The Duke's Disaster

The Duke's Disaster

4.0 21
by Grace Burrowes

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Noah Winters, Duke of Anselm, exercises the pragmatism for which he's infamous when his preferred choice of bride cries off, and her companion, Lady Thea Collins, becomes his next choice for his duchess. Lady Thea's mature, sensible and even rather attractive-what could possibly go wrong?

As a lady fallen on hard times, Thea doesn't expect tender sentiments from


Noah Winters, Duke of Anselm, exercises the pragmatism for which he's infamous when his preferred choice of bride cries off, and her companion, Lady Thea Collins, becomes his next choice for his duchess. Lady Thea's mature, sensible and even rather attractive-what could possibly go wrong?

As a lady fallen on hard times, Thea doesn't expect tender sentiments from His Grace, but she does wish Noah had courted her trust, lest her past turn their hastily arranged marriage into a life of shared regrets. Is His Grace courting a convenient wife, or a beautiful disaster?

Praise for Grace Burrowes:
"Burrowes has a knack for giving fresh twists to genre tropes and developing them in unexpected and delightful directions [with] consistently excellent writing, deep and layered stories, and intelligent and compassionate characters." -Publishers Weekly
"Warmth, sensuality, and humor infuse Burrowes' writing." -Booklist
"Burrowes continues to captivate and enchant!" -Fresh Fiction

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After several contemporary American romances, Burrowes (What a Lady Needs for Christmas) returns to Regency England for this tender standalone. Noah Winters, Duke of Anselm, has every intention of marrying the lovely Marliss Hallowell, but when he offers, she refuses. Being the pragmatic sort, he promptly proposes to Araminthea Collins, Marliss’s companion. Thea considers turning him down, believing that her tarnished past makes her unsuitable to be a duchess, but she can’t resist the protection of his name, financial security, and a stable home for her younger sister. The wedding night is full of good intentions gone horribly wrong, leaving Thea distressed and Noah feeling betrayed. But even with hurt feelings on both sides, they both try to be civil and salvage their marriage. Noah is a lovable rogue, stealing Thea’s breakfast every morning. Instead of teasing or cajoling Noah into forgiveness, Thea just wants to move forward and be his friend. Every interaction, touch, and look is infused with warmth, sensuality, and humor. This romance has its funny moments and light banter, but the weightier themes of force and trust cast deep shadows. The marvelous protagonists balance out some ham-fisted handling of issues around sexual consent. Agent: Steve Axelrod, Axelrod Literary Agency. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"Charming...skillfully engaging read." - Fresh Fiction

"Burrowes excels in her character development, and her ability to turn the ordinary into something intimate and special. This book is warm, touching, emotional, sexy, and had me staying up reading into the wee hours. Most highly recommended." - Long and Short Reviews

"[An] exquisitely crafted, intensely memorable romance that is another winner for the exceptional Burrowes... STARRED Review" - Library Journal

"Burrowes skillfully explores the importance of trust in a relationship, as well as love and passion, bringing a depth of emotion to her romance that resonates with readers." - RT Book Reviews

"[The] growing closeness between Thea and Noah is a delightful courtship to experience." - Booklist

"[Y]ou managed to take [Regency romance] tropes and tweak them ever so slightly to turn what was merely very good into something magnificent." - Dear Author

Library Journal
★ 04/15/2015
Noah Winters, Duke of Anselm, is not a nice man. He even says so himself. But he is titled, wealthy, and needs a wife. So when his latest quarry wisely decides to marry another, he offers for her sensible companion, Lady Araminthea Collins, instead—and despite serious doubts, she agrees. A practical, civilized marriage is what they expect, but as respect and desire grow, it begins to turn into more. But a jealous and vindictive malcontent threatens to destroy their happiness by spreading mischief and old scandals that put the couple's love to the test. VERDICT Issues of trust and understanding are front and center in this exquisitely crafted, intensely memorable romance that is another winner for the exceptional Burrowes (Kiss Me Hello); she lives in rural Maryland.

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"I am not a nice man," Noah Winters, eighth Duke of Anselm, pronounced.

Lady Araminthea Collins merely lifted a graceful feminine eyebrow at his self-assessment.

"Perhaps, Your Grace, a gentleman's veracity is more worthy of note than his niceness," she observed.

Noah silently applauded the lady's composure; but then, her sangfroid was one of the qualities that had drawn his notice.

"I am not nice," he reiterated, "but I am titled, wealthy, and in need of a wife." Direct speech was necessary if the blasted pansies bordering the garden bench weren't to provoke him into sneezing.

Noah's last disclosure didn't even merit a raised eyebrow.

"Hence your attentions to my employer," Lady Thea murmured.

"Marliss isn't your employer," Noah countered. "If we're to be truthful, her papa is, and now that she's announced her betrothal to young Cowper, you will no doubt be looking for another position."

That comment was a small display of his lack of niceness, but patience and posturing had never been Noah's greatest attributes, particularly when his nose was starting to tickle.

"You've heard an announcement, Your Grace?"

"Endmon was rather jovial at the club last night." Rather loquacious and rather drunk, like a papa was entitled to be when his darling girl had found another account to charge her millinery to.

Noah's solicitors had warned him that Cowper's man of business was in negotiations with Viscount Endmon, Marliss's papa. All Noah had felt was a fleeting frustration, to have wasted weeks squiring the young lady about in hopes of concluding his bride hunt.

"If you'll excuse me." Lady Thea grasped her skirts in both hands as if to rise. "I'm sure there's much to do, for Marliss will have throngs of callers-"

Noah wrapped a bare hand over Lady Thea's wrist. His forwardness earned him a two-eyebrow salute, but also had her subsiding back onto the bench.

That wrist was delicate, particularly compared to Noah's.

