Series Name: The Gilded Age Heiresses, #4
She had not always been this solemn, injured thing. There had been a time when she had been girlish, laughing at life and whatever the future held. She had fallen asleep easily and not been awakened by a squeeze of pressure in her chest so tight that she had to force herself to breath. Sometimes she hated that she could not get back to that foolish and winsome girl. Hereford had changed her, and even though he was gone, she couldn’t not rid herself of him or his influence. Their time together had extinguished that fire within her, and no matter how much she missed it, she couldn’t seem to get it back. Another failure on top of her many.
The Duchess Takes a Husband is the perfect ending to The Gilded Age Heiresses series. Harper St. George ends with sweeping emotions and a poignant story arc.
Despite her illustrious title, Camille, Duchess of Hereford, remains what she has always been—a pariah. Though her title means she’s technically accepted by London Society, the rebellious widow with her burgeoning interest in the suffrage movement and her American ways isn’t exactly high on every hostess’s guest list. But Camille starts to wonder if being an outcast is not without its perks when the tantalizing answer to her secret fear appears in the shape of Jacob Thorne, the illegitimate son of an earl and co-owner of London’s infamous Montague Club.
Jacob is used to making deals with his club members—he’s just not accustomed to them being beautiful women. Nor have the terms ever been so sweetly seductive as Camille’s shocking proposition. To finally buy his own club and gain the crucial backing of investors, Camille offers Jacob the respectability of a fake engagement with a duchess. In return, the tempting widow has one condition: she wants Jacob to show her if it’s possible for her to experience pleasure in bed.
The lure of such a bargain proves too delicious to resist, drawing the enterprising rogue and the wallflower duchess into a scandalous game and an even more dangerous gamble of the heart.
The Duchess Takes a Husband has us finally seeing Camille’s happy ending during The Gilded Age Heiresses series. We first meet Camille in The Heiress Gets a Duke – she’s August’s friend and a chilling example of the marriages young women were sent to enhance family money and connections. Camille is a strong secondary character throughout the books and we see her unhappy interactions with her controlling and emotionally abusive husband, the Duke of Hereford. With the older man’s death, Camille is suddenly free but isn’t sure how to live her life or where to live her life: New York isn’t home anymore, but neither is London really. She’s still young, but the idea of remarrying makes her feel ill. All Camille wants is to be loved and to share all the love she has to give, but everytime she gets near a man she feels afraid. And sex, well sex is nothing to write home about, right? There is one man though that she is interested in: Jacob Thorne. Jacob has been trying to resist Camille’s charm since the first time he met her: he knows he needs to stay away from the beautiful and wealthy widow because she’s out of his league. However when he suddenly finds himself promising investors that he has a fiance who is making him, the illegitimate son of an earl and renowned playboy, very respectable, Camille all but falls into his lap. Now, they both need to remember this is only for pretend. And it seems that the harder they try to pretend indifference, the more the two of them can’t stay away from each other. Camille and Jacob have unbelievable chemistry that made me want to cheer as I read their story because it was so wonderful to finally see Camille be treasured for the amazing woman that she is. I love Camille and Jacob together: their love is built on respect, mutual admiration and a willingness to help each other achieve their own goals and dreams. And when the two of them finally get together? It’s hot and beautiful and absolutely sizzles. Let’s just say I would also be happy to help Jacob Thorne with whatever he needed.
Female empowerment and the suffrage movement plays a role in this series but it really comes to a head in Camille’s story. The book dives into suffrage history at that time, and the friction between the old generation who is used to using women as chattel to the newer generation who begins to recognize women as individuals with their own needs and desires. Caught in the middle of this change is of course Camille. Throughout the story she begins to realize her own desires are ok, and that she is allowed to have her own wants and needs. She also, through the help of friends and the suffragette movement, realizes that her treatment at the hands of her husband wasn’t ok and was actually abuse. Her relationship with her parents has been pretty awkward since they married her off, and St. George delivers a powerful resolution between Camille and her mother: it’s satisfying and emotional and brought tears to my eyes as Camille’s mother grapples to understand the pain and heartache she caused her daughter when all along she thought she was doing the right thing.
I loved watching August and Violet come back into Camille’s story and to see how the three friends have built their lives and maintained their relationships with each other. I loved the ending of Camille’s story: it brought her full circle to her first marriage which set off August and Violet’s own journey to London and their own love stories. St. George also neatly introduces new characters for her next series while ensuring that we will still see these beloved heiresses.
The Duchess Takes a Husband is a swoony book filled with a fake engagement, mutual pining and steamy love scenes.
Thank you Berkley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.