#SaturdaysAreBookish this #SatBookChat | feat. #LoveInspired Historical novelist Jessica Nelson with “An Unlikely Duchess”

Posted Saturday, 22 January, 2022 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I have always appreciated the authors who find my bookish ruminations and find my blog a refreshing visit whilst journeying through the book blogosphere. Especially if they take a moment to read and review my Review Policy and find that I might be a good fit as a reader for one of their stories or series. Imagine the joy I had when Ms Nelson contacted me about her new Love Inspired Historical release as one of my top favourite Love Inspired stories have always been the Historical and Suspense lines moreso than the Contemporary, though I still read Love Inspired Contemporary as well just not as often as the other two categories. Though technically the Suspense line is set in our Contemporary world.

I received a complimentary copy of “An Unlikely Duchess” direct from author Jessica Nelson in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I love reading Love Inspired Historicals:

My appreciation for Love Inspired has been developing over the years as I originally preferred reading the stories by Heartsong Presents alongside my Mum who nudged me to give those delightful little books a chance to win over my heart; and they surely did! When Heartsong went through a few mergers/changes and was finally dissolved by its current publisher (a very sombering day of news!) Mum and I shifted our focus into Love Inspired. Some of the same authors were featured by both publishers/imprints, too. It was there we started to read all three imprints of Love Inspired: Contemporary, Historical & Suspense.

Initially of course, our hearts settled into two different imprints: for me, the Historicals won me over the most and for Mum the Contemporaries. However, then, Love Inspired shifted away from publishing Historical Romances with an INSPY thematic and choose to strictly focus on Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense (ie. Suspense). Ergo, we shifted again and strictly read more of their Suspense line than the other two but still tried to gather the Historicals whenever a) they were available, b) able to be found second hand or c) awaited for new releases or reprints of older stories.

Imagine my lovely surprise finding out their releasing some new titles this New Year, 2022 for a select period of time and giving those of us who LOVE their Historicals a chance to ‘meet’ new authors and tuck into #HistRoms like we loved doing in the past by this lovely imprint.

As a reader, what drew me the most into the Historicals themselves were the gently told stories with an uplift resolution at the end of the story. I love reading INSPY Fiction and when it comes to Historical Romances – I love the dramas of life and the emotional journeys characters take in their lives but sometimes, reading a gentler told story of romance is just my cuppa and I am so dearly thankful there are a few new Love Inspired Historicals out there now to be read as they truly are a lovely lift of joy.

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#SaturdaysAreBookish this #SatBookChat | feat. #LoveInspired Historical novelist Jessica Nelson with “An Unlikely Duchess”An Unlikely Duchess
by Jessica Nelson
Source: Direct from Author

A marriage of convenience

is the only way to save her family…

Widow Sophia Seymour never planned to marry again—let alone become a duchess. But with her father missing and her family impoverished, an old betrothal contract promising her hand to a notorious duke is her only hope. And Edmund DeVane intends to honor the agreement—in name only. After all, Edmund needs a wife with an impeccable reputation to protect his debuting niece. But as their arrangement starts to feel much more real, can their budding love survive Edmund’s deepest secret?

Genres: Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Historical Romance

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1335418906

Published by Love INSPIRED

on 28th December, 2021

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 288

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comLove Inspired Historicals by this author:

The Matchmaker’s Match (2015)
A Hasty Betrothal (2016)
The Unconventional Governess (2018)
An Unlikely Duchess (2021)
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Published by: Love Inspired (@LoveInspiredBks)
an imprint of Harlequin Books (@HarlequinBooks)
which is now an imprint of HarperCollins Publishing (@HarperCollins)

Note on Formats: Happily Love Inspired novels have the same kind of flexibility as Harlequin Heartwarming wherein you can receive these print copies in Regular Print, Larger Print or True Large Print for those who are vision impaired and/or have low vision. I personally love the Larger Print editions for Harlequin Heartwarming, Love Inspired Contemporary Romance & Love Inspired Suspense as it is much kinder on eyes of a migraineur! Generally I receive Larger Print copies of Love Inspired and/or Harlequin Heartwarming novels – however, I do on occasion receive Regular Print which I can’t read whilst in the throes of a migraine or shortly after one but when I’m migraine-free I can soak back inside them; hence why having different sized fonts available is a lovely gesture by the publisher for readers like me.