"A young lady's companion," he said, withdrawing his hand, "is little more than a finishing governess, Lady Thea. You are in want of a position, I am in want of a duchess, and I am offering you that post."

No eyebrows, no gasp of shock, no reaction at all as she regarded him out of puzzled green eyes. "You're serious."

To a fault, according to most women who'd ventured an opinion, including Noah's most recent mistress.

"Your papa was an earl," he said. "You're comely, quiet, past the vapid stage, and from good breeding stock. You are every bit as much duchess material as that giggling twit you supervise."

"Marliss is merely young," Lady Thea said repressively. "But because you are not nice and I am not a giggling twit, you think we would suit?"

A fair summary. "I do, at least as well as I would have suited Marliss or any of her ilk."

The morning sun caught red highlights in Lady Thea's dark hair, and confirmed that she eschewed cosmetics. Marliss had been overfond of them, in Noah's opinion.

"Marliss will be happier with Baron Cowper," Lady Thea said. "What makes you think I would be happier as your duchess than in another companion's post, Your Grace?"

Not the you-do-me-great-honor-but speech, which Noah had been prepared for-he did her a very significant honor indeed-but not a meek capitulation either. She managed to reprove without being rude-for which Noah admired her, of course.

Though he hadn't planned on having the Anselm tiara so thoroughly inspected before the lady tried it on.

"You will never know material want," Noah said, studying the privet hedge rather than her ladyship's plain gray gown. "You will never be forced onto your brother's dubious charity, and once the obligation to the succession is met, you will have as much freedom as discretion and independent wealth allow."

Though if Noah had any say in the matter, Lady Thea would not order the gardeners to plant pansies beneath her window.

"You believe the obligation to the succession will be easily met?"

Lady Thea fired off the question crisply, but Noah wasn't sure what she was asking. His breeding organs were as happily devoid of restraint as the next man's, and the lady was comely enough he ought to be able to fulfill his duty.

"My father produced only two legitimate sons, despite taking three successive wives," he said. "Your parents managed one son in three tries, so no, I am not boasting of an ability to control all aspects of our union, but I am hopeful Providence will be accommodating. You had a number of uncles on both sides, after all."

Her ladyship fell silent, no pithy rejoinder, no troublesome questions.

Noah had sat across from her in many a carriage as he'd escorted Marliss on the usual rounds and knew that silence was one of Lady Thea's many gifts. She was also quietly pleasing to the eye. She did nothing to draw attention to herself, but any man would notice that she had lustrous sable hair, good bones, a figure politely described as suited to childbearing, and green eyes with a hint of an exotic tilt to them.

She'd do, though this revelation had come to Noah only two days ago, when his informants had learned Marliss was no longer on the hunt for a groom. The idea had popped into his brain out of whole cloth, with the same lack of warning that characterized some of his most profitable commercial gambits.

A proposal to Lady Araminthea was worth a try in any case, because the Season would soon be over, and that meant another year before the next crop of giggling twits was presented at court. Another year of sitting backward in his own carriage, another year of strolling through colorful, troublesome gardens.

"I will think on this," Lady Thea said. "I have no one to speak for me, so you will provide me any draft settlement documents."

Provide them to her? The notion offended Noah on her behalf. "What about your brother?"

"If you and I can come to terms," Lady Thea said, "you may send him a copy of the contracts as a courtesy, but I gather you seek to have matters timely resolved, and decisiveness is not in Tim's nature."

Sobriety was not in Timotheus Collins's nature, or temperance. Even a man who was not nice could keep those observations to himself.

"I can have drafts sent around to you by the end of the week," Noah said, though dealing with Lady Thea directly on marriage settlements left him uneasy. "You have no one else to negotiate on your behalf-an uncle, or even a widowed aunt?"

"The Collins family tends to live with more intensity than stamina, Your Grace." She rose, and this time Noah rose with her. "I am the eldest surviving exponent thereof. Will you walk with me?"

Yes, he would, provided they moved away from the infernal posies.

Noah offered his arm, content that Lady Thea would give him an answer within the week. Because she had no dowry, Noah could easily ensure the settlements favored her, though in the face of the lady's hesitance, he turned his thoughts to the further inducements he could offer.

She would be his duchess, after all, and duchesses, even prospective ones, were due every courtesy.

"Your sister would of course be welcome in our home," he said as they ambled away from the house-and the dratted flowers. On an early June morning, Viscount Endmon's gardens were peaceful, pretty, and softly scented-like the woman whose arm was linked with Noah's. They followed a gravel walk into a shaded bend in the trees where Lady Thea dropped his arm.

"I have a request," she said.

Noah was prepared to bargain politely over a long engagement or a fancy wedding, though neither was in his plans. "Provided it's reasonable...?"

"Kiss me."

They were out of view of the house and the stables, which was fortunate, for Noah sensed this additional, unanticipated request was the key to winning Lady Thea's hand. Kissing was a pleasant enough undertaking, usually.

"What sort of kiss would you like?" he asked, for Noah's expertise comprised the usual repertoire, plus a few extras.

Now she took a visual inventory of their surroundings, as if she either hadn't known or hadn't admitted to herself there were different kinds of kisses.

"A husbandly kiss."

Women. "Because I have never been a husband, we must refine on the point. Is this to be the kiss of a husband greeting his spouse in the morning, parting from her, offering her amatory overtures, or...claiming her?"

"Not overtures." Her ladyship checked the watch pinned to her bodice, a small, plain gold trinket apparently of more interest than Noah's kisses. "A kiss to inspire trust."

Was that the same as a kiss to seduce? But, no. She didn't mean a kiss to inspire misplaced trust, but rather, a kiss to inspire the genuine article. Noah hadn't taken Lady Thea for the fanciful sort, but kisses likely did not come her way often enough that she could allow an opportunity for one to pass by.

