Book Review: Dealing with the Duchess by JR Salisbury

Posted May 26, 2021 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Dealing with the Duchess by JR Salisbury

I received this book for free from my own shelves in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Dealing with the Duchess by JR Salisbury
Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Oliver Heber Books on February 12, 2021
Pages: 240
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

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First in the Mayfair Brides historical romance series set in Regency London and revolving around the widowed Eleanor, Dowager Duchess of Bentley, and Cameron, the Duke of Evermont.

My Take

Omigod, ROFLMAO, I just read that “[t]his book has been revised, rewritten and reedited!” Salisbury needs to get her money back!

Oh, Salisbury does have an interesting concept with a strong, intelligent female protagonist and an unusually open male protagonist, and that’s the best I can say. I do like that Eleanor is plotting how to save her mother and siblings AND the family fortune. It’s a clever idea.

It was sweet that Eleanor and Cameron managed to hook back up — no, it’s not a giveaway, as Salisbury doesn’t manage any tension in the two of them getting back together, which got me to wondering when the real point of the book would appear. Part of the lack of tension may come from Salisbury using third person dual protagonist point-of-view from Eleanor’s and Cameron’s perspectives.

I’m not quite sure if Salisbury is creating her own England or if her scattershot attention to the manners, mores, and culture of the time period are a lack of knowledge. It still takes me aback to read of noblemen who are obviously in business, let alone a widowed countess who works in an auction house unpacking artwork, etc. Alec has some sort of business, but I don’t recall Salisbury saying what it is. It is something he works at on a daily basis, which certainly doesn’t fit the English concept of nobles engaging in trade. As for Eaton and their entrance exams . . . Hmm, I wonder if the college is located in Surry.

If Dealing with the Duchess was supposed to be an alternate world history, Salisbury should have done more to make it obvious . . . Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series does a nice job of blending Victorian England with her steampunk world.

It’s interesting that Eleanor doesn’t have any footmen to accompany her when she goes out. We never do learn why Eleanor’s mother does such an aboutface over her husband losing their estates. How exactly did Daddykins get inside Cam’s London house? That Prudence is such a bitch! I do wish Salisbury had done more to “explain” her aboutface. And Eleanor pays her lawyer, William, so little that he has to moonlight as the manager of the gambling club she owns.

Lololol, oh man, uh-huh, I can see that not being fluent in the language would make a difference in knowing what colors and fabrics would look good on someone . . . on the part of the dressmaker…*snicker*…omigod, it’s so bad. Then Eleanor “realizes” the dressmaker she’s seeing thinks she’s Cameron’s mistress. Oh. Yeah. I’m sure Cameron never said a word about his wife wanting some gowns. God forbid they should introduce themselves to the dressmaker. Oy.

What is with Eleanor’s family. They’re blaming Dante’s Inferno for winning their father’s last bits of real estate when it’s their father who chose to gamble and then lost them. Prudence actually thinks she can make a living sewing? And the whole response is that Eleanor and Cameron will ensure she’ll be fine?

I thought ladies wore their gloves all the time when they were outside their homes? As for gambling hells, why is it such a big deal if another club is opening up? The characters are acting as if they’ll go under if the club opens. London had a number of places . . . mmm, sorry, the real London had a number of places for nobility to gamble. Why does Eleanor have such a difficult time following her own advice?

While it makes sense that Eleanor’s staff will be discreet, I really don’t see English nobles baring their dirty laundry to the police.

Ahhh, we find out why Cameron left for the West Indies so suddenly. I’m not sure how it is that Eleanor forgot about the Scottish estate when the family lawyers had already mentioned it.

Aww, love. Now if only Salisbury had managed other ways to say it instead of in these short choppy sentences. As for hiding her pregnancy, how ever does she manage this?

Oh, jesus. This was so bad. Short sentences. All tell and no show. Steps for actions that made no sense. There is no way I’ll be reading any more of this series. Shudder.

The Story

Eleanor’s father is wasting the family fortune on his gambling, which has the clever Eleanor plotting how to save it.

The Characters

Eleanor is the widowed Duchess of Bentley who had only been married to Grayson, the ailing duke, for four years. Mimi is her loyal lady’s maid. Nigel is her butler. Mrs Ryan is the housekeeper. Lord William is Eleanor’s lawyer as well as the manager of her gambling club, Dante’s Inferno. Catherine is William’s wife. The Countess is a ship in which William and Grayson were partners. The Bailey Art Emporium is an art business and auction house that Grayson established.

The seventeen-year-old Prudence is Eleanor’s young, selfish sister. Alec, Lord Wexwood, is their brother, the heir. Their father, the Duke of Wexwood, is an absolute, misogynistic, selfish jerk who doesn’t consider his family at all. Their mother is a drama queen. Somerset is the family home in the country. Essex and Abbott are the family lawyers.

Cameron Dudley, Duke of Evermont, the childhood friend of the Wexwoods (we never do learn what their actual last name is), has just returned from the family sugar plantations. James Dudley is his younger brother. Their cousin Maggie writes a gossip column. Evermont Castle in Somerset is the family home that burned down. They have another country home in Surrey, or is it Surry?

Newton is the Earl of Marlborough’s eldest son. Lady Rebecca, the widowed Countess of Devonshire, works for Bailey’s. Mary, a friend of Eleanor’s, is married to Edward Elliot, the Earl of Dunlap and/or Bingham. Thomas is Edward’s brother. I guess Edward also has a brother named Philip.

The Earl and Countess of Pembroke are hosting that first party. Henry Bailey is the new Duke of Bentley, a cousin of Grayson’s. Vicar Brown will marry them. Reginald Cole is a reporter. The Duke of Northshire is to marry Lady Charlotte Andrews. Count LeBlanc hosts a private card game he intends to parlay into a gambling club, the King of Hearts, in partnership with Lady Montgomery, a countess. Peter Henlein invented the early pocket watch. Lord Wellington is a viscount interested in a cargo of spice. Rose is a friend of Prudence’s. I’m guessing the truth about Guy Dumas, the eclectic investor/collector, will eventually come out. Sergeant Bailey and Constable Miles investigate the attack. Mortimer Green is an inspector with Scotland Yard.

The Cover and Title

The cover is quite forward, lol, as the brown-haired Eleanor, dressed in a cheerful sky blue skirt with tons of yardage, a white blouse with neatly ruffled neckline and a navy spencer jacket outlined in gold braid, cocks a pose, a gold mirror held up in one hand with the other hand on her hip, and Eleanor staring out at us in challenge. The background is a drawing room with beige damask wallpaper, a gold-framed screen on the right and a tapestry on the left above a reddish table top on which sits a dark blue cachepot with pink and white flowers. A narrow navy banner spans the cover just above Eleanor’s knees with a gold label presenting the series information in a rust color. Below that is a much taller and more transparent navy banner with the title in an embossed scriptish serif in a gradating gold. Below that at the bottom is a gray transparent banner with the author’s name in navy.

The title is too true, for you will be Dealing with the Duchess.

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