Converse via: #INSPYbooks and/or #INSPY, #SweetRomance and #LoveInspired

as well as #ChristFic, #ChristianFiction, #HistRom or #HistoricalRomance or #INSPYRomance

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On finding a new voice in Love Inspired:

As you will denote from my review, I am overjoyed in finding a new voice in Love Inspired especially the limited new releases of the Historical line which are continuing into 2023 – as revealled during #SatBookChat which gave us a glimpse of the story Nelson is finalising for that year’s release. Between a musician and a detective which certainly held my bookish and romantic eye as being that year’s #mustread for INSPY Historical Romance! The joy of course in finding Nelson is I love to celebrate and applaud the authors who are curating stories and characters I can sink my teeth into and who are giving me the stories I must desire to be reading.

In this instance, it is lovely to find the historical details, the historical environs and the historical characters are all wholly true of their natures and selves within the historical context of the Regency! I loved the expanded dialogues and the ways in which she found creative liberty to paint a picture of particular moment in the story as well – those antidotes of visual impression which are good folly for readers and tuck you closer to the characters or to a particular scene. Overall, it was the joy I felt as a reader as I read the story which resonated most with me and I am hopeful, for other readers who appreciate the same stories I do will find Nelson’s INSPY Historical Romances an uplift of joy for them as well.

I plan to back-read her backlist and continuing to blog my thoughts about her stories and her characters; especially in-part of having learnt The Matchmaker’s Match has a character who inspired her 2023 release’s hero (ie. the detective) but isn’t a direct sequel nor duology (as sometimes those are not allowed as we all know!) but it is an ‘inspired’ character from a previous novel of whom is allowed to have their own HEA; so in theory or thought, you could say it carries on an aspect of the prior work without directly connecting itself to it per se if you will? I, for one, am eager to meet the former detective before greeting the new detective and then, sorting out my own thoughts about both stories! 

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My review of an unlikely duchess:

Alighting into An Unlikely Duchess is a bit of a joy because its been an age since I’ve tucked myself back into the height of a Season in London and the surrounding environs. All the dramas of being put out in society and finding one’s match set against the wishes mothers have for their daughters and the intensity of pressure on the young ladies who to their credit seem to keep their sanity from it all. I love reading stories set during that particular period of time in a young women’s life as much as I like being taken back to the balls, the parties and the high society atmosphere of Historical Romances set in this particular generation. To Nelson’s credit – she took what I always loved about Pride and Prejudice (the interference of an overbearing Mum who tries her best to influence the future of her daughters) and enveloped us into a new chapter of a family down on their luck (wealth wise) whilst their hopes for any kind of future lay with finding a match for three single daughters, one of whom is a widow.

When news of Sophia’s unlikely match is announced, its how her Mum reacts which is priceless! I loved how Nelson made this behaviour quirk a part of their Mum’s personality but its how she delivered the news and the impact of that news which affected Sophia which had heavier applications. Definitely a strong turning in the narrative and it re-positioned us to realise just how precarious their lives could become if their left without a safety net or abandoned by the family’s breadwinner, such as the case were here.

As soon as the Duke took his queue to enter into the scene, I had a feeling he was going to be a character I would not feel akin to knowing at first due to his brutish behaviour and I was quite right on that assessment! Nelson foreshadows his personality very well and of course, when she collides his path with Sophia’s, it is a fitting sequence wherein you see the strength Sophia has within her soul and being to counter the ill behaviour of a Duke who doesn’t quite seem to understand how to function in regular society. He has such an aversion to the rules of society, to where he has become a brute to converse with and sadly, although he might make a great adversary in tongue, he has such a hardened edge of a presence its hard to see him as a man ready for marriage! And, yet of course that makes him a perfect candidate for a marriage of convenience plotting – though in this respect, I feel its more of a marriage of inconvenience!

The closer we get to examine their lives, the more curious the plot evolves as Ms Nelson has written a very interpersonal drama between two stalwart and determined individuals. Each of whom have their own reasons for not bending to the will of the other nor in admitting defeat despite the circumstances. The Duke of course, sees things completely differently than Sophia – she would prefer to resolve this quickly and quietly; whereas he would prefer to carry forward a plan of action not of their own designs. The curious bit there is how the Duke would prefer to put the life of his niece ahead of his own affairs and to do right by her was somehow more justified than anything Sophia could have said in her own defense for the plan set before them. And, yet, none of that surprised me as much as Sophia’s Mum! I was quite shocked she had the gall to circumvent her own daughter’s wishes and yet, if you put her reaction to all of this in the context of the era in which they lived, I suppose in that one regard, she had reason to take that route but I will admit, it was quite shocking at the time as a reader because I thought for sure she’d support Sophia’s choice instead.