"Over here." He took her hand and led her a few steps deeper into the shade. "Close your eyes."

She had trouble with that, but eventually complied, giving Noah a moment to study her downcast, tense expression. He stepped closer and slipped a hand around her waist, bringing her against his taller frame.

The fit was pleasing, the lady's martyred expression a trial.

"This isn't kissing, Your Grace."

"Hush," he chided, "and no peeking. This is part of it, but I'm waiting for you to behave kissably." He rested his chin on her crown, more so she'd know where he was than anything else, but that presumption allowed him to inhale her sweet, meadowy fragrance, and to brush his cheek over the silky warmth of her hair.

To prevent her ladyship from fussing him for his opening maneuvers, Noah grazed his nose over her cheek, then used his lips in the same gesture.

She stiffened in his arms.

Well, damn. So their marriage was to be candles-out, under-the-covers, nightclothes-all-around when it came to conjugal duties, emphasis on the duties. Noah sighed against her temple, and what should have been a kiss to inspire trust became a kiss of longing on his part for what would not be.

• *

For six days, Thea held out, and on the seventh day she sent the Duke of Anselm a note. She'd been all set to politely reject his proposal, for she'd already contacted the employment agencies before he'd made his startling offer. She should not be his duchess. Anselm was too intelligent, too assured, too cold, too...large for her to consider his suit seriously.

The match would be appropriate though, and the temptation to accept had loomed mightily when he'd offered his home to Nonie too. Then there had been that kiss, not like any Thea had experienced, not in any way.

His Grace had given her the first kiss she'd asked for, the first one she could say in some way she'd initiated, and his kiss had been so unexpected, so sweet, coming from such a taciturn, dark man. More than anything, that kiss had assured Thea she was no match for the duke. Her insides still went fizzy when memories of his kiss intruded on her thoughts, which they did frequently.

So the kiss had done its job, and weighed in against the notion of holy matrimony with Noah Winters, Duke of Anselm. Not the way Thea had thought it would, true, but effectively nonetheless.

And now this. The settlements were generous, including a dowry for Nonie, however delicately described. Provision for Nonie was more than Thea could have hoped for, and the sum enough that one day her younger sister might have the happily ever after every girl had a right to wish for.

This generosity meant Anselm was even more shrewd than Thea had thought-or more perceptive. In any case, with Nonie's future in the balance, Thea's decision became more difficult. She was not the least bit confident she could carry off marrying the duke, and if she failed in her role, the consequences would be severe.

Still, those consequences would not devolve to Nonie, and thus Thea wavered.

"He's here." Marliss bounced through the parlor door, blue eyes shining, golden curls severely confined with myriad pins. "This will kill Mama, positively kill her, Thea. You're snabbling a duke, and one with pots and pots of lovely money. Shall I go down with you? I promise to giggle at all the wrong times."

"Bother you," Thea said, enduring Marliss's hug. "You had sense enough to know you'd be happier with Cowper, and you'll make Cowper happy too."

Marliss dimpled becomingly. "He's dear, and he'll grow into the barony, whereas Anselm never will be dear and doesn't care a whit for his title. Maybe you can smooth off his rough edges, Thea, but he's not my cup of tea. Regardless of his expression, one has the sense Anselm is always scowling."

"I still haven't accepted him," Thea reminded Marliss-and herself.

"You are too sensible not to. I'll give you fifteen minutes. If you want more, take him to the gardens or the mews. The staff is dodging work this morning because Mama has a bad headache."

Thea finished the thought. "And the sound of pruning shears will overset her." Marliss's mama was easily overset, hence the need for Marliss's companion to be of a sturdier constitution. "I'll keep my conversation with Anselm most civilizedly quiet."

Marliss escorted Thea to the top of the stairs, then blew her a kiss, and Thea was still smiling when Corbett Hallowell, Marliss's older brother, pushed away from the wall on the second landing.

"In a hurry, Thea dear?" he crooned.

"Yes, if you must know." Thea tried to hustle past him, but Marliss's brother-the-heir was lanky, and he snaked out a long arm to clamp a hand above Thea's elbow. He glanced around before stepping far closer than a gentleman should stand to a lady.

"She set a date yet?" he asked.

"You should discuss that with your sister," Thea said. With the servants taking an informal half day, Corbett had chosen his moment well.

Corbett's grip on Thea's arm began to hurt. "You'll be wanting another position, my lady."

"Let me go." Thea tried to extricate herself from his hold, but succeeded only in tightening Corbett's grasp.

"I have a position in mind." Corbett leaned in, pushing Thea up against the wall. "On your back, for starters. It pays well."

"Let me go, Corbett." Corbett, several years Thea's junior and only a few inches taller than she, shouldn't be posing such a threat-again. She'd kept her voice steady, but her heart was galloping, and panic beat through her veins. Jesus save her, Corbett's breath held a foul whiff of last night's spirits.

Scream, she ordered herself. Pray later, scream NOW.

"I like a little fight in a female." Corbett swooped in as if to plant his lips on Thea's mouth, but missed-thank God-and landed closer to her ear as she began to struggle in earnest.

"I like a lot of fight in a man," said a cool baritone, "except those worthy of the name are in such short supply."

Corbett's head came up, and then he was gone. One moment he was all pinching fingers, fetid breath, and slobbery lips, the next, he was flung against the opposite wall, trying to look indignant but mostly looking scared.

"If you must prey on your dependents," Anselm said, "you'd best do it where you can't be seen, overheard, or held to account. You may apologize or choose weapons. My advice would be something unconventional-whips, knives maybe-because pistols and swords no longer pose much challenge-for me, that is."

The duke spoke casually, shooting his cuffs, then winging his arm at Thea. She accepted His Grace's escort but spared Corbett a perusal as well. He was gratifyingly pale and still darting glances up and down the stairs.

"My apologies, Lady Thea." Corbett found the strength to stand up straight and nod curtly. "Your charms-"

"Tut-tut," Anselm interrupted mildly.

"Are not for me to take advantage of," Corbett finished.

"Adequate," Anselm said. "Be off with you."

Corbett left, but turned on the third stair up and shot a murderous look over his shoulder, timed so Thea caught it, and the duke, in his towering calm, did not.

"Tiresome," Anselm said, "but my apologies as well, on behalf of my gender. I gather we'll have more privacy out-of-doors, unless you need your hartshorn, or a tisane, or some such?"

"A bit of fresh air in the gardens will do," Thea said, though a stout punch directed at Corbett's nose would have been a fine restorative too.

The duke had the decency to accompany Thea outside in silence, while her emotions rocketed between gratitude that Anselm had come along, disgust that Corbett had waylaid her again, and the sinking certainty that if Anselm's offer of marriage had been only reluctantly appealing before-despite his sweet kiss-it looked un-turn-downable now.

But how on God's earth was Thea to be honest with him?

"Does he importune you often?" Anselm asked, as if he were inquiring as to where Thea had acquired her watch pin.

"Me, the tweenie, the scullery maid. Corbett's papa dotes on him, and he's at that age between university and marriage, where he has no responsibilities, and all his friends are similarly situated."

"You make excuses for him?" Anselm's tone was thoughtful, not quite chiding as he steered Thea away from the pansies.

"Of necessity, I understand him," she said. "He's no worse than most of his kind."

"Meaning he's not the first to pester you," Anselm concluded, sounding displeased. "Shall we sit?" He'd drawn Thea into the shade at the back of the property, where they'd have privacy, at least until Marliss appeared. He chose a bench for them, then came down beside her.

"I was planning to refuse you," Thea said. "But your generosity toward my sister, and the inevitability of scenes such as the one you just interrupted have persuaded me toward acceptance, Your Grace."

"Noah," he replied, sounding no more thrilled to hear her acceptance than she was to tender it. "If we're to be married, you should know my name."

"Shall I use it?"

"You are welcome to," he said. "Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why accept my proposal?"

"I will never know material want," she quoted him, when she should have been blurting out the blunt details of her past. "I will not be cast on my brother's dubious charity. I'll have independence once certain matters are tended to." She was too much a lady to refer to the settlements directly, but they were impressive.

His Grace's expression suggested he did not like hearing his reasoning cast back at him, and Thea's resolve faltered.

"My sister will be safer under your protection than the indifferent efforts of my brother," she said, marshalling her scruples. "As your duchess, I can see to her come-out."

"And you'll be away from Corbett's charming importuning," Anselm concluded. "You know, I would find you another situation, did you ask it of me."

Thea hadn't known that, but more glorified governessing would do nothing to assure Nonie's future.

"I will not ask it."

His Grace's features showed fleeting amusement. Thea knew what he was thinking: She'll take my name, my coin, my protection for life provided I get breeding rights, but she'll not be beholden to me for a simple act of consideration. Women.

"A special license, then?" he asked.

Thea nodded, as anxiety chewed at her nerves. The moment when she might be honest with the duke and suffer only his quiet disdain was passing. He would get children on her, and he had a right to know the truth of her situation.

"Shall I see to the details?" he asked in the same tone Thea used to inquire whether a guest at tea preferred one lump of sugar or two.

"Marliss will be wed fairly soon," Thea said. "I assume I'm welcome here until then."

"And leave you where Corbett can follow up on his apology?" the duke scoffed. "Not blessed likely. You will bide with my sister Patience. How soon can you be packed?"

Anselm-Noah-wasn't stupid. Maybe not nice, but singularly capable of grasping the unpleasant realities of a woman's life in service. A lady's life in service. Thea opened her mouth to speak the words that would have him retracting his proposal.

"This afternoon," she heard herself say. Anxiety rose higher, even as leaving Endmon's household also sparked relief.

"I'll send a coach at three. We'll no doubt be interrupted soon, so you'd best apprise me of any changes you'd like to make to the settlements."

Thea waved a hand as if batting away an insect. "The settlements are fine, more than fine, generous, and I thank you." In for a penny... "When can I collect Nonie?"

"We can collect your sister tomorrow. I assume you'll want her underfoot as you prepare for the wedding?"

"Of course," Thea murmured, while vividly recalling the one time she'd been on a runaway horse. The memory was unpleasant, and the sensations-stupefying panic, primarily-were reasserting themselves.

"How long will it take to locate your brother and get him into wedding attire?" Anselm asked.

His Grace was appallingly blunt, though Thea liked that about him. "A few days," she said. "The Season is reaching its apex, and he'll be about somewhere."

"I'll see to it. Anything else?"

Thea's gaze traveled to the back of the house, where all was still, not a sign of life.

"Yes." She was to become Anselm's wife, a far more daunting prospect than simply swanning about as his duchess. "It's not about the settlements."

His Grace sat back, regarding her with a banked impatience that suggested for the duke, Thea had become a piece of work in the Concluded Business category. A last-minute request was merely an irritant for her prospective husband.

Husband, gads. Tell him. "I need time, Your Grace."


"I barely know you." Though twenty years into marriage with this man, Thea might still barely know him, and not mind that a bit.

"You've been sharing carriages and walking with me and Marliss for weeks," he shot back. "I've kissed you."

"Once. I'm not asking for a lot of time, and we can be married whenever you please, but after that..."

"You want me to woo you?" Anselm made it sound as if Thea's request were peculiar-eccentric. Interesting, in an abstract, slightly absurd way.

