alistair falls for Julia is because she’s not your “typical” brothel girl. It’s okay for him to fall in love with her because she’s smart, well-spoken, and obviously “quality.” Meaning if she was working class and poor, there’s no way in heck he’d give her a second look. So yeah, he’s a snob. To be fair, he’s a bloody duke! Of course he’s going to be a snob! I also feel the ending is a bit much, given the short time frame of the story, but it is a historical so “let’s date for a while” isn’t really an option and, honestly, “be my mistress” doesn’t exactly scream romance.
That being said, this is a nice, sensual read, and good example of what I want from the Undone line. It is short, it has a nice sense of place, and the love scenes are steamy. If you want a little steam with a Regency era that isn’t wallpaper and you’re open to short stories? Look no further.
Widow Julia Partridge is desperate. To repay a debt, she’s forced to sell herself in an auction at the most exclusive bawdy house in London. Julia only has to get through one night with one man—though she never imagined that man would be Alistair Crawford, the dissolute Duke of Dunstan! Alistair has the face of a fallen angel…and a reputation for vice to match. Yet when he turns his attentions to Julia, he unexpectedly arouses more passion in a few moments than she’d felt in her entire marriage….
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