The Unexpected Duchess

The Unexpected Duchess

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Lady Lucy Upton's tongue may be too sharp to attract suitors but her heart is good, and when her painfully shy friend Cassandra needs help she devises a brilliant scheme to help her discourage an unwanted suitor, the Duke of Claringdon. Lucy will hide behind the hedgerow and tell Cass just what to say to discourage the Duke of Claringdon…but it turns out that he's made of sterner stuff than either of them anticipated. And Lucy is shocked to discover that tangling with the tenacious man is the most fun she's had in ages.


Lord Derek Hunt made a promise to his dying friend to marry the demure Cassandra, and for a man who wants nothing more than peace and quiet after the horrors of war, she'll make the perfect bride. If only the impudent Miss Upton will let him court the girl! Doing battle is the last thing on his mind, but bantering with Lucy behind the bushes is too tempting to resist. And in The Unexpected Duchess, the spoils of this war just may be true love…

Valerie Bowman's Secret Brides novels are:

"Intriguing [and] engaging."—Publishers Weekly

"Too delightful to miss!"—Lisa Kleypas

"Sparkling…witty…engaging." —RT Book Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452669564
Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date: 04/29/2014
Series: Playful Brides Series , #1
Edition description: MP3 - Unabridged CD
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Valerie Bowman is the award-winning author of the Secret Brides series. She holds a BA in English language and literature from Smith College, and she currently works as a technical writer and editor at a computer software company. Originally from Rantoul, Illinois, Valerie now lives in Jacksonville, Florida. Visit her at

An AudioFile Earphones Award winner, Alison Larkin is a classically trained actress who has appeared on Broadway with the Royal National Theatre and Off-Broadway with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Her unusually wide range of voices can be heard in award-winning audiobooks, cartoons, and movies.