"Not woo, precisely." Most people would call Anselm handsome, for all his expression was usually sardonic. Dark hair, unnaturally vivid blue eyes, aristocratic features, and a nose and chin suggesting he held to his convictions. But he was too big, too robust, too male.

"I am marrying to beget heirs, Lady Thea," he reminded her.

"You've had years to do that," she reminded him right back. "A few weeks or months one way or another won't matter. Your proposal was unexpected. I've not been assessing you as a potential mate, though you apparently had that luxury with me all the while you were courting Marliss."

The duke's lips compressed into a line, and Thea could see him weighing the desire to argue against the constraints of a gentleman's manners.

"The vows will be consummated on our wedding night, but after that, we'll take it slowly," he allowed, his delicacy relieving a little of Thea's worry. "Not as slowly as you'd like, more slowly than I'd like. And I have a request, also not in the settlements."

More than that, Thea sensed, he would not give her, but his concession was enough, because she'd find some way to tell him the whole of the bargain before vows were spoken. She waited for his additional request-that she call on his sisters, limit her spending, let him speak with Endmon.

Men took odd notions.

"Kiss me," he said, something flashing through his eyes that might have been humor.

Odd, unexpected notions. "I've already kissed you once, Your Grace. That was quite enough."

"No, it was not." Anselm laced his fingers with Thea's. "I kissed you. Now you kiss me."

His hand was big, brown, and callused, hers graceful, pale, and smooth. Pretty, but ultimately useless, those hands of hers.

"What sort of kiss, Your Grace?" For kisses apparently had their own taxonomy.

"Any kind of kiss you like, provided it's wifely and not some cowardly little peck on the cheek."

The duke was challenging her, and Thea silently thanked him. Her worries and fears and second guesses were getting the better of her, but a challenge restored her balance.

Anselm had approached their previous kiss with a casual élan Thea could never carry off, though she could imitate his ducal imperiousness.

"Close your eyes, Your Grace."

The duke sat beside Thea, eyes obediently closed as she rose and balanced with one knee on the bench, one foot on the ground. She purposely put herself higher than him, trying to create the fiction that his size didn't intimidate. Her experience was limited though, so she had to aim her kiss by cradling his jaw in her hand before she pressed her lips to his. His skin was surprisingly smooth, indicating he'd shaved just before calling on her, and his scent was...

Lovely. As Thea settled her mouth over his, she inhaled lavender and roses, an odd fragrance for a man but fitting somehow. Anselm's mouth moved under hers, and his hand cupped her elbow. Thea let her fingers trail back through his dark hair, which was as thick and silky as it looked, and beguilingly soft, while his features were so rugged.

As his tongue seamed Thea's lips, her hand went still, her breathing seized, and she paused, listening with her mouth for him to repeat the caress.

"Now you," he whispered, before joining his mouth to hers again.

He wanted her to taste him?

Tentatively, Thea complied, the texture of the duke's lips against her tongue soft, plush, and...enticing. She did it again, and Anselm leaned closer, his arms looping around her waist. With her last shred of sanity, Thea grasped that kneeling over him like this put his face at bodice level.

She lifted her mouth from his and tried to step back, though Anselm's arms around her waist prevented her retreat.

"None of that," he chided, drawing her down beside him. "We'll bide here a moment, while you gather your wits."

"My wits?"

"It's not every day a lady accepts a marriage proposal."

"Oh, yes." Thea touched her lips with her index finger. Was the buzzing sensation from her lips or her finger or her entire body? "That."

Anselm's gaze warmed again with that fleeting suggestion of humor.

"That." He slipped his fingers through hers, and a silence stretched between them.

Unnerved on Thea's part. No doubt pleased on the duke's.

Meet the Author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes' bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish and Lady Eve's Indiscretion. Her Regency romances and Scotland-set Victorian romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. The Heir was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010, The Soldier was a PW Best Spring Romance of 2011, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish and Once Upon a Tartan have both won RT Reviewers' Choice Awards, Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight was a Library Journal Best Book of 2012, The Bridegroom Wore Plaid was a PW Best Book of 2012. Two of her MacGregor heroes have won KISS awards. Grace is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.

