A prank gone horribly wrong leads to a marriage to save a reputation. Lady Jane Huxley may be a reluctant duchess but she soon finds that her new husband is hewn from more than icy marble - there’s actually a heart underneath that shell when he starts to thaw. But will this mismatched pair realize that opposites attract? Or will the Duke of Blackmore keep them from finding their happily ever after trying to fight his inevitable feelings? You'll find out as we read The Truth About Cads and Dukes by Elisa Brayden. **Don't try and bet against the SPOILERS**
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Want to listen to a certain segment? Here is our outline this week:
0:00 - 09:17: Intro/Author Facts/Tropes
09:17 - 23:00 Synopsis
23:00 - 25:28: Parlour
25:28 - 54:30: General Discussion
We are now including our synopses as a semi-transcription of the episode in our blog posts. You can learn more about how we compose these by reading this article. As a reminder though, our synopses are FULL of spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk :)
The Truth about Cads and Dukes Synopsis:
Our story begins with a prank gone horribly wrong, as pranks are often wont to do. Lady Jane Huxley finds herself trapped and surrounded by a hoard of men after she has tried to break into a London townhome to retrieve a family heirloom for a friend. But since that so-called ‘friend’ is there amongst the revelers, she knows immediately that this isn’t just bad luck, and that she’s utterly, thoroughly ruined. Especially in the getup that she’s been told to wear (trousers and a mask with her glasses on the outside), she knows that this is not something she nor her sisters will be able to recover from.
The man who tricked her is Lord Colin Lacey, reprobate brother to her best friend Victoria. He had come to her six weeks earlier to plead her ear. He very much wanted to get back in Victoria’s graces and rekindle a relationship with her. Though Jane thinks that this is highly unlikely, she’s the sort to believe the best in everyone and so she and Colin spark up a friendship of sorts.
Jane is known as Plain Jane in society. Short of stature and rounder than fashion dictated, her shy nature and spectacles didn’t help her make friends easily. But once someone cracked through her shell, they discovered what a lovely, smart, and interesting woman she was.
Colin isn’t completely heartless - and starts to regret his plans almost as soon as he begins the ruse. He genuinely likes Jane, and he truly wishes to rekindle things with Victoria, and he knows that making her best friend into the butt of a bet isn’t going to help. But he’s terribly in debt and has no more time left before he starts paying in flesh, and so he’s a bit stuck. And of course the bet grows from a harmless small thing to something so large that he can’t control it - and that’s what we see in our first scene.
However, Lady Jane is saved from complete ruination by Lord Colin’s & Victoria’s other brother, the Duke of Blackmore. He offers for Jane’s hand AND he threatens all those who had joined the bet so that many of them ‘forget’ about what happened that night. Although there are still whispers through the ton about it, it definitely dies down.
Jane is horrified at the thought of becoming a duchess and being married to the imposing, uptight, and very handsome Blackmore. But she knows that she has to go through with it so her sisters can have success on the marriage mart.
The only times that Jane and the duke have met in the past have been disastrous in Jane’s opinion. He’s happened upon less-than-flattering moments and has responded to her comportment with disdain. He’s also a good foot taller than she is.
Victoria, however, is excited and insists that she’ll come to love Harrison once she cracks his shell and gets to know him - that his icy shell is just that, a shell, but Jane is dubious.
So soon the two are married, and they leave to the country to adjust to married life. Along the way they stop at an inn and have to share a bed though Harrison insists that they will not be consummating the marriage in an inn. However, after they wake up entangled the next morning with his hands caressing her breasts he makes sure to get separate rooms for the remainder of the journey.
Life settles in at the estate. It is massive and beautiful and Harrison has everything running like clockwork. It has two incredible libraries and Jane is entranced with them. The couple learn more about each other, and while they seem terribly mismatched they also have a bit of a spark between them, and they are more and more curious about the other as they begin to open up.
Jane appears shy, but is a delightful conversationist and very caring and compassionate once Harrison gets to know her. Harrison seems made of frozen marble at first inspection, but once he begins to thaw Jane realizes that he is also an extremely caring individual, wrapped up in a sense of duty and traumatized from a harsh upbringing. The come to care for the other quite quickly.
However, things aren’t quite right in the bedroom department at first. Encounter number one is a lackluster coupling that leaves Jane unfulfilled. It starts off promising, but Harrison insists that she let him do all the work and leaves her quite frustrated.
Soon after, Harrison receives a letter from his best friend requesting that he and his mother and sister visit. Harrison does not want to make Jane uncomfortable since she is so shy and reticent about being a duchess already, so he decides to plan the entire visit himself and not trouble her with meal planning or activities. Oh, this can’t possibly backfire!
But before this visit begins, our couple finally ignites for encounter number two in the library. After an explosive fight over the price of chocolate, the anger morphs to lust and they have a very satisfying time on the desk that leads to Jane’s first orgasm. Harrison is, of course, embarassed and shuts down after the whole affair, as he thinks that wives shouldn’t be treated with such carelessness.
Jane, on the other hand, has finally understood what her older sister is talking about with lovemaking and passion. And she realizes that her husband has been holding himself back, and decides that she needs to do something about it.
However, Harrison keeps to himself for the next few days, and so Jane has to resort to drastic measures. She packs herself a picnic and marches out alone to the castle ruins on the grounds while Harrison is out for his ride. He sees her, as she intended, and then she ropes him into a picnic. She has noticed that he watches her hands a lot, so uses that to her advantage as she eats each delicacy in the basket. She also has not worn much under her cloak, which she removes early on and stares brazenly at her husband.
Harrison scrambles and tries to get Jane to understand saying quote
“The barest flash of agony sifted through his eyes, tugged at his brow before it was controlled. “What happened before…” “In the library.” His chest heaved and his jaw hardened. “Yes. It was unforgivable.”
