Maxwell, Cathy. The Duke That I Marry. New York: Avon Books, 2018.
Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062655783 | 339 pages | Regency Romance
The Duke That I Marry was an enjoyable conclusion to the Spinster Heiresses trilogy, and one that made up for the lack of real substance in book two by matching book one in its handling of real, relatable issues in a historical context.
Matt’s and Willa’s desires from marriage are very much shaped by observing their parents and, on Matt’s part, his rash mistakes in conducting a prior attachment. I love how the two of them were able to overcome these initial marital difficulties in a mature way, and come to see that a marriage of convenience can become a love match.
There’s been much talk in the reviews regarding a scene of dubious consent, and if that’s a trigger for you, then I’d advise perhaps approaching with caution, but also thinking deeper outside the context of the scene itself. As someone who isn’t a fan of consent issues, who avoids books with callous rapist heroes, I love how this was handled in the context of both their own insecurities and also the time period. Some took issue with the remark that “a man cannot rape one’s wife,” but the fact is, it was accepted as a fact of life back then. I acknowledge that the ethical line of what is considered acceptable. I also feel like, even though Matt did lose control, it was never meant to be a moment of romanticized rape, but a stark look at one of the hurdles they must get through. In the chapters preceding this scene and afterward, Matt deals with the ramifications of his affair with a married woman and the lingering guilt of it all, which led him to believe that denying his passion was the right course. In one of the scenes preceding this one, Willa and her mother, who is herself in a loveless marriage, have “the Talk,” and it paints all the wrong expectations of what to expect, and that along with the inauspicious start to their relationship, is one that could easily sow distrust. But in the scenes following, you see how repentant Matt is for his loss of control, as well as his growth as a person. Kudos to Cathy Maxwell for including this scene, controversial as it is, and managing to create a hero who was believable in his growth from these dark moments.
I did find the blackmail subplot a bit poorly developed, and the person behind it incredibly obvious. However, I did like the root of the blackmail plot and its roots in real historical prejudices against homosexuals, as discussed in her author’s note.
All that being said, I really enjoyed the effort to immerse the reader into an near-authentic Regency world, while also providing sympathetic, relatable characters and a happy ending. I would recommend this to other fans of historicals who also love that as well.