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The Duke's Disaster 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Doodlebug4444 More than 1 year ago
5 out of 5 for this reader folks! Two more outstanding novels by one of my fave historical romance authors Grace Burrowes. This review is on her first two books of her True Gentlemen series. If you remember (and fell in love with as I did) Nicholas and Ethan (with mentions of other yummy characters) from the Lonely Lords series then you will appreciate this spin off series as it revolves around their sisters finding their true loves. Oh Thea .. my kind of heroine. Mature, set in her beliefs without being insanely stubborn, fair, kind, realistic and protective. She has been working beneath her status of birth due to circumstance and her idiot of a brother’s lifestyle. When she is approached by Noah and agrees to be his Duchess (reluctantly and as a means to an end of certain aspects of her life), she doesn’t realize her heart is about to be pried open and laid out. Noah rushes the nuptials and soon a massive secret is revealed which places mistrust in their path. Both agree to carry on and soon develop a friendship and love of sorts. Trust however goes both ways, and when more secrets surface, these two need to dig deep to discover if their marriage will be one in name only. I absolutely loved this couple. They bantered back and forth and were truthfully so amazingly playful with the other. For their time, their secrets are rather large, so I found I was rooting for them to find their way through the mess they had made together. They were perfectly matched and it was the little gestures they shared that really endeared this relationship. This review was done as a double review with the first book of this series Tremaine's True Love.
zeeba More than 1 year ago
The Duke's Disaster is another emotional and beautifully written book by Grace Burrowes. The story of the earl's daughter, Lady Thea, who has fallen on hard times and Noah Winters, the Duke of Anselm. Lady Thea is the companion of a young lady whom Noah has been courting for couple of months. Now the young lady is engaged to another man and Noah doesn't want to waste time on courtship so he proposed to lady Thea,whom seems to biddable, to be his duchess. Of course after the wedding Noah is not sure is his his marriage is convenience or disaster. There are dark secret, family secret, trusts.......... I really enjoyed Noah and Thea's story, it was a little long but still was enjoyable. Thank you Grace Burrowes
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jasmyn9 More than 1 year ago
Lots of good things about The Duke's Disaster.  I enjoyed that it seemed more "real" than some historicals in terms of how marriage worked.  You didn't fall in love and get married - you got married and hoped you liked each other.  Noah and Thea are trying very hard to like each other at the beginning of their marriage, but they got off to a bit of a rocky start. The are a great match in so many ways, and watching them discover this was a lot of fun. The mystery surrounding Thea's past is a tiny bit too dramatic at times - maybe.  It just seems to never go away even when she tries to tell the secret to Noah. I think I would have preferred one big huge blow out scene where it was revealed instead of the little bickering and sniping that happens throughout the entire story. The language of the story was also very formal - even when the characters weren't speaking. I actually really enjoyed the formal sounding dialog bewteen Thea and Collins as they layered meaning into their words that were quite funny at times. It was just not quite the type of thing I expected from the rest of the narration and took a little while to get used to. *This book was received in exchange for an honest review*
BuckeyeAngel More than 1 year ago
**I received an ARC of this story in exchange for an honest review** Noah Winter, The Duke of Anselm, is in need of a wife. When the lady he is courting decides to accept the proposal of someone else, he decides to ask her companion to be his wife. Lady Thea Collins might be a companion but she was raised a lady before she decided to take a job as a companion. Noah thinks she'll work out perfectly. Lady Thea, eventually accepts so that her younger sister will be secured. The only problem is that she has a secret that could ruin their marriage before it even begins. Aside from his outward appearance of being pragmatic and self described not nice, like Mr. Darcy from P&P, Noah is much different when he's around family and when he's alone with Thea. Even when he is furious over her secret, he can't help but want to get to know her better and to help her any way he can, even if he does tend to run off a bit at first. Thea is another example of females in this time period who end up in a bad circumstance because of her sex. She will do anything for her family, including the extended family she bonds with through her marriage. Overall, this book is about misunderstandings and significant lack of communication between two people who marry under specific terms. It flowed well and had an unexpected twist in the end. I recommend it to anyone that likes historical romances.
SummerSnowFalls More than 1 year ago
This is not your typical romance novel. Instead, the reader is presented with a heroine who is “second-choice” and a hero who is not very kind or passionate towards his new bride. Not exactly a winning formula. But Ms. Burrowes manages to turn this luke-warm mess into an engaging novel that makes for several hours of fun reading. When Noah Winters, Duke of Anselm, is suddenly rejected by the young miss he has been courting all season, he immediately proposes to her companion, Lady Thea. Noah isn’t exactly what Thea had in mind for her ideal groom, but her family’s dwindling finances and a younger sister to care for spur Thea into accepting Noah’s proposal. A large cast of secondary characters keep the plot moving forward at a clipped pace and provide a sounding board for Noah and Thea as they begin toward creating a true marriage from the business transaction originally proposed. I thought THE DUKE’S DISASTER was more true-to-life than most romance novels when it comes to the romance. Noah and Thea both have familial obligations that must be managed, their marriage is a mutually-convenient business arrangement, and there are a multitude of moral and legal quandaries that must be dealt with along the way that reflect the societal mind-set of the time period. I enjoyed watching Noah and Thea’s love develop as they got to know the other. From first flutter of feelings to full-blown passionate love, their familial loyalty, strength, and compassion shines through. However, I did knock the rating down for (Trigger warning!!) making use of the rape/assault plot line which I absolutely despise. For those of you who are triggered by such devices, know that the book does not go into great detail about the event, but it does play a semi-important part in the overall plot. I also knocked the rating down for what seemed like a very rushed ending. Overall, another good read from Grace Burrowes. Wonderful characters, engaging plot that develops at a good pace, and a mystery that has you turning page after page to find out what happens next. Originally posted at Plot Twist Reviews [dot] Com I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review
skelley55 More than 1 year ago
I love Ms. Burrowes books.  I have found most of her heros to be very seriously flawed, some easier to love than others.  I did not have as much trouble with Noah as other reviewers.  To begin with  most men of that time period would have kicked her out for not being a virgin, but  I hated the rift between the characters as they started their marriage.  I was amazed at the amount of time Noah wanted to spend with Thea.  Those scenes were true romance for me, sharing tea & breakfast.  This is a beautiful love story.  
Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
