WHEN YOU WISH UPON A DUKE – Isabella Bradford
The Wylder Sisters , Book 1
Ballantine Books
ISBN: 978-0-345-52729-5
August 2012
Historical Romance

London, England – 1760

Lady Charlotte Wylder is living a relatively quiet life with her two sisters and her mother in Dorset.  Years ago they'd lived grandly with their father, the fourth Earl of Hervey, but when he died he left no boys behind, so his title and grand houses went to a distant relative.  All of a sudden, late one night, a lawyer comes to their house representing His Grace the Duke of Marchbourne.  Apparently, years ago Charlotte was betrothed to the duke, and he is now ready for their nuptials, a slight fact her mother neglected to tell her up to now.  On the way to London, they stop to stretch their legs when Charlotte's sister's cat Fig climbs up a tree and, as usual, it's Charlotte's duty to climb the tree and get her down.  But unfortunately that is the exact moment when the duke had decided to meet them on the way and finds her atop the tree.  He ends up climbing the tree to “rescue” her, though she's perfectly capable of getting down by herself.  But instead of being afraid of him, Charlotte finds March kind and funny, and when he almost tries to kiss her, they both fall off the tree and he hurts his head and shoulder.

March is so excited to meet his future wife that he decides to ride out and meet her and perhaps suggest a cup of tea.  But when he finds her in a tree and meets her, he is enthralled with her beauty and sweet disposition.  When he meets her several days later in the mantua maker's and kisses her, gossip quickly spreads and makes the papers, and he decides they need to marry immediately.  March's ancestor was the mistress of the king, and was given the title of Duchess.  Despite his title, his reputation has caused him no end of embarrassment since his youth.  It is his goal in life to be considered a gentleman and to always conduct himself with pride and respectability.  Their marriage night shows March just how much of a man he is, and not a gentleman.  He vows to treat all future marital intimacy as a restrained gentleman, and he can't figure out why Charlotte cries every time.  March and Charlotte must go through many tests before he can accept that love and lovemaking involves the emotions and not just what you think is acceptable.

Isabella Bradford has written a fresh and interesting tale of two people with different life experiences.  Charlotte has only her impeccable blood lines in her favor, as she mostly grew up in the country and isn't sure of herself around the society March surrounds himself with.  She quickly falls for March's kindness and is torn with misery when he seems to change after they marry.  Their marriage night was all she could wish for, but after that March apologizes and says he will act more like a gentleman.  To her dismay, their lovemaking is quickly over and brings her no satisfaction.  Why has March changed towards her?  March's ancestor, Nan, was the mistress to a king, and for the past hundred years debauched behavior seems to be the norm in his family, and it is his goal in life to be respectable and not let his baser instincts take hold of him.  Acting wildly while making love with Charlotte appalls him, and he tries his utmost to make each encounter something a gentleman would not be ashamed of and not let his lust take over.

Secondary characters are March's favorite cousin, His Grace the Duke of Breconridge.  Lady Finnister pretends to be Charlotte's friend but throws her into the greedy arms of Lord Andover.

WHEN YOU WISH UPON A DUKE is a special and sweet story of two people gradually coming to terms with a marriage and March's hang-ups about what constitutes a gentleman in his eyes given his history.  An interesting historical romance with two characters you will come to love will liven up your reading this month.

Carolyn Crisher