MY AMERICAN DUCHESS – Eloisa James
At Lady Portmeadow's ball, Merry Pelford becomes engaged to Lord Cedric Allardyce. It is her third engagement and saves her reputation. Her previous two engagements were to Americans, whom at first she loved, but the men's behavior quickly changed her opinion. So her aunt and uncle, who have raised her since her father's death, brought her to England for a fresh start. To prevent tarnishing her reputation further, she must go through with her engagement to the Duke of Trent's younger twin brother. Escaping the guest's scrutiny, she slips onto the balcony outside the ballroom. There, Merry encounters a man who makes her heart beat faster. Later at another ball, after an altercation in the house's library, Merry's fiancé threatens her: marry him or endure the awful consequences.
Trent discovers the anonymous woman he encounters on the balcony not only interests him more than any women ever has, but she is also engaged to his brother Cedric. He soon learns Cedric doesn't love Merry, an uncivilized American, but does want her large inheritance. Their mother had always preferred Cedric, and when their father and mother both died in a carriage accident, Cedric had become a secret drunk. This behavior was hidden from all but Trent, but he won't interfere even though he wants Merry, a smart, entertaining, and stubborn American, and one woman who isn't uninterested in his title. The situation is difficult, and it grows worse because neither Merry nor Trent can resist the temptation of the other, even though Trent doesn't believe in love.
While MY AMERICAN DUCHESS starts out as another early nineteenth century English romance, things change when Merry does become a duchess. Soon the story delves into an exploration of what love is and how to recognize it, especially in a society where title, position, and wealth always trump love.