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When a Duke Says I Do: Lords and Ladies Series #1

Jane Goodger

ISBN 9781420111514
Publish Date 12/6/2011
Format
Categories Zebra, Historical, Romance
Currently out of stock

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Miss Elsie Stanhope resided in Nottinghamshire, an area so rich in titled gentlemen, so felicitous for marriage-minded mamas, it was called “the Dukeries.” Indeed, Elsie had been betrothed since childhood to the heir of a dukedom. She had no expectation it would be a love match. Still less that she would enter into a shockingly scandalous affair with an altogether different sort of lover. And the very last thing she imagined was that the mysteries of his birth would be unraveled with as many unforeseen twists and turns as the deepest secrets of her heart.

Praise for the novels of Jane Goodger

“Gentle humor, witty banter, and attractive characters.” —Library Journal on Marry Christmas

“A touching, compassionate, passion-filled romance.” —Romantic Times on A Christmas Waltz

Chapter One

Nottinghamshire, England, 1862

One of the more harrowing tasks of the servants of Mansfield Hall was searching for Miss Elsie, who had a tendency to fall asleep in the oddest places. They once found her balancing precariously on the edge of a fountain, one hand dangling in the water as carp nibbled curiously and painlessly upon her fingers. Though the servants always began their search in her rooms, it was almost inevitable that they would find her where she oughtn’t to be— and never in her bed.

“Don’t she look like an angel, though,” Missy Slater, Elsie’s personal maid, said, gazing down at her employer as she slept like the dead curled up in an oversized leather chair in her father’s library.

Mrs. Whitehouse, the housekeeper, was far less charitable, and scowled down at the sleeping girl. “As if I have time for this,” she grumbled, then cleared her throat loudly in an attempt to awaken her.

“You has to give ’er a good shake,” Missy said, doing just that. She was rewarded when Elsie’s moss- green eyes opened drowsily, and she smiled. She nearly always woke up smiling.

“What am I missing?” she asked, as she always did. She was feeling a bit groggy, for she must have been sleeping for at least an hour. The servants had been instructed to never awaken Elsie unless something of importance had happened.

“That Frenchie painter is here,” Missy said. “I know you wanted to be in the ballroom when your father met with him.”

“Monsieur Laurent Desmarais, Miss Elizabeth. He arrived not ten minutes ago,” Mrs. Whitehouse said, glaring at Missy for her familiarity. Missy made a face behind the housekeeper’s back and Elsie found herself trying not to smile at her maid. Just because she knew she should, she gave Missy a halfhearted stern look, which only caused the little maid to shrug innocently.

“Thank you, ladies,” she said, bouncing up, as if she hadn’t just been sound asleep. She patted her golden-brown hair, which was none worse for having been slept upon, and headed off to the ballroom. Having the great Laurent Desmarais paint a mural on their ballroom wall was a great coup for the Stan- hope family. Usually, the famous muralist painted for no one beneath the level of a viscount, but her father, Baron Huntington, had more pounds than the typical baron, and apparently that income was more than Monsieur Desmarais could resist.

The Stanhope estate was in close proximity to the Dukeries, an area of Nottinghamshire that had an excessive number of dukes, making it a rather fortunate place for any family with girls of marrying age. Elsie had the good fortune of having been engaged to a future duke from the time she was an infant. At least, her father insisted it was good fortune. Elsie thought the idea of having her future laid out before her rather uninspiring.

Which was why having Monsieur Desmarais agree to paint their ballroom was so very exciting. So little of anything nearing excitement happened at Mansfield Hall.

Elsie lifted her skirts and ran, her slippers tap- tapping on the marble floor, as she hurried to the ballroom, a fairly new addition to their sprawling old home. There she found her father in deep discussion with a rather rotund-looking man, whose mustache was so thin, it looked as if it had been painted upon his face. His hair had too much pomade and his clothing looked about to burst away from his porcine body.

“Ah, this must be the beautiful Mademoiselle Elizabeth,” he said in his delightful French accent, and instantly Elsie forgave him his rather dubious charms. She’d conjured up a far more romantic image of the famous painter and felt rather ridiculous about that now.

Elsie dipped a curtsy. “Monsieur Desmarais, un plaisir,” she said, in impeccable French. “Veuillez m’appeler, Mademoiselle Elsie.”