She crossed her arms beneath her bosom, unintentionally lifting the rounded flesh to swell further above her neckline. “According to whom?” He blinked, his eyes darting between her bosoms and her face, seemingly unable to decide where to land. “To me. It is my duty to protect you.” “I am your wife. Would you not say it is also your duty to provide for my every need?” Sensing a trap, he tried reasoning first. “As long as you are not harmed in doing so, yes.” “Then we are in agreement.” She held her arms out to her sides, inviting him to look his fill. “Do I appear harmed to you?”
And though Harrison is still wary, Jane doesn’t back down. Finally, he admits quote
“What I want from you, it is not… not appropriate to demand of a wife.” “It is not conceivable that you are exaggerating the delicacy of my sensibilities a bit?”
“You don’t understand.” “Then I propose a solution,” she said as his eyes came up to meet hers. “Tell me your desires. Describe them, one by one. And I shall inform you if anything you say causes me offense. Surely words are permissible, if only to establish where the boundaries lie.” “Words are powerful, Jane. With your love of reading, you should know this better than most.” “We shall leave them here, at the castle then. They will live among the moss and the ravens. I give you this promise. whatever you say to me here shall remain ours alone. And, should you desire, we need never speak of it again.”
And so, Harrison describes his desires. And needless to say, not one of Lady Jane’s sensibilities are the least bit disturbed. So they have a very satisfying encounter number three amongst the ruins.
Sometime soon after this, Colin arrives at Blackmore. Harrison’s threats for the ton to forget the bets they had made had worked - except that Colin hadn’t received the necessary funds to pay off his debts. So now he had thugs on his trail and had nowhere else to turn but to try his brother. Harrison insists that he won’t give Colin anything but Jane, seeing his pitiful condition begs Harrison to reconsider. This causes a serious rift between the two, but eventually he lets Colin stay in the gamekeepers cottage to recover before he sets off again. Their fight leads to angry sex, and they have encounter number four.
However, all is not perfect yet with our hero and heroine, and things backslide again when Lord Dunston and his sister and mother arrive a day later.
The visit is quite dismal as Lord Dunston’s sister Lady Mary and her mother ruthlessly and slowly wear Jane down. Lady Mary was probably the woman that Harrison would have/should have married, and she knows it and is bitter about the loss of the Duchy.
She and Harrison also have their first fight during this visit as she finds out that he has planned everything when she tries to take the reins and is told she is not needed. This makes Jane feel terrible as Harrison doesn’t believe that she’s capable of even the basest responsibilities of a duchess. And with Lady Mary wearing her down, she’s extra vulnerable.
So, needing some decent company, she actually goes out to the cottage to chat with Colin. They’ve already had the opportunity to air all their issues before, and Colin has been more than honest with Jane about it all, and she appreciates his candor and misses having a friend. So she has gone out there for conversation and also to help Colin by giving him her pocket money - enough saved that he can pay off his debt and hopefully start a new life for himself in America. Colin refuses it, but Jane leaves it on the table before returning to the estate.
However, she doesn’t make it back, but instead is abducted by a man who has been watching Colin. He thinks that she is his doxy and doesn’t believe that she’s a duchess because she simply doesn’t fit the description. Eventually she is saved from this blackguard by Harrison and Colin, and Harrison decides to give Colin the money to pay off this debt and head to America to keep his family safe.
But after this event, things go downhill for our couple again. Harrison was scared by how scared he was to lose Jane and so he gets all icy again.
During all this, they still are hosting guests. Lord Dunston and family are still around, but now have been joined by Lady Jane’s family and Harrison’s sister Victoria and her husband.
And when Victoria arrives for a visit, Jane finds her backbone a bit and the two dispose of Lord Dunston and Lady Mary.
However, try as she might to get her husband to unthaw, Harrison keeps his distance. In an epic fight between the two he admits that if he were married to Lady Mary, he would not treat her like he is treating Jane. (but of course, we readers realize that is because he wouldn’t love Lady Mary and he does love Jane...sigh). quote
“He pulled away from her, shaking his head. “You cannot love me.” “So many admonitions,” she said, softly, chiding. “I cannot love you. I cannot leave. Well, here are yours my darling husband: You cannot prevent it. You cannot control it. You cannot control me.”
But Jane won’t back down, and their tension leads to encounter number five, where Jane insists quote
“What if, instead of dousing the fire…” she hooked her fingers inside his collar and tugged until his tailcoat began to peel off. “We let it rage.”
And continues to insist that he admit he loves her while she teases him into their lovemaking. Which he does, but is then terrified of what he’s said and feels the next day.
Before all this, Harrison has been struggling with his inward thoughts and feelings and learning more about his terrible father from one of the guests. He thought that he had to contain his feelings to not fall into the traps his father did, but then he realizes that by containing his feelings, he’s actually doing just that.
After their explosive night, Jane realizes that she loves him too much to be this close to him while he is like this, and decides to go stay with Victoria for a while. So she leaves the next day explaining this to Harrison quite cleary.
And the moment Jane leaves, Harrison realizes that he’s made a huge mistake. Even the distance of a few miles apart is simply too great, and he knows he needs to have her back.
So he hops on his horse and gallops to catch the carriage, and makes a beautiful and heartfelt apology and explanation that sends Jane tumbling into his arms.
And after a few ups and downs, our characters are now open and honest with each other and ready to live blissfully happily ever after together!
(We do get encounter number six after their reunion!)
We get a short epilogue which focuses on a character I did not mention in the synopsis, but we learn that the duke and duchess are extremely happy and many children are expected from their union if their happiness has anything to show for it.