This is book 1 in the True Gentlemen series. Noah Winter, Earl of Anselm, has been looking for the ideal bride. He finally settles on one, when she accepts a proposal from someone else. Not wanted to start all over again, he decides to propose to her companion.Thea Collins is taken aback by the proposal, but has her own reasons for accepting it.  Their wedding night is interrupted when Thea makes a confession. Will this confession ruin their marriage? Noah has secrets of his own. What will Thea do when she finds out about those? I really liked this story. I wasn't too hip on Noah at the beginning because he just swapped one potential bride for another, but he grew on me. I loved that Thea was such a strong person. She took over her life and that of her sister when her parents died and her brother didn't so as he should. Burrowes is masterful in her craft. There were so many twists and turns in this story that it has me reading it in one setting. I just couldn't put it down. I can't wait to see what Burrowes comes up with next! Thanks go out to Sourcebooks for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
def618 More than 1 year ago
Another wonderful book by Grace Burrowes! Although Noah will never be my favorite hero, I admire how he took care of his siblings and young cousins. Thea had to learn to accept that sometimes statements were not orders. I hope some of the secondary characters get their own stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GHott More than 1 year ago
Hott Review: I laughed through the entire book – even when I was crying! What I liked: I’ve read and loved, several of Grace Burrowes contemporary romances but The Duke’s Disaster absolutely is amazing! There is something about her writing style that makes me feel like I’m right there experiencing this marriage with Noah and Thea. I completely love both of them and so just wanted to shake them and make them realize that they were screwing things up royally, until they weren’t and I wanted to just sit and watch. Anyway, I do think that the best part of Grace Burrowes’ writing are her characters. You can’t walk away from them without wanting to visit again. The Duke’s Disaster is more than a romance, it pulls at your emotions and redefines a perfect love. What I didn’t like: There were a couple of scenes that were a bit more descriptive than needed… heck, probably not needed at all, well, for me… More… Author: Grace Burrowes Source: Sourcebooks Casablanca via Netgalley | An ARC of this book was lent to me in exchange for an honest review. Grade: A+ Ages: 18+ Steam: ADULT! There are some quite descriptive scenes. Setting: England
ToryMichaels More than 1 year ago
Ahhh, beloved Grace Burrowes. Whenever I settle in for one of your books, I know I'm in for a treat and you have almost never disappointed me. This book was no exception. Noah and Thea were a beautiful couple. What sets this book in particular apart from most of the historical romances is that it DIDN'T feature the oh-so-typical routs and rides in the park, and all of the stuff happening. No. The bulk of this book takes place AFTER the wedding. Noah's proposal to Thea, to my mind, really was more like what proposals were probably like back in the period. Business arrangements, with everyone getting something out of it (granted, women didn't get much in the grand scheme, other than a bit more freedom). Both carried secrets and both had a heavy burden on them. It's not easy being a duke when said duke takes his responsibilities to heart. Noah is the picture of what a proper man should be - he's serious about those in his care, and will protect his own. He's understandably upset about Thea's little secret, but the book didn't focus on that. The two worked through it with little uproar. Thea - she might have been raised a Lady, and had a peer for a brother, but she didn't shirk away from doing what she thought necessary to take care of her family, even if it meant putting herself into service as a companion. I loved her attitude toward life in general and was happy to see her get a happy ending. Nice cast of secondary characters and I look forward to more in this particular series. This didn't make me cry like one of Ms. Burrowes' more recent books, but I don't need to cry to enjoy a book. So - highly recommend. Check it out! Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the banter between Thea and Noah. It was funny and poignant, sometimes both. Grace Burrows is one of my "go to" authors for historical romances because she writes so well-- especially compared to most others in the genre. I think this is one of her gems. It's so well written, I might cave in and read one of her modern romances. I look forward to her next historical romance
DiiMI More than 1 year ago
Another of Grace Burrowes’ historical romances that promises to feel a little different, but filled with her signature enchanting and warm with a few drops of humor here and there that bring her characters to life. The Duke’s Disaster is about learning to trust, looking for the positive and living life for yourself as much as for anyone else. Noah is a young man with the weight of being the protector of his family on his shoulders, being practical and rather cold, he narrows his list of prospective brides down and decides he has found the woman to help him with his responsibilities. Too bad she didn’t see things the same way. Why not ask her lady friend, who seems to have a level head? Thea has her own reasons for saying yes to the dour young man, but that is her secret to keep. Both assuming they have entered into a sound business merger, life is not more than they expected, until gradually, their relationship changes. What stands between them? Family or secrets? Will they learn to trust and share? Will they find happiness in the closeness they have developed? Is it possible for two individuals from such different backgrounds, with such different agendas find they are not so different after all? Once again, Grace Burrowes take us back in her time machine of romance and gives us likeable characters, an enchanting plot and scenes that come alive with her descriptions. Her additions of humor and sensual tension only magnify her talents as an author to read! I received an ARC edition from Sourcebooks Casablanca in exchange for my honest review.
SezjbSB More than 1 year ago
Grace Burrowes has released another page turner, there is nothing she writes that I don't love, from contemporary to historical romances she's a master of both, I always know that picking up a book of hers will transport me to whenever, wherever the story is set and have me absorbed in no time at all. Lady Thea, the daughter of an Earl has spent her last few years as a ladies companion, a lowly job of someone of her station, but after the death of her Father and Mother she had her younger brother and sister to raise, when her charge Lady Marliss who was to be betrothed to Noah the Duke of Anselm instead becomes engaged to another no one is more shocked than Thea when Noah then proposes marriage to her, knowing that her brother is doing a poor job of taking on his new title and neglecting their younger sister she accepts with the idea that her sister will come to live with her and Noah. But starting from their wedding night things don't go so well, a tragic secret that Thea has hidden makes itself known and Noah is none too pleased with the deceit he believes he was tricked into by Thea not disclosing information which she had actually tried to inform him of, when Thea on her walk to familiarise herself with her new home discovers two secrets Noah had kept hidden away she begins to feel the way that Noah is feeling towards her, with both secrets each other are hiding nothing more than misunderstandings which they'd realise if they'd only sit down and discuss it and tell the truth, it may be a while before they fully trust one another, when they both start to develop feelings for one another the truth will eventually need to come out, especially when the secret from Thea's past comes a knocking in the form of rumors that will destroy her reputation. I loved the storyline in this book, the cast of characters are well written and enjoyably entertaining, a quick read you won't want to put down until you get to the very end.