Read an Excerpt

London, Late June 1815
Lady Lucy Upton blew a leaf away from her lips. A twig in her eye and a mouthful of foliage were the unfortunate by-products of having her head lodged in a hedgerow. Not to mention, it was a bit chilly outside tonight. But this had been her idea, after all, and she intended to see it through.
Lucy was secure in her position behind the bushes in the Chamberses’ garden just steps away from her dearest friend, Cassandra Monroe. There might be a ball going on inside the stylish town house, but out here they were quite alone … for the moment. Lucy pushed her head through the branches as far as she could and craned her neck to see Cass.
Cass stood on the other side of the hedgerow, rubbing her shaking hands up and down her pale, trembling arms. “What if I cannot hear you, Lucy?” she whispered.
“Don’t be nervous, Cass. I’ll be right here.”
Cass gulped and nodded.
“See, you heard that, didn’t you?” Lucy asked.
Another shaky nod from Cass.
“Excellent,” Lucy called out.
The light from the candles that had been sprinkled throughout the gardens cast a warm glow on the pebble-strewn path where Cass stood. “What if he doesn’t come?” Cass asked, tugging on her gloves, a sure sign she was nervous.
“He’ll come. He said he would, didn’t he? And Jane agreed to remain inside and keep an eye on things. Your mother, specifically.”
“Yes, he said he would come. Though heaven knows I want to die of embarrassment. And if Mother discovers I’m out here meeting a man in the gardens, she’ll disown me.”
Lucy grunted. “Not if the man in question is the Duke of Claringdon.”
“Mama will be so angry if she learns that I’m discouraging him.” Cass bit her lip.
Lucy readjusted her position behind the hedge. “That’s just it. We must ensure she doesn’t find out.”
More tugging on the gloves. “What if the duke guesses you’re back there and becomes angry?”
“Must you always worry, Cass? He won’t know. And even if he does, he has no business becoming angry. While I give the man credit for his bravery in war, it hardly ensures he’d make a good husband.”
“I’m certain he’ll make someone a perfectly fine husband, it’s just…” Cass glanced away.
Lucy knew. Her heart wrenched for her friend. Unrequited love was an awful thing. “He’s not Julian.”
Cass bowed her head. “Cousin Penelope says Julian should be home any day now but … I just can’t…”
“You don’t have to explain it, Cass. I understand. Well, I don’t understand love, having never been in it myself, but don’t worry. First we’ll see to dispatching the duke, and then I intend to ensure you are given your chance with Julian.”
Cass rubbed her arms with renewed vigor. “I’m being ridiculous, I know. Julian is supposed to marry Penelope.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Lucy replied. “The fact is you do not want to marry the Duke of Claringdon and you shall not. Regardless of what your mother might want. Not if I have anything to say about it. I cannot countenance anyone being bullied and I certainly shall not allow you to be. By either your mother or the duke. Besides, you can never go wrong if you’re honest and follow your heart.”
“Oh, Lucy, that’s what you always say. And I love you for it, I truly do. I’ve no idea how you think you’ll be able to give me a chance with Julian, but I do adore your optimism.”
“First things first. And at present our problem is the duke.”
Both young women were silenced when a shadow blocked the lights from the French doors leading to the house. The sound of gravel crunching beneath boots met their ears.
“It’s him,” Cass whispered, her voice wavering.
“Do not be intimidated, Cass. Courage, my friend. Be bold!”
In the next instant, the little clearing in which Cass stood was overpowered by the presence of the Duke of Claringdon. The moment he saw Cass, he stopped. From her vantage point, Lucy could only see him from the chest down. The impossibly broad chest down. She swallowed.
“Lady Cassandra,” the duke intoned, bowing.
Cass gave a little squeak and curtsied. “Thank you for meeting me, Your Grace.” Her voice was high and frightened. Lucy wished she could reach through the branches and give Cass’s hand a warm, encouraging squeeze. Courage, Cass. Courage.
“I must admit, I was a bit surprised that you asked to meet me here,” the duke said.
“I did not mean to surprise you, Your Grace, I merely wanted to … I merely wanted to…”
Lucy snapped from her thoughts. This was it. Time to begin. Cass was already floundering for words. Lucy cleared her throat. “I hoped we could speak privately, my lord,” she whispered loudly.
Cass repeated the words in a shaking voice.
“I see” came the duke’s response. He took a step forward, and Lucy sucked in her breath.
“Please, Your Grace, come no closer. I wouldn’t want anyone happening upon us to consider our meeting here an impropriety,” Lucy offered, in a voice low enough she was certain the duke couldn’t hear.
Cass repeated the words.
The duke laughed. “You do not find it an impropriety, Lady Cassandra, to be alone with me in the garden?”
Lucy frowned. Well, if he was going to quibble over details. “I only ask for a moment of your time, to make my wishes clear.”
Cass said the words quickly.
“Very well. Go ahead,” said the duke.
Lucy took a deep breath. “While I am certain there are many young ladies who would be flattered by your attention, Your Grace, I must admit I am not one.”
Lucy could almost feel Cass cringe as she repeated the words. She frantically tugged on her gloves as she spoke.
Lucy moved her head to catch the duke’s reaction. She swallowed. Oh, she shouldn’t have looked. Just as she’d discovered earlier in the ballroom, the man was handsome. Too handsome.
“I see, Lady Cassandra. And may I ask exactly why you feel this way?”
Lucy pulled up her shoulders. Uh-oh. He was demanding a reason. What? He couldn’t conceive of a lady who would not welcome his advances? A moment ago she’d felt a bit sorry for the duke, but her protective instinct for Cass overpowered her thoughts. Now she wanted to cut him to the quick with her words. Which just happened to be her specialty.
“You may have yet to discover a woman who was not enamored of you, my lord. But I assure you, they do exist,” Lucy whispered to Cass, narrowing her eyes on the tall man.
Another small squeak escaped from Cass’s mouth. She turned her head sharply to the side. “Lucy, I cannot say that.” The words rushed out in a tiny whisper.
Lucy nearly fell through the bush. This entire charade was dependent on Cass maintaining their façade. Just repeat the words, she mentally begged her friend, repeating her sentence in a rush.
Cass’s eyes darted to the side and Lucy held her breath, waiting for her friend to say the withering sentence.
“I cannot say, my lord,” Cass replied instead. “It’s just that I…”
Lucy groaned. Cass wasn’t going to say it. Ooh, if only Lucy could say it herself. A silly vision flashed before her eyes. One of her snatching Cass off her feet, pulling her behind the hedgerow, and rushing out to stand in her stead. Yes, silly. And unlikely to work. A pity. Very well. Lucy would be forced to tone down her words if she was going to help Cass. And she could tone down her words … if she … thought about it for a moment. She took a deep breath.
“Very well. Let me be clear. I am singularly uninterested in becoming the future Duchess of Claringdon,” Lucy provided. “Especially when the duke is so obviously arrogant and overbearing.”
Cass gasped. “Lucy!”
The duke’s eyes narrowed on the hedgerow then. Lucy instinctively drew back her head just before he marched forward, reached around the bush, and pulled her sharply into the clearing. She came flying out, twigs lodged in her dismantled coiffure and several leaves trailing into her décolletage. A twig had scratched her cheek. She rubbed it, glaring at him.
The duke eyed her with an arrogant inclination of his head. “I thought you had an echo, Lady Cassandra. Now I see your serpent’s tongue has a name. Good evening, Miss Upton.”

