The Infamous Duchess

Written by Sophie Barnes
Review by Ray Thompson

London, 1820. Since the death of her elderly husband within days of her marriage, Viola Cartwright, dowager Duchess of Tremaine, has kept a low profile, aware that society condemns her as a low-born fortune hunter. She devotes herself instead to her work at the hospital she established with her inheritance, where the poor can receive first-rate care. Unfortunately, the new duke is returning from the West Indies, determined to recover the money. Her prospects do not look bright, but she does have allies, most notably Henry Lowell, heir to Viscount Armswell. She nurses him back to health after he is wounded in a duel, and mutual attraction develops rapidly into love, but they have obstacles to overcome and secrets that may ruin their hopes.

The contrast between the virtuous and the villains is sharp, the protagonists spend an inordinate amount of time agonizing about their feelings and anxieties, and the happy outcome seems fortuitous. Nevertheless, this offers interesting insights into medical and legal practices at the time, and the comfort of seeing altruism and determination triumph over selfishness and vindictiveness.