gaele More than 1 year ago
Noah, Earl of Anselm is the protector and head of the family.  Knowing his position, and the need for a suitable bride, he has spent the season weeding out the current crop to find the perfect, young, biddable bride. There’s  only one glitch. She doesn’t realy want to marry him, and accepts another man’s offer.  Now, with a season  wasted and him no closer to the marriage he needs so desperately, he’s in a quandary.  But, his intended target did have one quality that is helpful: her friend and companion Thea.  Noah shifts his focus to courting Thea, coming on strong and not taking her reticence as a possible problem, but mere missishness.  But, Thea’s desires are to protect her young sister, and she knows that as the wife of an Earl, she is one step closer to that goal. She does, however, have a secret that she needs to share with Noah,  but he’s not giving her the chance.  This is a marriage of convenience to a man who claims to not be nice, but Thea sees a far different man than Noah would hope to project: honorable, loyal and protective of what is his. Of course, her secret is revealed, and it is rough going for a while there, but what Thea has come to show is her inner core of strength and determination to protect her own family, and that common element between them becomes a small bridge to their happy ending.  Development of these characters was replete with detail and emotional moments that allow readers to empathize and understand their faults, hopes and dreams, and to appreciate them even more. With wonderful  interactions, determined characters, revelations, descriptions and humor, this is an historical romance to please many.  I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not one of grace burrows best books it is very drawn out you pretty much knew what was going to happen before it did , sorry people but choose another one of her books not this one!!!!!""
PansyPetal More than 1 year ago
4.5 out of 5 stars  Ah the young aristocrat.  They come in many flavors.  There are the young men who think that, because they are sons of titled gentlemen, they are entitled . . . They have no conscious, and/or often, no morals.  Sad young men really.  Then there are the younger sons.  Some go out on their own and make something of their lives.  Others live off the generosity of the family and are really not much good for anything but maybe “evening the numbers.”  Then there are the young men who find themselves encumbered the title at much too young an age.  Some are overwhelmed and fall into bad habits.  Others become overly responsible, giving up much of themselves for their family and estates.   Let’s not forget the young ladies.  Unfortunately, they don’t have near as many options as the young men.  A young lady of title is expected to marry and be “pure” on her wedding night.  If for whatever reason she does not marry, than it is service for her – companion, governess, and courtesan.  Not very many choices and the first two can, and often do, lead to the last one whether one chooses or not.   Unfortunately, not only do young ladies not have many options, but they are ripe for unfounded gossip.  For the young lady cannot have even a whisper of scandal about her or she can become “ruined.”  The young men are just considered “sowing their wild oats.”  Completely unfair but so regency.   A good many of the above described characterizations make the cast of this story.  Noah Winters, Earl of Anselm is one of the young men to have come into his title at too young an age.  To make his circumstance even more complicated, his family is rift with the entitled, good for nothing younger sons, and those with no morals.  But, in spite of all that, he overcame.  He raised his siblings to become upstanding, contributing citizens of society.  Found appropriate husbands for all three of his sisters.  Is working hard to make sure his youngest brother is finding his proper way in the world.  He is also taking responsibility of his uncle’s “by blows” and raising them in his house, as his own.  A true aristocratic Gentleman.  Even if he does come across at first as rather a bad tempered curmudgeon.  One just has to take their time to look beneath the bad temper and find the heart of gold.   Enter Lady Araminthea Collins, daughter of the late Earl of Grantley.  The current Earl, her brother, was one of those who came into the title too young, was overwhelmed and fell into bad habits causing some hardships and unpleasant choses to be made by his sister, Thea.  Thea decided to go into service.  She is a companion.  That is where Anselm meets her.  He is courting her charge, one Lady Marliss Hallowell.  Marliss has the good sense to know Anselm isn’t for her and has chosen someone else, hence leaving Anselm without a bride and soon, Thea without a job.  Anselm, in his infinite aristocratic wisdom, thinks they will suit and rushes Thea into marriage. This is one of those stories that starts with the wedding, then the couple get to know each other.  The ups and downs of a sudden marriage like this were entertaining.  I fell in love with Noah.  He brought tea to Thea, in bed, every morning.  Granted, he usually drank half of it himself, but it is the thought.  It was rather sweet and I loved how they really got to know each other over their morning tea.   This was such a wonderful romance.  Once he got over himself, and really started to see Thea, Noah went out of his way to make Thea feel safe, secure, and yes, finally loved.  *sigh*  I thoroughly enjoyed how Ms Burrows uses so many of the different characterizations of the young aristocrat in her story.  They were all here contributing to the angst, conflict and ultimate happy ending of this story.  It was very well done.   The story also stayed true to the era in its use of terminology.  I had to grin at some places.  Although there was a few sex scenes in this story, there were really quite tasteful and sweet.  None of those “nasty” words that some people are so up in arms about but, still hot.  The bedroom door was not kept shut.  They had *gasp* naked sex and slept in the same bed.  But, it was sweet and oh so sigh worthy. This is a wonderful, good, old fashion, regency romance.  Anyone who loves regency romance will love this.  I know I did! I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read and bought all her booksbut will no longer. This book and the last were boring!! So much rehashing of issues over and over again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I preface this with saying i enjoy this author usually and have read many of her books. But this is not one of her best ones. The characters are people of their time, complete with now archaic thought processes. But it is hard to find a character endearing when, by today's standards the husband commits an act of nonconsenual sex on the wedding night and further refers to his wife as "damaged and used goods". This made Noah uncomfortable, at best, to like if you liked him at all. Which, I wanted to. Aside from annoyingly simple and constant miscommunication between Noah and Thea, there are glimpses of what could have been endearing charcters. But between the aforementioned behavior, it really was hard to get past a stultifyingly formal and cool feel between them to really enjoy and like this. Although what Noah did his wedding night and his attitude after would not have been looked askance then, it is now and its disappointing to see a romance author try to romanticize this to modern readers and further perpetuate a cliche about romances romanticizing assault.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nook says available--it isn't. Really wish Nook would get it together.