Copyright © 2014 by Valerie Bowman

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The Unexpected Duchess 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun read!
romanceDH More than 1 year ago
Loved the heroine
MyBookAddictionandMore More than 1 year ago
If you’re looking for a book filled with witty banter and a sharped tongue heroine then The Unexpected Duchess is the book for you!! Lady Lucy Upton isn’t afraid to speak her mind. And she does so quite often. When a Duke decides to court her best friend Cassandra against Cass’s wishes, Lucy decides to help. Cass is as demure and quiet as an English Lady comes, so fending off the Duke is ever so hard. But Cass knows that if anyone can help her thwart his plans to marry her, then Lucy is the one for the job. But all of Lucy’s plans are discovered by the duke, leaving her frustrated and confused. How is she to help her best friend if Lord Derek Hunt, the Duke of Claringdon, is just as clever and sharped tongued as she? And why does she find that the more she engages in battle with Derek, the more she wants to be around him? Lord Derek Hunt, Duke of Claringdon didn’t ask to be a Duke. He would certainly rather be on the battlefield searching for his lost friends or sitting beside the bed of his dying one. But instead his mission is to come to London, be celebrated, and find a bride. None of which he wants to do. But when he finds the young lady he’s been recommended, he finds he can’t get close to her because of her ever so annoying and interfering friend. All Derek wants to do is fulfill a promise to a dying friend, marry Cassandra, and be done with the London drawing rooms. Why won’t her annoying little friend, Lady Lucy, just leave him alone? Instead she’s determined to issue setdown after setdown towards him. Well, little does she know, Lucy has finally met her match. If it’s a battle Lucy wants it’s a battle Derek will give. But as they both set out to accomplish their (opposing) goals, they not only begin to develop a respect for one another, but also an attraction. However Derek is promise-bound to Cassandra and it appears that a love match between Derek and Lucy just isn’t meant to be. Can Lucy stand to watch Cassandra walk down the aisle with Derek or will this be the end of their friendship? And what will Derek do now that he’s found love with Lucy but knows he must honor his promise? This novel is an absolute jewel! The hilarious dialogue, the rich characters and superb writing makes this one a great read!! I am so excited about the start of a new series and can not wait to read more!! With this novel being the first of a new series, it does an excellent job of introducing all the new characters and the overarching plot that will connect all of the books together. I loved Lucy’s scheming, skilled tongue, and her sheer determination. She is such a loyal friend throughout the whole novel and that is so refreshing to read, even if she does make a few mistakes along the way. I adored Derek and his unwillingness to back down from Lucy. The scene with the challenge between Derek and Lucy was genius! I smiled the whole way through it! I was very happy with the ending, but I honestly wasn’t exactly sure how Ms. Bowman was going to give us that happily ever after we all crave! Overall, this is just an exceptionally well written book that is easy to read and is sure to put a smile on your face. Received for an honest review. Rating: 4.5 Heat Rating: Mild Reviewed by: AprilP Courtesy of My Book Addiction and More
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my first Valerie Bowman book. I enjoyed it, and I would read more of her work.  Some of the things I liked about this book: I enjoyed her writing style. The interactions between the group of friends was heartwarming, and fresh. Loyalty to one's friends was a strong theme throughout the book, and I thought that was sweet, if somewhat frustrating at times. Their dialogue was witty, and clever.  There were some things about the story that bugged me. While I loved Lucy's dialogue with her friends, I find myself getting upset with her every time she spoke to the duke. For someone known for being so witty and clever, I found the way she spoke to him to be rude and a little off-putting. She chose to be mean, when there were so many more intelligent things she could have said. The other thing that really bothered me was about Julian (the dying soldier friend). Supposedly he was a friend of Cassandra, but basically promised to her cousin. However, he made his friend Derek promise to marry Cassandra. This was a real headscratcher to me, and I felt it should be explained better. I know that she didn't because she wants to right another book about it, but still, it annoyed me. Otherwise, I really liked this book, and am looking forward to Cass's story. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read all of Valerie Bowman's books, and love them. The're clever, witty, fun and hard to put down. I so wish the next one in this series was available now.
zeeba More than 1 year ago
