All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Unworthy Duke by Charlotte Anne

on October 21, 2021

The Unworthy Duke
Charlotte Anne
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2021, 323p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}: She’s running from her past; he’s hiding from his.

Miss Ellen Burney doesn’t have a penny to her name. Determined to escape scandal, she flees to London and becomes Miss Smith: spinster and lady’s companion. London offers security in anonymity. So long as Ellen can rein in her overactive imagination and become the perfect picture of propriety.

Calum Callaghan spent ten years in the Royal Navy fighting Napoleon and has the scars to prove it. Now he’s a duke, but all of London thinks he murdered his brother. Heartbroken and battle weary, he’s locked himself away for four long years, a prisoner in his own townhouse.

That is, until Cal’s grandmother comes to stay with him for the London Season, her new lady’s companion in tow. A lady’s companion with a passion for life and love that can hardly be contained by even the most spinsterish of lace caps. She’s fooling nobody, especially not this grumpy duke.

I really enjoyed this. I thought it was a sweet story with a feisty heroine who broke the mould a little and a grumpy, scarred emotionally stunted reluctant Duke who was dealing with guilt and not at all prepared for the storm that was Ellen to erupt into his reclusive life.

Ellen is in a desperate situation, fleeing her gambler brother who is also abusive. Ellen can take it when it’s just her but when Geoffrey turns his behaviour towards a young innocent, she knows that the time has come to leave. She has secured a position as a lady’s companion to a widow and arrives at a somewhat dilapidated house where it looks that there is no one home. Ellen and Cal’s first meeting is after she’s climbed in his window and it’s full of banter and humour. Cal suffered a terrible trauma four years ago and has pretty much removed himself from society since then so he’s not expecting (or wanting) any visitors. Much to his disgust, Ellen says that she arranged to meet her future employer here and here she will wait until that employer (who turns out to be Cal’s very formidable grandmother, for want of a better term) arrives.

Neither Ellen nor Cal are conventional people for their time – Cal has a complicated background and inherited a Dukedom in tragic circumstances that he doesn’t want or think he deserves. He has kept himself removed from society and everything to do with it, hating the stares and the whispers and the gossip and the undertone that he may’ve gotten where he is today by doing something despicable. Ellen is the daughter of Baron but she’s hiding a big secret that, if Cal and his grandmother were to find out, she’s sure would result in them throwing her out. However when her past tracks her down, Ellen is shocked by the reaction she gets.

Cal and Ellen don’t exactly hit it off because he wants her to leave immediately and she refuses. The arrival of his grandmother to basically batter him into submission sends Cal into retreat mode but when it seems that Ellen is under threat, he definitely wants to protect her and everyone around her that she cares for. He isn’t judgemental (perhaps because he’s had such an unusual upbringing) and it doesn’t change anything except perhaps even make him more determined that he can set in motion the events that will protect her permanently from this threat, despite her reluctance. Ellen really wants to be independent – earning her own money, providing for herself and those around her that she is responsible for. She doesn’t want to be beholden to anyone and doesn’t want to relinquish any rights. It’s why she feels so strongly about Cal’s solution to her problem, and I appreciated that about her because it would’ve been easy to take that offering at first, without worrying about anything else.

As Cal doesn’t judge Ellen on her secrets, she doesn’t judge him on the rumours, the story surrounding his inheritance, nor his physical appearance either. Actually that last one intrigues her more than anything and quite often she feels herself feeling protective of Cal in a similar way – but rather than wanting to keep him safe, like he does with her, she wants to make him feel worthy, which is something that Cal does not feel after everything that has happened to him. Despite his gruff exterior, tendency to bury himself in a bottle and demands everyone leave his home, deep down Cal is a kind and gentle person who deeply cares about people, especially his “grandmother”, who has stood by him because it was the right thing to do, despite all it has cost her. This looks like it might have all the markers of the beginning of a series – there are several things here that I feel are not adequately addressed or dealt with and there’s a character who seems like they could be the focus of a book in the future and I expect that the overall story might get continued.

I hope so actually, because I really did enjoy reading this and I’d like to see what happens next. I thought all of the characters were fun (especially Cal’s grandmother and I’d like to see her get what she wants) and Cal and Ellen complimented each other really well and brought out the best in each other. I felt like both of them really needed someone to love them after what they’d gone through and give them a chance to experience life, not hide themselves away, for different reasons.


Book #181 of 2021

The Unworthy Duke is book #79 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2021

And it’s also book #28 of the 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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