THE DUCHESS HUNT – Jennifer Haymore
A House of Trent Novel , Book 1
Grand Central Publishing
England, Late 18th Century
Sarah Osborne has loved Simon since she was a young girl and he saved her from a fall into a blackberry patch. Her father had just been hired as Ironwood Park's gardener. She didn't know Simon was the duke until he took her into the mansion to have her thorn-inflicted wounds treated. He introduced her to his mother, the duchess, and his brothers, Sam, Luke, Mark, and Theo. Esme, the youngest child, was his only sister. The duchess asked if she would like to join the children in lessons, and Sarah gradually became head housemaid. She knows as the gardener's daughter there is no hope other than stolen kisses. Simon must marry a woman of good birth.
Simon can't repress his feelings for Sarah, someone who sees him as a person, not a title, but it is incumbent upon him to save his family's tarnished reputation. Both parents indulged in extra-marital affairs, causing great consternation between them. However, the duke married his wife even though she came with a son, Sam, whom the duke raised in his home. He has not been to Ironwood for three years to avoid his feelings for Sarah, but his mother is missing. He calls the family together to explore ways to find her without causing another scandal. He tells Sarah she will take Esme to London as a chaperone for the season as Esme has difficulties in society. Her come out season was a disaster, but she trusts Sarah with a sister's affection. Simon isn't looking for marriage, but an offer is made with a veiled threat to expose irregularities in his family if he doesn't agree.
The characters in THE DUCHESS HUNT are interesting. Sarah knows her place but is willing to risk all just to show Simon how much she loves him, no strings attached. When he takes a duchess, she knows she will have to leave Ironwood. In the meantime, Simon struggles to do the right thing while deeply distracted by his mother's disappearance and his love for Sarah. He finds he has some serious decisions to make, such as what is worthwhile and what isn't. An excellent love story.