Loved it The Unexpected Duchess is a wonderful story that from the first page I knew I will love this book. Lady Lucy Upton is a beautiful wallflower with a sharp tongue and loyal to her two best friends. Derek Hunt the Duke of Claringdon is a war Hero whom promised his dying friend to marry Cassandra ( Lucy's best friend). The story starts how Lucy tries to help Cassandra to get rid of Derek courtship. It is fantastic how Lucy and Derek challenge each other and how both of them are loyal to their friends.Their Dialogues are witty, fun and even sometimes rude but still fascinating. This is the first book in Valerie Bowman series and I can't wait to read the next in this amazing series. Thank you Valerie Bowman for writing great books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read!!
ToryMichaels More than 1 year ago
The first thing I thought as I read the earliest pages of this book was it was a clever take on the old Cyrano de Bergerac, though it quickly evolved beyond simply giving someone else the words to say in the case of Lucy and Derek. This, like so many recent reviews, is going to be short. I liked how the love between Lucy and Derek blossomed over the course of the book. It was nice to see a duke who hadn't been born and raised a duke or in any way part of the nobility. He genuinely earned the title. It was also refreshing to see a woman who'd totally screwed up her presentation to the queen be able to come back and get a second chance when she goes before the queen to get approval to marry Derek (because apparently approval of spousal choice could affect Derek's new title). I'm not sure about Cassandra and her love of her soldier, especially since he's very specifically promised to someone else, but it speaks well of her loyalty to him. I was glad to see some of her fluffheadedness wasn't entirely what it seemed as well. Overall, an enjoyable read. I like Ms. Bowman's style and will gladly read other books by her in the future. Four stars! Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Also in fair disclosure, Ms. Bowman is a chaptermate in First Coast Romance Writers, and the name was part of the reason I selected this book to read and review. It did not in any way influence my opinion of the book.
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DebDiem More than 1 year ago
The Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowman was an expected pleasure to read. Lucy and Derek's story is a mixture of humor, drama, sass and spice. Ms Bowman has given us lovable characters and loaded them with sass and attitude. I enjoyed The Unexpected Duchess and look forward to reading more from Valerie Bowman in the future. The Unexpected Duchess is book 1 of the Playful Brides Series and can be read as a standalone. This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish B&N would limit the lines to the reviews so these reviewers could not tell the whole story and spoil it for the rest of us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read. Looking forward to more from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book, officially hooked on the series.
skelley55 More than 1 year ago
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a hero and heroine that show spark even in their dialogue.  Lucy is a bit over the top but loved by all her friends.  She truly does want what is best for her friends.  An excellent love story.
loverofromance More than 1 year ago
Plot and Story Line  What was most enjoyable about The Unexpected Duchess was the way that Derek and Lucy developed a relationship. We see how these two go at it and quite wildly too. Boy do they have a way with words…its almost like they each have the encyclopedia memorized and being able to recall in instantly. The Unexpected Duchess is a story that is engaging, witty and completely pulls you in. I had no problem loving this one, and as this is my first Valerie Bowman book…I can tell you it won’t be my last. I am fully excited to try out Cassandra’s story next. What this story did for me was make a regency romance come alive for me in the same way that Lisa Kleypas and Sabrina Jeffries can do for me. From the first page or two I was hooked especially on the bantering between Lucy and Derek. But there was something more to this story than just a romance that intrigued me and kept me involved…it was the friendship. It is very difficult to make and keep friends like these three have managed to done. Each of them are a bit different, you have the outspoken one, the gentle and sweet and the bookworm. Allt three of them I felt a kinship to, and boy could I have a ton of fun with these outstanding ladies. They love and support each other in their endeavors, no matter what it is…that is true friendship. We also have a sub plot occurring in the story, of three men that are under Derek’s command, and we see how that develops and we still don’t get the full mystery revealed in this story, so I hope we get some more clues on that in the next book. So if your new to historical romance, or to this author….try her out…I guarantee you will have one adventure of wits and battles with words. The Cover  Oh how I adore this cover…its simply gorgeous. The male is simple one nice piece of maleness…those toned shoulders and arms….yummy. And her dress…love the color, and the beautiful bow….love the way it flows down the back of her dress. What do you think of this cover? Overall View  In The Unexpected Duchess we see a story that is a delightful mix of sexual tension, witty dialogue, heartwarming characters, and a romance to send you into a swoon….positively DELIGHTFUL!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was just ok.
Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
This is the first book in the Playful Brides Series. Derek Hunt, the Duke of Clarington, is determined to honor his best friend's final wish. He is asked to marry and take care of Cassandra Monroe and not even her sharp tongued friend, Lucy Upton will get in his way. Lucy knows her best friend is in love with someone else and will never accept the Duke's proposal. Why is it that he doesn't seem to understand it? Lucy does everything in her power to convience Derek that he and Cassandra will not suit. While Derek might not be the right one for her best friend, Lucy is having way too much fun sharing barbs with him.  Is there something more going on than a battle of words? This is the first book by Valerie Bowman that I have read and I LOVED it. I'm always a fan of the bantering H/H and I was not disappointed with this one. While Lucy did not see it coming, her friends knew that Derek was perfect for her and "arranged" a few things.... I love when an author gives me secondary characters that are written so well that I want their story to be told too. Lucy's two best friends and her cousin are such characters and I can't wait to read more about this group of friends. Cassandra's book, The Accidental Countess, comes out in October. I don't know if I can wait that long to see what happens!! I've definitely found a new author to add to my TBR pile and I can't wait to read her backlist. Thanks go to St. Martin's Press via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of a review.
WorldsCollide More than 1 year ago
A delightfully witty and utterly enjoyable romance, The Unexpected Duchess was a wonderful read. I really liked this book. It was entertaining, romantic, and a lovely read. Lucy was a good heroine. She was very strong and fiercely loyal to her friends. She was definitely clever and her wittiness brought a lot of fun to the book.  My only issue was that, sometimes, her wittiness tended to cross the line to mean and she made problems out of nothing. But, otherwise, I liked her. Derek was wonderful. He was very sweet and loyal to his friends and the promises he made to them. He was clever in his own right and utterly adorable when he wanted to be. Not to mention that he was an extremely determined character and heaven help the person who got in his way when he was set on something. I thought he was wonderful and I adored him. The romance was lovely. Lucy and Derek were great together. They were both very clever, witty, and strong-willed and they had definitely met their match in each other. The sparks between them were constantly flying, when they were arguing and when they were doing...other things. I thought they were perfect together. The plot was well paced and I was kept hooked the entire way through. The wit and humor of this book was entertaining and made the book very fun to read. I really enjoyed the story and the ending was lovely. The Unexpected Duchess was an absolutely lovely historical romance. It was fun, witty, romantic, and a truly enjoyable read. Romance lovers, this delightful book is one you'll definitely want to check out. *I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
tiffanyu More than 1 year ago
What a great story. I love the interaction between Lucy and Derek. It is playful and fun. This is one of those books that you will keep and reread just because it takes you to your happy place. I am really looking forward to what happens with the following books in the series.
AustenStudent More than 1 year ago
The first book in the new Playful Brides series by Valerie Bowman, one of the funniest and most charming voices in historical romance. This book features humorous themes from the play, Cyrano de Bergerac. I wish some historical romance novels would be made into movies; the stories are so beautiful, sweet, sexy, funny, and charming. But that will never happen. This is one I think would make a wonderful movie. Lady Lucy Upton is impulsive, direct, and often speaks before she thinks. She’s fearless in defending herself (and her friends) and she’s fiercely loyal. The ton doesn’t know that she does dream of marrying someday but knows it won’t be for love, something that has sadly eluded her since childhood. Unfortunately, she’s considered firmly on the shelf at twenty-three as she terrifies most potential suitors. Until Derek, the Duke of Claringdon comes along. Derek is one of Wellington’s most decorated soldiers. He’s back in society—which he loathes—at Wellington’s order, but has promised a dying friend, Julian Swift, that he will marry sweet and shy Lady Cassandra, a quiet and elegant beauty. But Cass doesn’t want his attentions; she desperately loves Julian Swift and the first part of the story is Derek’s insistence on courting Cass against her wishes. But Cass is too fearful and polite to stave the duke off. That’s where Lucy steps in and attempts to thwart his courtship. Of course, Derek resents Lucy’s interference but he also can’t help but admire her devotion for her friend, her ability to stand up to him and everyone around her, and also, she is very beautiful. If he hadn’t promised Julian he might have pursued Lucy instead. When Derek learns the truth about Cass’ true love, he feels terrible about it but, a promise to a friend is still a promise, so he continues to pursue her, albeit reluctantly. For her part, Lucy is attracted to Derek and not just because of his dashing good looks. She admires his ability to stand up to her. One of the best scenes in the book is their verbal duel in a ballroom crowded with people on the dance floor.  