“Of course. Mademoiselle Elsie. Lord Huntington was telling me a bit of your wishes. You require a large mural, no?”

“Yes. I would like it to cover this entire wall,” she said, indicating a large barren wall that had been stripped of all decoration in preparation for the muralist. A man was there, his back to them, laying out a drop cloth to protect the ballroom’s marble floor.

“My assistant, Andre,” Monsieur Desmarais said, nodding toward the man, who froze momentarily at the muralist’s words before continuing his work. “He does not speak, but he hears perfectly fine, the poor soul. He’s been with me since he was a boy. His English name is Alexander, but I call him by his French name.”

“How very charitable of you,” Elsie said.

Monsieur Desmarais puffed up a bit, seeming pleased by Elsie’s comment. “Do you have anything particular in mind for the mural?” he asked. “I understand you admired Lady Browning’s mural last Season.”

“Indeed I did. But I was thinking of something else. I was thinking of perhaps a lake.” She gave him an impish smile, acknowledging her whimsy. “A magical lake.”

“Magical?” Monsieur asked, with obvious skepticism.

Elsie smiled, her eyes full of merriment. “A secret lake might be a better description. Or one long forgotten. With a gazebo, at the far end.” From the corner of her eye, she could sense the assistant turning his head a bit as if to hear better what she was planning. “It’s painted white, but with paint chipping and rotted wood, perhaps. But I want it to look enchanted, not neglected, if you know what I mean. And in the center of the small lake”—she closed her eyes—“a rock formation, jutting out.”

At that moment a loud clatter sounded and Elsie opened her eyes. The mute had apparently dropped a supply of brushes. In rapid French, Monsieur chastised the younger man. “He is not usually so clumsy,” he said apologetically. “Usually as silent as a little mouse, that one.”

“Do you think you could paint that? I remember such a lake from my girlhood. There were no swans, but you may add some for visual interest or whatever you like.”

“Just a lake?”

“A secret lake,” she said, teasing. “I wonder if it would be possible to paint it as if someone is seeing it through branches or trees?”

“This would be difficult,” he said slowly, staring at the wall, his eyes falling briefly on his assistant. “But I think it can be done.”

“Wonderful,” Elsie said, clapping her hands together. “And will it be done in time for my birthday ball? I’ll be twenty-two on September the fourteenth. Is that enough time?”

“I will endeavor to complete the mural for you in time, Mademoiselle Elsie.”

“It shall be the best of all balls,” Elsie said, grabbing her father’s arm and hugging it to her. “Thank you, Father.”

Lord Huntington gazed down affectionately at his daughter, and Elsie smiled, a bit guiltily, up at him. She knew she could ask her father for the moon and the man would try to give it to her. And since her mother died three years before, he’d been even more indulgent. Even though she was already engaged—and had been for seventeen years—her father had given her a Season in London to introduce her to the society she would soon be an integral part of. Since her fiancé seemed to be in no hurry to marry, Elsie wanted to experience as much fun as she could before the daunting duties of being a duchess claimed her.

“It shall be a lovely mural,” Elsie said, watching as Monsieur Desmarais donned his smock. With a fine charcoal pencil, he began the barest outline of what Elsie knew would be a work of art. She knew, because Lady Browning’s rose garden mural was quite the most beautiful thing she’d seen. She’d half expected the air in the lady’s ballroom to smell of roses, so real and life-like was that fanciful garden. Lady Browning’s only complaint was that Desmarais had included a few fading blooms, which the countess claimed her gardener would never allow.

When Elsie saw that painting, the exquisite detail, the realness that made her feel as if she could walk right into that garden and touch a pointed thorn, she knew she had to have a mural of her own. She knew, without even thinking, what she wanted the subject matter to be. It had to be of that secret lake at Warbeck Abbey, where she and her sister had played, making believe they had discovered something truly magical. They’d never told a soul about the lake, about how they’d dangled bare toes into the cool water while sitting on a dock that was beginning to sag rather dangerously. Elsie and Christine had always dreaded their visits to Warbeck Abbey, for it was such a dour, strict place where the laughter of children seemed out of place. But after they’d discovered the lake, their visits had become far more tolerable.

The mural would be a happy reminder of her sister, who she still so desperately missed. They’d been twins, identical in nearly every way and inseparable, and her death twelve years earlier had affected Elsie profoundly.

