The Marquess of Walfort has a proposal for the Duke of Ainsley: For one month, Ainsley and Walfort’s Marchioness, Jayne, will shag each other rotten in an attempt to knock her up. Left paralysed and impotent by a drunken carriage accident Ainsley caused, Walfort feels he is owed this opportunity to give his wife the child he is unable to. Ainsley and Jayne are dead set against it. Ainsley very sensibly does not want to cuckold his friend, no matter what his debt/guilt, and, of course, he has always had a yen for Jayne and knows permission to act on it is a Very Bad Idea. Jayne blames Ainsley for Walfort’s injury and the loss of all of her hopes and dreams. The marriage is hollow, but Walfort and Jayne do, strictly platonically, love each other. They both want a child. What could possibly go wrong?
Waking Up with the Duke is a marriage of convenience historical romance built around an inconvenient existing marriage. Ainsley and Jayne head to his remote six bedroom fully staffed cottage for their month-long tryst. Given their serious reservations things start slowly, but then – VOOM! – they fall madly in love, spend the balance of the month revelling in each other and are left in a predicament: How does one retreat from a newly discovered love and move forward in the public lie one has created? The answer is, of course, by vilifying the invalid spouse. Lorraine Heath gets major bonus points for not making Walfort abusive.
The shadow hanging over the plot of Waking Up with the Duke, intentionally one assumes, is that although Jayne’s husband is the instigator of the illicit relationship, and he has come to terms with his physical challenges so poorly as to bring Jayne down with him, and was likely doing something the night of his accident which was entirely reprehensible, it’s very distracting. While reading about the charming and crazy beautiful people falling in love, I constantly wondered how Heath was going to pull off the resolution. It was clear she would need to make the husband unworthy and kill him off. Heath does so; however, the point isn’t really giving the leads permission to form a permanent relationship, it’s that the repercussions of Walfort’s misdeeds are too quickly addressed. Jayne has been devoted to her husband for the entirety of their marriage. She is a good, desperately lonely woman in a bad situation. Whatever Walfort’s misdeeds, and there has been massive betrayal, it diverts attention from the love story.
Romance authors have to find new an interesting ways to keep lovers apart. It’s a challenge in a genre with six basic story lines. Waking Up With the Duke was quite good overall, but the overhanging complication was not satisfactorily resolved. Not every romance needs to have a neat and tidy plot, but this one did not have enough drang for its sturm. Ainsley and Jayne have to find it in themselves to forgive each other and Walfort and move forward, but at a terrible cost. It’s a marvelously complicated situation not brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
Also by Lorraine Heath: