What fan of the Georgian era fails to recognise this portrait of Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire?
And almost all fans of the Georgian period and relatively short era of the Regency (1811-1820) recognise Chatsworth House depicted as Mr. Darcy's rural estate in Derbyshire, the house the turning point in Elizabeth Bennet's estimation of Darcy as a man of landed substance, and eminently worthwhile catch for any woman. After all, what was a little brusque (rudeness) if but a standard of his financial flag and sense of superiority over such as she? But a lady with wile could turn, could she not, and embrace a man of substance and forgive him his former sins!
Life for Georgiana was far from the romantic tale in which Darcy and Elizabeth resolved their differences and presumably lived a relatively happy existence at Pemberley. Whereas, Georgiana's story is extremely sad, and a secondary lesser known portrait inspired the writing of The Reluctant Duchess.
There is sense of inner sadness to this portrait of Georgiana, and that sadness was revealed within her letters, which differing biographers have interpreted in differing ways. Some paint Georgiana as the victim of an arranged marriage, an unhappy marriage, in which her husband's mistress reigned alongside the duke at Georgiana's expense (akin to Diana, Princess of Wales). Whilst other biographers view her as a manipulative socialite who lived within a harmonious menage et trois, her friend Elizabeth (Bess) far from a backstabbing mistress to the husband (Duke) and indeed her best friend. As a writer one can read others assumptions, opinions, and then look to the eyes of the person in question, and portraits are a great medium to the person behind a smile, whether that be a faint smile or mere quirk of the lip, for the eyes most definitely reveal much about the inner person. I am not attempting to imply Georgiana was either of the above, but will add that her life involved humiliation of a loveless marriage that was anything but heaven, she nonetheless experienced joy (birth of children), she experienced love with another man, suffered tremendous heartache in having to give away a child, she became a fashion icon, and politically minded socialite. In effect she sought escape from tragedy and deep heartache and put her all in to becoming Georgiana, fiercely independent in spirit albeit tied to a marriage she was as good as forced into. Her mother was overbearing, manipulative, and seeking to better her daughter's and her family standing within the upper echelons of the aristocracy, and she achieved her aim!
Unfortunately young women in the past were subject to parental whim, many self-seeking parents with no desire but to better their fortunes with family alliances by way of marriage. Often substantial dowries purchased titles for daughters, or daughters were as good as sold to satisfy the whim of a suitor who required little more than a virgin bride to provide the heir and a spare to a vast fortune and landed estate. I shall leave you the reader to make of latter as you will, and I shall move on to The Reluctant Duchess.
Indeed The Reluctant Duchess mirrors a little of the humiliation Georgiana was subjected to, but Liliana has a happier outcome from her experience of a duke and mistress cavorting and holding court at Summer and Winter balls. I set TRD within the Regency era, the setting is the West Country, Devon to be precise. It therefore has a dark Gothic edge to it, with added adventure and murder and mystery as described below in the premise.
The Reluctant Duchess (Steamy Content) - a Regency Gothic tale of romance, abduction, mystery and murder.
Devon Howard, the Duke of Malchester, acquires a bride by dubious means. Well aware Liliana is a reluctant duchess, and although his new wife submits to his ardent advances on the wedding night, he cannot be sure, that even if given time, she will ever surrender her heart to him. While his past continues to damn him, he sets out to win Liliana by inciting jealousy and rivalry ‘twixt her and Serenity: a would-be mistress?