Sylvester, Duke of Salford, seeks with unconscious arrogance a bride worthy of the honour of becoming his Duchess. He journeys to Wiltshire to inspect the Hon Phoebe Marlow, unaware that he has met her before and instantly forgotten the tongue-tied girl without beauty or elegance to recommend her.
One of these days I was looking for something to cheer me up when I found this Heyer novel. And what a delightful book this one was, I laughed out loud at Sylvester and Phoebe's confrontations; they were truly a matching of wits...
Sylvester, the duke of Salford is very much aware of his rank and consequence. When he decides to get married he makes a list of suitable young ladies and goes to his mother for advice on which one to choose. His godmother makes him add one more name to the list, her granddaughter Phoebe Marlow.
Sylvester decides to visit Phoebe's family to see if they might suit but Phoebe is less than thrilled with the prospect of becoming his wife. She briefly met him in town during her first season and having thought him arrogant made him the main character of the novel she was writing. Not realising that there is a smart young woman behind the shy and repressed young lady he meets there Sylvester starts planning how to leave without being rude but the pressure Phoebe's parents put on her finally lead her to run away to London. But on the road her carriage suffers and accident and it's Sylvester which will come to rescue forcing them to spend some days together and actually get to know each other.
Unfortunately Phoebe's book where Sylvester features as the wicked uncle (which the second title of this novel) is about to be published and the ton not only recognises him in the character but starts believing that what is written might be a bit true. Phoebe have a very angry, and public, quarrel over it with her deserting him on the ballroom floor and their relationship will go through quite a few problems before it can be saved.
There is a really interesting and colourful set of secondary characters who add to the appeal of the story. The scenes where Phoebe and her friend Tom end up being kidnapped by Lady Henry and her second husband, who are eloping to France, not to mention the scenes with little Edmund are completely hilarious. The main characters start as a very unlikely couple and it makes for a really funny journey to watch them spar. I liked Sylvester more than Phoebe because he never felt that arrogant to me and he accepts most of her criticism quite charmingly. We don't see what led Phoebe to dislike him so and in fact she gladly accepts that she didn't know him all that well. In the end one can't help but cheer for Sylvester when he finally quite clumsily blurts out his feelings for Phoebe... It was a hard road to happiness for these two but a lovely one for me.