A Duchess by Midnight (Awakened by a Kiss, 3)
1818. Drewsmina Trelayne needs a wealthy client in order to establish a finishing school; Ian Clayblack, the Duke of Lachlan, needs help to train his two difficult nieces in the social skills they lack. Surely these two are grateful to find each other? Well, yes, but after they are caught in a compromising situation, employment turns into marriage. Since both are learning to appreciate and care for each other, prospects for a cordial relationship are promising, but can it develop into true love?
Michaels enriches this familiar Regency plot with interesting material: the psychological impact left by a religious cult’s harsh control over the nieces and their rather ineffectual mother; the social and economic disruption and hardship caused by mechanization; and the Cinderella story that inspires the plot. Drew was an awkward child, then a cruel stepsister, but she has learned from experience and changed. Now she hopes to help others who are struggling to cope with their life. There is, perhaps, rather too much going on, as the focus keeps shifting, but the dialogue and characters are entertaining, particularly the spirited Imogene, her vaguely counterculture mother, and Drew’s own mother, the appalling archetype of a cruel step-mother.