SURPRISING LORD JACK – Sally MacKenzie
Duchess of Love Series, Book 2
Miss Frances Hadley has known little or no love in her life. Oh, perhaps her mother loved her, but she was too deep in depression to show it. After becoming estranged from her family for eloping and her husband's desertion before the twins were born, the poor lady mourned and died young. That left Frances and Frederick to be raised by their constantly harping paternal aunt. Frances never met her father; he left to travel to exotic locales to study plants. At four and twenty, Frances hasn't seen her brother in years; he's a botanist like her father, though still in England, she believes. Frances has been running the estate for years, but now she must get away. She's learned of a plot of her aunt's to force her into marriage by compromising her with a willing man. Frances cuts her hair, digs out some old clothes of Frederick's and sets out for London on horseback to demand her dowry from their man of business to live on her own in a cottage somewhere. Frances is tall and slender and able to pull off the masquerade. The plan might have succeeded if it weren't for the bad weather and her horse's injury. She makes it as far as the Crowing Cock Inn where the only remaining room is the one kept for the Valentine family. The landlady takes pity on the poor young lad and gives “him” the room.
The Duchess of Greycliffe is known as the Duchess of Love for her formidable matchmaking talents. The night of Frances's escape is the night of her annual ball. She has hopes of her two unmarried sons finding wives. Her youngest son, Lord Jack Valentine, is far from wanting to settle down at only twenty-six, so he decides to escape the rabid female after him by leaving the party. The weather is bad, so he stops at the Crowing Cock to spend the night. Aha! The common rooms at the inn are rowdy with a good chance of fights breaking out, so he takes pity on the lad sleeping clothed in his roomy bed and crawls in on the other side.
Francis is able to maintain her disguise the next day, but her mare is lame. Though known as a careless rake, Jack's reputation is mostly gossip hiding his generous side. He takes the boy under his wing all the way to his London house. But before the end of the journey, Frances (now calling herself Francis with an i) gets lessons of his true nature. Jack is much more than just the useless third son of a duke.
Unfortunately, someone recognized Frances at the inn and begins to spread the tale. When Jack learns she's a woman—he's quite surprised, indeed!—he quickly sends for his mother in hopes she can somehow find a way out of their being forced by honor into a marriage neither wishes. As Jack and Fran both fight off unwanted attraction, the duke and duchess, and even Frances's grandparents introduce her into Society—this miss with no lady-like accomplishments at all, not even dancing. She can run an estate, though!
Sally Mackenzie is an ace hand at writing amusing stories that also touch the heart. I hope you all enjoyed her Naked Nobility series. This one is as much fun. SURPRISING LORD JACK begins where BEDDING LORD NED (the second son) ends, and though the eldest son and heir is married, the couple haven't seen each other since the wedding. Will the duchess be able to fix them? We'll have to wait for 2014 and LOVING LORD ASH to find out. Well, that's not entirely all there is. A digital and an audio novella are out called The Duchess of Love that tells how the duke and duchess got together. Happily, it's also included in print in the back of BEDDING LORD NED.
For a rollicking good read that's sweet and spicy, I highly recommend SURPRISING LORD JACK.