The Reluctant Duchess by Sharon Cullen

NetGalley is generally my go-to place for new contemporary romances, so my interest was definitely piqued when this historical popped up on the Loveswept publisher’s page. I’m one of those people who can’t resist a pretty cover, so I requested it and dove right in.

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I received a free ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
A young woman seeks out her murdered cousin’s former fiance when she starts receiving letters alluding to her cousin’s death and threatening her as well. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
The mystery and romance in this book are so well blended that it made for a well-paced, smooth read with a lot of emotion. The Duke of Rossmoyne (or Ross, as he’s called by most people), has never forgiven himself for not preventing his fiance’s death, so when Sara shows up to show him the threatening letters, he’s reluctant to get involved, not because he doesn’t want to solve the mystery of her murder, but because he knows he can’t let Sara get hurt as well.

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The two tentatively start a friendship and realize they are completely comfortable in each other’s presence. This is especially important for Sara, who has social anxiety and hates going into public. For that reason, she’s long since decided she’s not going to marry, and since she believes it improper to believe anything could come from a relationship with Ross, since he was engaged to her cousin, she sees nothing wrong with visiting him late at night.

That social anxiety angle was awesome, and Sara’s emotions regarding having to be in large crowds of people hit home. She was relatable, and therefore, likable. I’m fan of heroines who are flawed with something some readers can empathize with.

The Romance Factor
The way that the characters overcame their issues and figured out that they loved each other had some conflict, which made it that much sweeter. Ross and Sara were slow and sensual with each other, and it gave the story that overall feeling of foreplay. 4/5.

The Steam Factor
Speaking of foreplay, this book had a lot of it. In fact, there was a lot of kissing until there was any lovemaking, and then the lovemaking didn’t even involve intercourse, yet was still highly titillating. I enjoyed the step back this book took with regards to sex, and that Ross refused to bed Sara as long as they weren’t married. Though of course, that didn’t stop him from getting to third base. 4/5

dance

Final Thoughts
I’m not sure why I was surprised to have liked this book as much as I did, but I’m happy I requested it. It’s a slow romance that isn’t overshadowed by the suspense of the mystery. I enjoyed the characters and would definitely read more books by this author.

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