“Let’s leave them to their work,” Elsie said, leading her father out of the ballroom. “I have about a dozen letters to write before meeting with the chef. Are you planning any dinner parties in the next few weeks, Father?”

“No, dear. Nothing special.”

Elsie frowned, and started to say something but stopped herself. Her birthday ball would be the first large social gathering they’d had at Mansfield Hall since her mother’s death. While many a man would have remarried already, Michael Stanhope missed his wife desperately and only recently had begun accepting invitations. If not for her aunt Diane, Elsie was quite certain she wouldn’t have had a Season at all. Her father simply had no interests other than wandering the countryside and collecting unusual lichens. They were quite beautiful, but his preoccupation with them was at times a bit worrying. He carried a magnifying glass and sketchbook with him and would disappear for hours at a time. He seemed content enough, but Elsie did worry about him.

Perhaps as much as her father worried about her. What a pair they were—a father who wandered the forest and a daughter who was afraid to fall asleep.

About Jane Goodger:

Jane Goodger lives in Rhode Island with her husband and three children. Jane, a former journalist, has written numerous historical romances. When she isn’t writing, she’s reading, walking, playing with her kids, or anything else completely unrelated to cleaning a house. You can visit her website at janegoodger.com.

Average Customer Review

Based on 5 reviews


Customer Review

Loved it! (Monday, January 16, 2012)
Reviewer: I'm A Voracious Reader

Elizabeth ‘Elsie’ Stanhope has been betrothed since she was a child to the future Duke of Kingston. She is not happy about having her life planned, but is willing to do her duty so that her father and sister can continue living a comfortable life. Then Elsie meets a most unusual man. She falls in love with him and he falls in love with her even though they both know they are doomed to never be together. However, Fate just may have something else planned for them.

I loved this story! Well-written and smooth-flowing the characters in this story came alive for me. I could see them and hear them as if they were standing in front of me. I liked Elsie, how she was good-natured and naturally optimistic, but Alexander was so real to me that my heart ached for the things he’d had to endure, what he continued to endure. He needed someone just like Elsie and I’m glad he found her. Never have I loved a flawed hero so much and rooted so hard for his victory.

I sincerely hope Jane Goodger is planning a story about Elsie’s Aunt Diane. It seemed as if we were given a bit of a beginning for her and Lord Braddock and I sincerely hope it comes about. Now, I need to check out other of Ms. Goodger’s books and hope they are as wonderful as this one.

*The publisher provided a copy to me for review. Disclaimer on my blog.

4.5!WOW!WHEN A DUKE SAYS I DO HE MEANS FOREVER! (Tuesday, December 20, 2011)
Reviewer: AprilR

WHEN A DUKE SAYS I DO by Jane Goodger is an exciting historical romance set in 1862 Regency England. It is a fast paced story full of love,romance,scandal,secrets,sweet sensuality,full twists and turns.When Elsie Stanhope meets the mysterious artist assistant,Alexander,sparks fly,and passions run high. Alexander is surrounded by mystery,secret,past hurts,and an inability to speak in front of strangers,but in order to gain Elsie's hand he must face his past,and beat his father at his own game. This is a fast paced story with characters that will capture your heart. Another riveting story line with lush sensuality,hidden identity,second chances and finding a one of a kind of love. A must for any one who enjoys Regency England,historical romance with twists and turns. Ms Goodger has done a wonderful job with Elsie and Alexander's story. Received for review from the publisher. Details can be found at the author's website,Zebra Books,Kensington Publishing,Corp and My Book Addiction Reviews.

1st time reader of Ms. Goodger. She has a new fan! (Friday, December 16, 2011)
Reviewer: Toni S

Elise Stanhope’s life is all planned out for her. She has been engaged since was a child and soon she will be married to her betrothed. She couldn’t be more unhappy about it. While she is reserved to know that she will do her duty for her family, she feels like there is more to life. She knows that feeling is true the moment she sets her eyes on her muralist’s assistant. There is something about the man that makes her feel alive. Too bad there is nothing she can do about it…or is there?

Alexander’s life has been anything but a happy one. He is unable to talk when scared or in public and that infliction has ruined his life. Now an assistant to the renowned muralist Monsieur Laurent Desmarais, he is content with his life. He has always wished for a family and a wife, but he knew that he would never be able to have one. That doesn’t mean that he can’t dream about it. His life is about to change the moment he walks into Mansfield Hall.

