Please welcome Sally MacKenzie!!
Writing is an adventure. When I set out on page one, I have a plan of sorts—a vague sketch of a map—but I never know exactly where I’m going or what I’ll discover along the way.
Surprising Lord Jack is the second book in the Duchess of Love trilogy and begins as the first book, Bedding Lord Ned ends. Jack, the third son of the Duchess of Greycliffe (aka the Duchess of Love), flees the ballroom of his ancestral home on an icy winter night rather than fall prey to a desperate young lady in search of a husband. As his carriage slipped down the road toward London, I knew one important thing about him that I’d gleaned from writing Ned: his family thinks he’s a bit of a careless, devil-may-care fellow (rumor even has it he’s a rake), but his family is wrong. Jack cares deeply about women, especially the poor London prostitutes, and perhaps because his brother (Ned’s child from his first marriage) died at birth, their abandoned children.
Miss Frances Hadley, the story’s heroine, was a completely new character to me. My first thought in creating her was to try my hand at a favorite Regency historical plot device: a woman masquerading as a male, but of course the first question in creating such a character is why? Why would a woman break social conventions to pretend to be a man, or in this case, a boy? There has to be a good reason.
It took me a while and a few tries to figure her out. She’s prickly, independent, and full of anger. All the men in her family—her father, her twin brother, and (according to what she’s been told) her grandfather—have abandoned her. When her aunt betrays her by planning to trick her into marrying the despicable Mr. Littleton, Frances has had enough. She’s run the estate by herself since she was fourteen. Their man of business can damn well give her the money that is coming to her as a dowry so she can find a cottage to live in by herself. She certainly never intends to marry and submit herself to some tyrannical, doltish male’s rule, but she can’t go to London by herself, especially dressed as a woman. So she puts on her brother’s old clothes, chops off her hair, and rides off.
Frances’ and Jack’s paths cross at the Crowing Cock Inn. The weather and icy roads have defeated them both. Frances arrives first, and the innkeeper’s wife takes pity on what she thinks is a young boy, putting “him” in the room usually reserved for Jack’s family. And then Jack needs a room for the night...well, the bed is big, and it wasn't out of the question for travelers to share space in a crowded inn.
And thus, in a moment of kindness, Frances’ life is tied to Jack’s. Of course someone who knows Frances’ gender sees them, and when Jack eventually discovers Frances is a female he feels honor-bound to offer her marriage. But Frances’ goal in coming to Town was to escape just this fate. She adamantly refuses, leaving Jack no choice but to call in the “big guns”--his mother, the Duchess of Love. If anyone can find a way out of this social quagmire, she can.
One naughty little masquerade can't hurt…
Frances Hadley has managed her family’s estate for years. So why can’t she request her own dowry? She’ll have to go to London herself and knock some sense into the men interfering in her life. With the nonsense she’s dealt with lately, though, there’s no way she’s going as a woman. A pair of breeches and a quick chop of her red curls, and she’ll have much less to worry about…
Jack Valentine, third son of the famous Duchess of Love, is through being pursued by pushy young ladies. One particularly determined miss has run him out of his own house party. Luckily the inn has one bed left—Jack just has to share with a rather entertaining red-headed youth. Perhaps the two of them should ride to London together. It will make a pleasant escape from his mother’s matchmaking melodrama!
Frances never plans to marry. She has seen firsthand that marriage not for her, but her aunt thinks otherwise. Now that she knows what her aunt has planned, she is off to fix this and to keep her independence. Problem is, though she has managed a rather large estate on her own and is quite intelligent, she is but a woman and she must disguise herself for her trip to London to collect her dowry. Best way to do it…dressed as a man.
Jack doesn't need nor does he desire marriage, so the moment one pursuer gets a little too close and is a bit too determined, he runs for the hills. Well actually, it is the local inn for the time being, because the winter storm is too treacherous for night travel. As he runs from one entanglement, he unknowingly runs smack dab into the middle of another. To top things off, he doesn't even like the woman that he may have to marry.
Time to call in reinforcements; they must find a way out of this mess and soon. If rumors spread, they will both be ruined. There has to be a way out of this. The work is slow, but with perseverance and a lot of help, they may be able to get out of this unattached. Getting out of their possible marriage isn't their only concern though. There are murders occurring in town and Frances is a prime target. Jack must work on repairing their damaging circumstances and keep her safe. When all is said and done, can he protect her and his heart?
There is something about this series. The characters are enjoyable, the plots are unique and the Duchess is a keeper. Ms. MacKenzie does a great job bringing it all together into heartwarming stories that keep you amused and makes you want more. Surprising Lord Jack had sad touching moments and then the next I was smiling ear to ear; never a dull moment.
Surprising Lord Jack is fun, sweet and extremely entertaining. I can’t wait for the next installment to this series. Ms. MacKenzie is an author that rarely disappoints and can always be counted on for a delightful escape.
Read my review of the first in the series:
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