"It took Robert half a minute to realize that he’d waited too long to announce himself. “Aha!” he could imagine himself proclaiming, springing out from behind the curtains. “I was admiring the plaster. Very evenly laid back there, did you know?”
She would think he was mad."
And just like that I was hooked.
This story begins with Robert, the Duke of Clermont, hiding away behind the curtains during a social event. Imagine his surprise when a lady joins him in hiding and together they listen to her fiancé say the most insulting things about her.
Minnie, the lady in hiding, is one of the most outstanding female characters I've had the pleasure to read. You see, she's not a particular beauty (and no, she doesn't magically turn into one by the end of the book), she doesn't say much, in fact, one could almost forget she was there. But all this is brilliant pretence on her behalf. Minnie is the cleverest, wittiest, most strategically inclined lady ever.
There is something delightfully compelling about a heroine whose main strength is how clever she is - and this is not just told, it's shown, again and again in almost every thing she says. Whatever is happening, she's two steps ahead.
And what's more delightful is how Robert is simply fascinated by her, by how clever she is. Oh, he knows she's cleverer than he is, and he likes it!
So here's the thing: there is a very, very big secret in Minnie's past. And when she's accused of trying to incite workers to sedition - a "crime" she knows Robert is behind - she has absolutely no problem with blackmailing him into submission. What she didn't expect was for Robert to make a complete fool of himself because clever ladies get him all hot and bothered and when that happens, as he himself admits, he doesn't have enough blood left for his brain to function properly.
It's so great to see a very clever hero who is absolutely aware of what a fool he's making of himself and who doesn't care because he knows the heroine is worth it!
Their early interactions go a little something like this:
MINNIE: Ha! You think that is what's going on, when in fact I planned to let you believe this, because I have 675427806 plans going at the same time, which you will never uncover!
ROBERT: I seduce you! Please?
MINNIE: You aren't listening, my brilliant strategy--
ROBERT: You are so clever and pretty and I want to respect you all day long!
MINNIE: Bad move, that! You're not thinking strategically.
ROBERT: *say something clever to impress her, man! think, think! say something clever!*
So now we have Minnie, wanting to expose the duke as the culprit, and the duke wanting her to expose him in any way she likes, because he's just so absolutely enamoured with her. What's Minnie to do?
You had better go read this for the answer, I promise you won't be disappointed!
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The Duchess War