This story is wonderful and will be a hard one to review! I will apologize right off. Normally my reviews are filled with details and basic plotlines, but no spoilers. I can’t even give you that this time. It seems that anything I say would ruin things for you. There are amazing twists and turns and I just don’t want to ruin any surprises for you. The love story of Elise and Alexander is best enjoyed on your own. Ms. Goodger is an amazing story teller and When a Duke Says I Do shouldn’t have one detail leaked.

There is passion, suspense, intrigue and a villain that will leave you shocked and irate. I absolutely loved this novel!! This book is exquisitely written, with amazing details and characters that were captivating and fascinating. From start to finish, I couldn’t put it down. Ms. Goodger has found another fan. I can’t say enough about this incredible book…well I can…GET IT NOW!!

A Compassionate Story (Saturday, December 3, 2011)
Reviewer: Amy

The servants of Mansfield Hall spend most of their time looking for Miss Elsie while they clean and tend to their duties. Miss Elsie (Elizabeth) is the oldest daughter of her wonderful Baron father. Her twin sister, Christine, was actually lost to Elsie over twelve years ago. One night they simply went to bed, and the next morning Christine was dead. From that day on, Elsie hasn’t been able to sleep in her own bed. In fact, she can’t sleep in the bedroom at all because she feels like she will be the next one who ends up not waking up in the morning. So basically what she does is walk and wander through the big house at night.

Usually, she is all alone and heads to the study or the ballroom to read, nap, or perhaps play the piano, but her life comes to an abrupt change when a master artist is hired to paint a mural in the Mansfield Hall ballroom that will be unveiled when the Season begins. Along with this famous painter comes his assistant, a handsome - but mute - young man who has an intensity that Elsie has never seen before. She likes wandering the house at night and going to watch him paint. She also loves the fact that she can just talk and talk, feeling as if someone is finally listening to her.

Elsie is very afraid. Her twenty-second birthday is coming up and she now knows that her engagement will be announced that evening. She has been betrothed for a very long time to a man by the name of Oscar, and she knows that for her father she must walk down the aisle with this kind and amiable man she doesn’t love. What she does find, however, is that the assistant of the master artist is actually the master artist…and he is most definitely not mute.

Alexander is his name, and he tells Elsie his story about how when he was young his horrific father placed him in an asylum because he was an embarrassment to the wealthy family. He placed Alexander there and walked away, letting everyone know that his son had died. With each nightly meeting between Alexander and Elsie, they grow closer and closer, until Elsie finally begins to know what real love is all about.

But when the secrets are revealed that she is about to marry someone who is actually related to Alexander, and he has to come out of his “mute hiding” to claim the life that is actually his, readers will follow the story of this young couple who have been told what to do their entire lives - and now they only wish to be together.

Unlike most romances, this is a very compassionate story that will have true romance lovers falling for Alexander and routing for the two of them to be able to be together. Although the plot is basic and there are certainly no surprises, the characters are truly lovely!

Review of: When a Duke Says I do BY: Jane Goodger (Sunday, November 20, 2011)
Reviewer: Melanie Adkins

Miss Elsie Stanhope has an unusual habit..she falls asleep most anywhere. There is a reason for it. She's a pleasant young woman who has lost her mother and her twin sister. She and her father are all that's left. Miss Stanhope has been betrothed since birth and she is on pins and needles waiting to hear when her groom will claim her in matrimony. Alexander then happens into her life. He's a mute but very strong and handsome. Miss Stanhope feels there is something he's hiding and she's determined to find out what it is. If he's hiding a secret, it can change both of their lives forever. Together they begin to unwind a lifetime of pain each has endured. Love truly can't be arranged, bought or given up easily. The path they take bonds them in a way neither expected.


This book is one I highly recommend to historical fans, but also to those looking for a new book. The story is amazingly sad and lovely at the same time. After you read it, 'When a Duke Says I Do' will be on your bookshelf for years to come. You will want to read it over and over. It shows love, pain and happiness can coexist in a relationship and help both parties to grow and learn. I loved the idea of a fairy tale coming true for a man this time. One you'll smile about and enjoy sharing with your friends!


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