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Lady Wesley's Salon

Historical romance.

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The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures, #6)
Jennifer Ashley
The Heir (Windham, #1) (Duke's Obsession,#1) - Grace Burrowes After reading all the books in the Windham series (except the one that has yet to be published), I have to say that I liked them, despite some truly annoying flaws. So, I decided to write a series review rather than individual ones. Here’s a little roadmap first. The Windham series is divided between three subseries. The Duke’s Obsession is about his three sons, and his obsession is to see them married and populating their nurseries. The Duke’s Daughters is about his five daughters, and he doesn’t seem so obsessed in their cases. The Duke and His Duchess consists of two novellas featuring the duke as a single man courting his future duchess and then as a man married five years..

Here’s my review of The Heir, from 2011 (and later):
The Heir
I wanted to like this book, and in truth I really did find the characters engaging, although the meddling old duke was a bit over the top. But the author keeps introducing characters with little or no background to the point of confusion. I didn't bother to go back and reread, but: was Viscount Fairly really a physician and owner of a bawdy house? why did the Earl almost marry Rose's mother and how was the wedding broken up? who was Rose's father?

Anna's deadly secret is kept secret from the reader for far too long, and then it simply makes no sense that she won't take the easiest and most desirable way out and simply marry the earl.

2 April 2013
I've read some other Grace Burrowes' works since reading The Heir, and before I start No. 2 in the series, I decided to give this one another chance. We shall see . . . .

5 April 2013
Well, I liked it better this time around, but still have the same complaints. And the LEMONADE! My god, they must have been running to the water closed every twenty minutes.

What I did not realize originally was that Grace Burrowes had already written something like twenty-four unpublished novels before The Heir was published as her debut. She’s created a whole world out there, people, and you’ll never understand who all the players are unless you read all of her books. And even then you won’t know because there are more on the way. Namely, the Lonely Lords series, each one featuring a secondary character from the Windham series.

So, in answer to the questions I posed above: (1)Was Viscount Fairly really a physician and owner of a bawdy house? (Apparently so, but we have to wait for David (Lonely Lords #9) to find out the details). (2)Why did the Earl of Westhaven almost marry Rose's mother and how was the wedding broken up? (Still, no idea, except that the duke was meddling) (3) Who was little Rose's father? (We know that Rose is the duke’s granddaughter, but how? Now that’s interesting. If you read the family tree on GB’s website, you learn that Rose’s mother may have been married to the duke’s deceased son Victor, but she’s now married now to Douglas (Lonely Lords #8). There’s no mention there of little Rose.)

Which reminds me, when this series begins, two of the duke’s sons already have died: Barthlomew (the eldest), killed in Portugal, under mysterious circumstances, and Victor, who succumbed to consumption. I have no doubts that they’ll eventually get their own books, or at least novellas. Likely they’re already written.

Now the good news is that you don’t actually have to read the entire series; each book works well as a standalone, provided you’re not distracted by random characters popping up without introduction or backstory. Me, I was distracted.

The Duke’s Obsession subseries
Now, at last, an opinion. Grace Burrowes is a very talented writer, and she creates characters you come to really care about. This is a good thing, as the first three books are basically the same plot, with different people and settings. The Heir: duke’s heir, burdened by the demands of running the duke’s estates, spends the summer in London and falls in love with a women beneath him in social status who is keeping deep, dark secrets. The Soldier: duke’s illegitimate son moves to his new estate in Yorkshire and falls in love with a woman beneath him in social status who is keeping deep, dark secrets. The Virtuoso: duke’s piano-playing son injures his hand, travels to his new estate in Oxfordshire and falls in love with a woman beneath him in social status who is keeping deep, dark secrets. I enjoyed these books a lot and may even reread them some day, despite the repetitive nature of the major and minor plotlines (each brother makes love exactly the same way, as if, in addition to a fencing-master, they had a f---ing master to teach them the perfect steps; each one likes to brush and braid a woman’s hair; if a woman is pregnant, and they all are before the wedding, she sleeps and cries a lot). Probably, if you don’t read them one after another, as I did, the repetition is less bothersome. I'm still giving The Heir three stars, but four for the others.

The Duke and His Duchess subseries
I might have stopped right there, if I hadn’t decided to read the two prequel novellas that comprise The Duke and His Duchess series. In the three preceding books, set just after the Napoleonic wars, the duke was just a meddlesome, but ultimately loving, old man, devoted to his duchess. In the novellas, we travel back to Georgian days, and the future duke is a dashing young hero returned from service in Canada. He and his brother Anthony are attending a house party, where Lord Percival Windham falls in love with Esther Himmelfarb, a, um, a woman beneath him in social status. (She’s not keeping deep, dark secrets, though!) Percy has just shed his two mistresses and has been ordered by his mother to find a bride, and the impoverished granddaughter of an earl is not what Her Grace had in mind. Percy is utterly adorable, lovable, charming – I can’t think of enough adjectives. And Esther is his perfect match. I totally loved The Courtship.

Fast forward five years to The Duke and His Duchess to find Percy and Esther are five years into their marriage and up to their knees in babies, bills, and family difficulties. The old duke's memory is slipping, the heir is ailing. Not only that, it looks like Percy fathered two illegitimate children before his marriage, and this is the charming, touching story of how those children become part of the Windham family. It’s great fun to travel back 30 years or so and see these characters as young lovers and then parents.

Both five-stars for me.

The Duke’s Daughters subseries
For the daughters, GB came up with more inventive plots than she did for the sons. This review has already gone on long enough, so I won’t add any detail. Read the blurbs. If it sounds interesting, try the book. I enjoyed them all four-stars worth.

Conclusion (yay!)
So, I’ve become a Grace Burrowes fan-girl, despite our inauspicious introduction. She writes beautiful prose, and her plots, after the first three, are engaging. Her website is quite nice, too, and contains previews as well as bonus material for each book (and believe me, there are a lot more coming).

As I’ve said in other reviews, I really enjoy reading a series where familiar characters appear from time to time. (In GB’s case, I just have to resign myself to seeing cameo appearances from unfamiliar characters.) I would say that Windham World is even more complex than Mary Balogh’s Bedwyn World (15 books and counting).

And I love it just as much.