Their sparkling witty barbs are among the best dialogue in the entire book. Jane, Cass, and Garrett, Lucy’s chums, are a great bunch. Funny, witty, and devoted to each other, they are a large part of the comedy in this romance. Garrett is Lucy’s cousin (and greatly admiring of Cass) while Jane, a determined bluestocking with a sweet tooth, and Garrett trade barbs constantly. Hmmm…I wonder if theirs is a future love story in the series? Their bickering recalled Harry and Roxley in Elizabeth Boyle’s Rhymes with Love series. In fact, the friendships reminded me of the strong friendships in that same series. Lucy’s friends also see the natural attraction between Derek and Lucy and plan their own secret machinations to get them alone together. There are some lovely descriptions of Bath in this story, reminiscent of Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, two novels that prominently feature the resort town. Memorable moments: "But to take to the floor with this handsome, dashing young partner, to feel pretty, to feel as if she were actually being courted. Oh, it was too much. It made her long for things she knew weren’t for her. And she wasn’t being courted. She wasn’t. She must remember that. This man was Cass’s beau, whether Cass wanted him or not." "Besides he’d given her a kiss to nearly singe off her eyelashes the other night; allowing him to call her by her Christian name didn’t seem half so scandalous." Another refreshing and fun story from one of my favorite historical romance authors. This novel releases today!
2_PMVH More than 1 year ago
Do you love a good best friends forever story? Three best friends are ready to end yet another Season unmarried. Lucy is bold, out spoken and has a sharp and cutting tongue. Cassandra is demure, quiet but she really loves everyone. Jane is the clever one with blue stock tendency. Each are different but the team up to help one another to get their greatest wish. This is Lucy's story!! Lady Lucy Upton is a woman that scares men away because she cuts, stabs and lacerated men with her harsh, critical and sarcastic tongue. She has only 3 friend Cassandra, Jane and her cousin Garrett. When she was a young girl, she and her brother, Ralph, had a terrible fever and he die. Her parents ignore her and she tried to regain her father's love by turning into a boy, but it didn't work. So during the Season, Lucy lives with her Aunt Mary and her Cousin Garrett. Lt. General Derek Hunt is called back to London after Waterloo. He is made the 1st Duke of Clarendon for his decisive victory and is nicknamed the Duke of Decisive. Derek was raised from the cradle by his father to be a great soldier and to do it better than anyone else. All he wants now is peace and quiet and to live his life away from war. When he came back to England, he left his best friend, Swift, weak and dying. Derek swear to Swift he will marry Lady Cassandra and protect her. Thus begins the most hilarious Cyrano de Bergerac like story. Lucy knows Cass loves Julian and she helps her try to get RID of Derek. One problem, Derek does not GO any where, but closer to Cass. Lucy is hiding in bushes, screaming at Derek from a balcony, hijacking a ride in Hyde Park and always with Cass when Derek comes to call. Derek never breaks a promise, so he is determined, that if he can't go around Lucy then he will go THRU her. Lucy wants to slap him upside his head and kiss him madly. Derek wants Lucy under him, on top of him but he promised Swift. There is a suitor, tree punching, drunken tree climbing, an absent Jane and Cass and passions that burn up the pages. Will Lucy find a love that will never leave her? Will Derek learn to follow is heart? Will he learn that decisiveness isn't always the answer? I am a impatient reader and I always go to end of the book to see how many chapters it has. My eyes bugged out of my head when I saw Chapter 55. It is WORTH IT! Ms. Bowman invents the best characters and uses the greatest words to describe them, like Haughty Hughes for Derek's butler. She comes up with the bards, I mean a lot of them, and there are unique and clever. I think she has a great big Thesaurus that has been handed down from her great grandma. She made me laugh, snort, cry, cheer and even pee myself a little, but PLEASE don't tell anyone. Oh, I want to say more but I don't want to spoil it for y'all. I loved her Secret Brides series but love is not a big enough word for how much I enjoyed this first book in the Playful Brides series. I can't wait for Jane (I hope with Garrett) and Cassandra (I hope with Julian) to get their loves, too. Ms. Bowman get my top score of 5 fingers up and 10 toes. Reviewed from a NetGalley ARC.