Jove, Apr 2002, 6.99, 308 pp.
At Brandhurst Hall, the Duke is dead having been murdered in his garden. His wife of two decades Olivia feels free after the abuse he piled on her, but also is frightened about the immediate requirements of an aristocratic burial. Not long after the funeral, Olivia meets gardener Will Barnes. The duo chats and soon they are in each other's arms sharing lovemaking like nothing that either has felt before.
A year later, the nephew of the deceased duke sees an opportunity to eliminate Olivia from sharing the family wealth. He plans to accuse her of murdering her husband with the means being her letter opener, the motive his abuse, and the opportunity anytime in the boudoir (though they rarely were there together). Unable to ignore Olivia's plight, Will makes inquiries to prove his beloved is innocent even though he knows the cost of his actions is everything he cherishes.
Assuming the high intelligence of her audience, Julie Beard provides her readers with a great late Victorian romance that is bound to make the short lists of every historical reader. The story line is loaded with a juggernaut of a cast who provides insight to the changing climate in England. The subplots such as female factory employment and the who-done-it brilliantly return to the prime star-crossed lovers theme. Though historical mystery readers will feel the amateur sleuth investigation is shortchanged, fans of romance and nineteenth century tales will fully relish the rich cleverly written THE DUCHESS' LOVER.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner