Nearly destitute, Ursula Roarke agrees to sell her late husband's bloodstock to the Duke of Ardsley. But the wily widow has an ulterior motive in visiting the peer's property in Devon: She hopes to entice him into marriage. Never does she imagine that a handsome sheepherder will jeopardize her plan--and win her heart.
William Ridd has spent years breeding the best woolbearing sheep in England for Ardsley. And he blames Ursula alone for the duke's decision to replace the flocks with horses. Still, Ridd cannot long deny the redhead's tempting charms. But the love of a beautiful woman may not be enough to conquer his fear that a secret from long ago will destroy any future happiness.
When I started reading this book I got the feeling that it was going to be a real keeper. The beginning was really promising with our nearly destitute widowed heroine, Ursula, Lady Roarke, trying to sell some of her horses to the Duke of Ardsley, who also happens to be young, good-looking, rich, and a nice guy. All in all very eligible, and Ursula, feels quite confident she can get him to offer for her. They visit together Myrmion, his property in Devon to see if it will be suitable for the horses the Duke will buy from Ursula. William Ridd is the Duke’s bailiff at Myrmion and he has been breeding and raising sheep there, which also produce a superior quality of wool, and the people in the area depend in the wool industry, which in turn depends on William’s sheep. The competing plans of Ursula and the Ardsley (horses), and William’s (sheep) for Myrmion make them adversaries. However Ursula, soon comes to see the advantages to the people of the area in keeping the sheep, so she proposes to have the horses in a nearby unused property. However the Duke is unconvinced.
All characters are very nicely fleshed out, William, Ursula, Ardsley as well as a neighbour, Miss Coltrane who provides a romantic interest for Ardsley (because obviously our heroine is going to end up with William). However parts of the plot where somewhat unrealistic and far-fetched. William seems to have had a troubled childhood, of which he does not remember much. From the hints and clues we are given early on in the book, the reader knows that William is the real Duke of Ardsley, the older brother of the ‘current’ Duke. This is not a spoiler. Even if the reader was not 100% sure, the title of the book “The Discarded Duke” gives it away. How William lost his rightful place as a Duke was a bit far-fetched for me, and the resolution was not realistic either, featuring a very eeevil grandmother. This is my only complaint about the book. All the characters are delightful (apart from the grandmother obviously), William and Ursula are a really great couple, and Ardsley and Miss Coltrane were also very likeable and their romance quite enjoyable.
If I did not find the story of William’s childhood unconvincing, its resolution far-fetched and the grandmother way too evil, this would have been absolutely perfect. As it is, I am deducting 1 mark for this aspect of the plot. Everything else was spot on, and I can highly recommend this book. I really enjoyed it, and if you have no problem suspending disbelief here and there in a romance, you will absolutely love it.