A DUCHESS TO REMEMBER - Christina Brooke
Ministry of Marriage , Book 3
St. Martin's Paperbacks
When her brother died in a fire at his laboratory, Lady Cecily Westruther's cousin Bertram inherited the title and the family residence of Garraway Hall. Cecily became a ward of the Duke of Montford. Now, at age twenty, she is spending time with her cousin's wife at Garraway Hall. Bertram has returned to London. Lavinia, his wife, wants to spend the night with a lover, but needs Cecily to spend another night as her presence will maintain Lavinia's reputation. Cecily refuses, but Lavinia isn't finished. She has seen the pink pearls Cecily wears, her deceased mother's, and as a gambit tells Cecily she found Jonathon's diary. Cecily trades the use of the pearls to her cousin-in-law until Lavinia returns to London, and then she asks what happened to the rest of her brother's papers. Lavinia blithely tells her she sold them to the Duke of Ashburn.
Cecily is engaged to the Duke of Norland, a man she doesn't love and whom she knows will carry on his affairs after they are married, but she is still determined to marry him. She wants the freedom this type of marriage will give her, not for dalliances like Lavinia, but to become a scholar. Unfortunately, she wrote Jonathan a letter before he died, and she must retrieve it before she marries Norland, thus her interest in Jonathon's papers. From his diary, Cecily learns Jonathon had been a member of the Promethean Club. When she learns Ashburn is a member and hosting a meeting, she decides to break into the duke's house to spy on the group, and search the duke's library while he is preoccupied.
When Rand, the Duke of Ashburn, catches an intruder in his home, he is not deceived by the manly dress. When he discovers the girl's identity, he is both intrigued and dismayed. He knows more about Jonathon, his research, and his death, than he will ever let Cecily discover.
The Duke of Montford and Lady Arden are leading members of the Ministry of Marriage, a group who arrange the best possible marriages for English aristocrats to help preserve their heritage and their future in England. Ashburn could be on the committee, but he has no interest in marriage. He is not above manipulating the long-standing arrangement between Cecily and Norland through the ministry, though, when it serves his purposes, but just what is his purpose?
This is a two-night, preferably one, book. Cecily and Rand's romance is a fun, deceptive, quickstep of a dance even though neither is interested in love. They both fight their attraction knowing how foolhardy falling is love would be. The intrigue about Jonathon's papers, the social shenanigans, and interactions with other characters make the story an amusing and enjoyable read. The ministry plays a much smaller role in A DUCHESS TO REMEMBER than in previous stories, and the reader won't expect the surprise plot twist. It puts the whole romance at risk.