‘Project Duchess’ Proves Women Said #MeToo Long Before Hollywood Ever Did [REVIEW]

Love is in bloom in Sabrina Jeffries’ Project Duchess. (Photo by Canva)

A scandalous duke. A poor relation. A fatal accident that may be anything but. When suspicions rise, will a new infatuation catch fire or will it get snuffed out before it can even begin? Find out in Sabrina Jeffries’ new historical romantic comedy, Project Duchess.

Zebra

Known for her addictive books, Jeffries has switched publishers and left Pocket Books for Kensington’s Zebra imprint. Therefore, it’s the perfect opportunity to unveil another dazzling series. This time out she’s launching the Duke Dynasty franchise which centers around an oft-widowed mother’s grown children who set “polite” society on fire in their quest for answers about their fathers. Although they frequently raise eyebrows, they also manage to win hearts in the process. Project Duchess is the debut novel in the new saga.

Here we meet Fletcher “Grey” Pryde, the fifth Duke of Greycourt. You might think that he had an easy childhood since he’s a titled gentleman, but far from it. After a series of stepfathers he was sent away to live with a cruel, greedy relative where he had to learn to become fiercely independent in order to survive. Although the circumstances led him to posses great wealth and real estate, he also constructed a very high wall around his heart, determined as he is to never be hurt by anyone ever again. Despite the fact he rarely dates, his secluded life keeps the rumor mill churning, however, and soon he has a scandalous reputation as a womanizing rogue who can’t be trusted. Dodging both gossip mongers and family while building his empire keeps him busy, so he has neither the time nor the inclination to look for love. That is, until his mother becomes a widow yet again and he must return to the family home. It is here that he encounters the one woman who may very well cut through his defenses.

Beatrice Wolfe is many things, but boring isn’t one of them. She’s beautiful, outspoken, and highly intelligent. Still, she’s the poor relation who lives on the grounds of the family estate with her difficult brother, a wounded soldier who now works as the family’s gamekeeper. Beatrice loves to be helpful, however, so she isn’t one to sit on her laurels and wait for Prince Charming to ride up and sweep her off her feet. In fact, she gave up any notions of fairy tale romances long ago, and now simply hopes for a practical marriage to someone who is kind to her. In the meantime, she trains the dogs for her brother and is currently helping the family with funeral arrangements, which is how she initially meets the Duke of Greycourt, a man who is quite arrogant in her eyes. And yet, when he smiles at her she almost loses all common sense.

After the funeral, Grey’s mother convinces him to help with her latest project: to help prepare Beatrice for her debut to society. After all, Grey is well known and has insights that a girl raised in the country needs to learn, including etiquette and how to navigate balls, dinner parties, and lecherous suitors. But as they work on Project Duchess so Beatrice can one day find a suitable husband, it gradually becomes apparent to both of them that they’ve already met the person they would like to spend the rest of their lives with. Now if only they can wade through their own issues and embrace happiness.

With Project Duchess, Jeffries has once again introduced us to a charming cast of characters we can’t help but love. Grey is the bad boy who isn’t really as bad as some folks would portray him to be. Beatrice is the good girl who learns that sometimes she has to fight for her right to be happy and free. Then there is the supporting cast: the brooding gamekeeper, the suspicious brother, the hedonistic brother, the saucy sister and the naive mother. All of them are flawed in their own way, and yet there are facets of their personalities which make them equally appealing and leave us wanting to find out more. (Which makes sense, since this is a series.)

Beneath the facade of each of these characters, however, lies secrets each holds close to their chest. The story has an element of mystery (how does a mother go through so many husbands in such a short period of time) and also confronts some very serious topics, including child abuse, equality for women, and sexual harassment. As a result, this seems a bit like a historical romance author’s answer to the #MeToo movement, and yet Jeffries’ handles the topics with subtle grace, thoughtful dialogue, and her trademark humor.  If you like a love story that entertains and makes you think, Jeffries won’t steer you wrong. Project Duchess sparkles!

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jeffries, sabrina - credit jessica blakely for tamara lackey photography

Sabrina Jeffries
(Photo by Jessica Blakely, Tamara Lackey Photography)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sabrina Jeffries (aka Deborah Martin and Deborah Nicholas) is the award-winning author of 50 novels and works of short fiction, including The Risk of Rogues and The Secret of Flirting

After earning her Ph.D. in English Literature from Tulane University, she chose writing over academics, and now her sexy and humorous historical romances routinely land on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

With more than 9 million books in print in more than 20 languages, she never regrets that decision to leave academia to pursue the fantastic world of fiction writing. Sabrina lives in Cary, North Carolina, with her husband Rene, and adult son, Nick, who has inspired her to actively champion the cause of autistic children.

Visit Sabrina at her home on the Web at SabrinaJeffries.com, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and watch her boards on Pinterest.

PROJECT DUCHESS
By Sabrina Jeffries
400 pp. Zebra. $7.99

Purchase Project Duchess at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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