Yet, I should have known it was keen insight into her Mum’s personality and of course, her position on her daughter’s choices in her life. It was a clever foreshadowing towards a bit of a vile conversation her Mum had with her lateron in the story wherein we finally realise the extent of Sophia’s plight and the straits here family have succumbed. Which of course is another layer of the story – where deceit and abandonment had tentacles of consequence for her family. It was the abandonment I felt rankled the most because of how much it would affect the security of Sophia’s family as much as their future. It also placed her in an impossible situation of conscience and I knew a choice was coming for her to make which would be a walk of faith as well. There are just some circumstances in life which cannot be foreseen and I felt Nelson highlighted her change in fate very well as much as the turning of her Mum’s attitude towards Sophia.

Sophia has such a kind-hearted soul and she has an instinctively nurturing spirit as well. This is showcased through her charity works and by the employment of her lady’s maid. She sees the good in everyone and tries to make small changes in people’s lives to give them a chance to make bigger changes for their futures. It is a lovely component of the story – seeing how Sophia tries to not only do right by those she helps but to find a way to have her life stand for something other than what is known about her in society. She’s definitely the kind of heroine you can rally behind because she isn’t self-involved and she puts others ahead of herself in all instances. Even of course if it puts her own heart in jeopardy and what becomes entangled out of duty shines through her dedication to be of service to others.

Whereas when it comes to the Duke, he’s a harder person to understand as he doesn’t always give of himself to where you can feel you know him. He was guarded and a mystery for most of the story – though his affection for his niece notwithstanding; which was his main motivation for securing a path forward to help repair his own reputation, there are a lot of unknowns about his person and his character overall. We see him in certain instances of course, where he lets his guard down for a moment or two, but generally speaking, he likes to keep his distance and that was one hope I had that perhaps Sophia could find a way past his internal barriers. There is also an underscored bit of suspense – wherein Nelson has left a door open to have the Duke himself embarrassed about an aspect of his past he’s unwilling to share or confide. It humanised him in a different way than how she approached Sophia’s own familial challenges as it left you questioning – what could be a plausible situation or circumstance which would unnerve a man such as the Duke? Especially to the point of dissolving into himself if word would be let out in the open about whatever it was which plagued his conscience and his soul? That part of the plot was most intriguing to me because it flipped the script a bit on which character had the most secrets!

I especially enjoyed how Nelson gave juxtaposition towards our own understanding of the differences between the Duke and Sophia’s late husband Charles. Of how she found unique ways to present the differences in both men – from their personalities to their character and how in her own away, Sophia perceived of them both as well. For this story was very much a story of Sophia re-examining her own choices post-widowhood and on that level, the concerns of her heart against the tidal wave of memories she had with her husband. It was an interesting entreaty into her thoughts and into how her perceptions of both men shaped her opinions about what was known and what could only be speculated about what caused the differences in not only their persons but the affections of her own heart towards them both as well.

I was quite literally swept inside this story – there are so many heavy emotions being exchanged between the Duke and Sophia; to the point your own heart stirs and your own soul is gripped by the gravity of their situations and plight. There wasn’t an easy answer to their problems nor should there have been but Nelson found a way to bring humility and authenticity to their lives in a way that is sometimes remissive of Historical Romances. You ache for them to find peace and a kind bit of serenity at the end of their story – to where both of them can feel renewed and uplifted by a resolution which includes both the mercy and the forgiveness they both deserved. Yet, it is how Nelson allows you to take this journey beside them, to see the depths of their losses and the heights of their gains, where you feel the most emotional restitution.

A note on content:

This story deals with domestic violence through a sequencing of flashbacks which are pertinent to the current timeline and story involving the Duke and Sophia, however, I know sometimes readers are sensitive to certain inclusions (as am I) which is why I wanted to mention this on my review. Nothing untoward happens in-scene in the current trajectory of the story but rather was included to explain a part of the backstory which is again necessary to understand the current timeline. I felt this was handled well and was not graphically overt either – it was simply a stating of facts and truths of the past which were still relevant to the present.

For my own sensitivities in fiction, which I am very vocal about both on my reviews, on my blog posts and even in my Review Policy, this particular story did not upset me due to the manner in which Nelson told it and how she approached the heavier topics within the framework of the story. She truly gave me a story I could read start to finish which gave me such a joy to see resolved. This is also a Love Inspired novel – wherein, per the Suspense imprint I’ve read more frequently in recent years and of the Historicals I’ve read more frequently in the past, the publisher always ensures we as readers will not find offensive depictions and descriptions within the narratives of the stories they publish. This is one reason I have always trusted my time and bookish heard reading Love Inspired but for those who are new to the imprint you might not be aware of their dedication to telling realistically compelling stories but without the graphic and gratuitous violence that can be within mainstream stories of a similar nature of context.

