Claiming The Duchess turned up on my Kindle and I didn’t recall ordering it, as I’ve been on a Sherry Thomas break. The 45 page story is 50% of the digital file, the rest being excerpts from full length books. As a prequel to her Fitzhugh Trilogy it’s intended to be a try-before-you-buy sample of the author’s work. So is it worth reading? At the current price of free, I’d say yes. At a higher price I’d say no. My no vote is not for the quality of the writing, which is charming and occasionally evocative. My no vote is because there is no conflict in the short. This is a vignette meant to illustrate the childhood of Beguiling The Beauty‘s male lead. As such, it’s a total success.
The child in Claiming The Duchess is sympathetic, identifiable and charming without being cloying. Clarissa, his young stepmother, makes a perfect partner in survival as she schemes to make his life as fulfilling as possible under the disapproving eye of her husband. Often left alone, Clarissa develops a secret friendship with another woman by post. By sending each other small gifts and fanciful thoughts Clarissa and her pen-pal become devoted confidantes.
It’s disappointing that the reader knows from the very beginning that her friend is actually a Mr. James Kingston, whom Clarissa met once and has been unable to forget. For the socially shy Mr. Kingston writing to Clarissa has been the only way to respectfully maintain contact with a woman he loved at first glance. Having exchanged only a few sentences with her at the time, he wrote of his love under an assumed name. The story quickly resolves as the now widowed Clarissa invites a number of suitors to her home, Mr Kingston among them, in a quest to move forward with her life.
Claiming The Duchess isn’t about the romance, it’s about the personality sketches meant to invoke interest in reading the series. While it would have been far more interesting for Clarissa’s lover to actually be the woman she thought she was writing to, that might not have been the best strategy for an advertising piece. (On the other hand, it might have. Can you imagine the feeding frenzy in the blog world for that move?) Claiming The Duchess was a lovely few minutes with low stakes and quick resolution.
Final Assessment: Short, sweet, and no surprises. B
Series: 0.5 of The Fitzhugh Trilogy
Source: Free at most e-bookstores.