On the historical & romantic styling of jessica nelson:

Nelson definitely is a lover of Historical Romances herself – as you can feel the ease she has in writing this novel and the joy she has in setting the scene for us as readers. You immediately start to connect to the three sisters, Sophia, Eliza and Frederika whilst their Mum is definitely the latest of the “Mrs Bennett’s” of whom grace our literary experiences of this kind story. In that regard, their mothers owns her own role in this particular category of Mums and will give you a delight to watch her react to her daughter’s being told how they must carry-on.

Nelson has a lovely texture to her style of writing and has a wicked good sense of Historical setting, strife and conversation. I loved seeing how she would put the Duke and Sophia together – to watch them spar and have a row or two, to see who would win one argument over another and how despite their mutual anger and frustrations at the situation in which placed them together, they each had a way of holding their own. Towards that end, it is a very enjoyable novel because you just never know how two persons who seemingly cannot stand each others’ company could either a) find neutral ground or b) find a way to settle their differences and find something worth fighting to keep rather than to continue to spar and debate. It was this tug-of-heart which glues you to the pages as you want to keep seeing how Nelson will bring Sophia and the Duke together but also, how she is going to repair both their hearts along the route of the story.

In particular, I wanted to make a notation about the INSPY undertones of the story which were blessedly intrinsic of the characters and where we meet them in their lives without feeling overly punctuated throughout the novel. I prefer INSPY stories to showcase the characters’ faith as they live and through their actions; gently residing in the background of the story but not to the point where it feels like a sermon on the mound. I love when writers find the balance of how faith can become an interwoven component of a story without it feeling heavy-handed or overly empathised which might make some readers uncomfortable. Nelson has perfected this balance by giving us just enough of a glimpse into her characters’ thoughts on faith and religion which befit an INSPY romance storyline.

(*) UPDATE: It was noted through our conversation in #SatBookChat that this is an aspect of the author’s writerly style which has matured through her novels and was not always the case in her earlier works. I’ll be seeking out those earlier novels this year and I look forward to seeing her personal growth as a writer but also seeing the differences between the two styles as her current one is definitely a personal favourite of mine in how she bridges a walk of faith into a Historical romantic storyline.

The reason I found An Unlikely Duchess smart, refreshing and dramatically entertaining is because of the tempo of the story’s trajectory and the ways in which Nelson left us anchoured in the pursuit of the romance between the Duke and Sophia. The depth of her understanding for the dramatic interplay of dialogue was also especially a gift to be found in this novel because of how well the bouts of dialogue allowed us to better understand Sophia and the Duke; both individually and together. That kind of conversation and attention to detail with dialogue is such a rare treat – as not all authors go to this extent to allow their characters to talk things through or to put empathsis on dialogue as much as narrative details; Nelson does both expertly. Nelson excels at portraying a slow brewing romance between two individuals who are equally headstrong and independent and that of course, was also part of the joy of reading this novel.

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This book review is courtesy of:

the author Jessica Nelson

About Jessica Nelson

Jessica Nelson

Jessica Nelson believes romance happens every day, and thinks the greatest, most intense romance comes from a God who woos people to himself with passionate tenderness. She began writing her first historical romance after quitting her day job to stay home with her children. Now they’re teens but Jessica’s still plucking away at the keyboard, one kiss after another, in pursuit of the happily ever after.

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Blessedly authors like Ms Nelson find me and give me a chance to discover their stories by filling out my Review Request form which allows me to continue to not only discover new stories and genres but gives me the chance to also bring new authors to both my blog and to my chat @SatBookChat, as Ms Nelson was a featured guest of #SatBookChat this Saturday! The conversation we shared will be archived via Moments.

During #SatBookChat it was discussed about the overtures of this novel – whereas I had previously disclosed there were components of “Pride and Prejudice” within the storyline, it was also broached by Ms Nelson that she felt it was partially inspired by an influence of “Beauty and the Beast” wherein I almost felt it could also be seen as a Mr Rochester (ie. from “Jane Eyre” if you were to try to categorise the character of the Duke. For me, the Duke remained his own enigma because he was quite the obtuse character all round but he had moments (especially with Sophia) where he shared more of his person and I felt perhaps felt the most comfortable to be himself.

This is definitely a story which will generate a thoughtful repose once its been read!

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it.
I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst
readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read.
Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2022 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 22 January, 2022 by jorielov in #SatBookChat, 19th Century, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Book Review (non-blog tour), Christianity, Content Note, Domestic Violence, Family Drama, Family Life, Fathers and Daughters, Flashbacks & Recollective Memories, Historical Romance, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Mail-Order Brides & Marriages of Convenience, Marriage of Convenience, Romance Fiction, Second Chance Love, the Regency era, Widows & Widowers

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