Phineas Duncombe may be a duke, but as the fifth son, he was not raised to be one. When he meets Annabel, the Countess of Longstowe, he find that being a duke has its advantages. It allows him to help this reluctant (and much older) widow in her search for the daughter that was cruelly taken and hidden from her eighteen years before. Along the way, these two battle demons of the past and present to find their way to happily ever after. Join us as we read A Duke a Dozen by Shana Galen, the sixth book in her Survivors series. **This carriage is always full of SPOILERS**
Grab your copy of the book we read today, A Duke a Dozen by Shana Galen, here!
Want to listen to a certain segment? Here is our outline this week:
0:00 - 08:51: Intro/Author Facts/History Fact
08:51 - 23:13: Synopsis
23:13 - 26:19: Parlour
26:19 - 1:12:17: General Book Discussion
The article we cited for our history fact today can be found at: https://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/objects-and-stories/medicine/victorian-mental-asylum
We include 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 :)
A Duke a Dozen Synopsis:
Phineas Duncombe is the newly minted Duke of Mayne. He never expected to inherit the dukedom, seeing as he was a fifth son. However, it seems all his idiot brothers had managed to die shortly after inheriting the title.
The most recent brother, Phin had been doing his darndest to protect, and yet he still managed to fall from his horse and hit his head, dying instantly.
Now Phin has decided to pay a call to the Wanton Widow, with whom Richard supposedly spent his last evening alive with.
He also cannot deny that he was instantly attracted to Lady Longstowe when he saw her at the ball, but since his brother staked his claim, he has been trying to put her out of his head.
He arrives at her doorstep and is met by a crotchety old butler and a very small housekeeper named Mrs. Slightly. She is chatty and instantly shows him into the parlour and goes to get her Lady Longstowe.
When Annabel enters the room, Phin is reminded of his instant attraction. However, he is here to find out about Richard. He asks Lady Longstowe about her evening with his brother and she tells him that nothing happened between the two of them. She was as surprised by his death as the next person.
Phin does not believe that a woman of her reputation did nothing but dance with Richard at a ball, so he basically accuses her of deception. That earns a frosty lady and a kick out the door.
He really buggered that one. Not to mention, since she had never been with Richard, he could have pursued her in his own right. Was that maybe the real reason he had called on her?
Annabel for her part, initially wants nothing to do with Phin but then is reminded that he is a duke and she has been struggling to unearth a secret since the death of her late husband. She could really use a powerful duke to smooth her way.
To say Phin is surprised when Annabel shows up at his door is an understatement but he is not one to let an opportunity slip away.
Annabel is there to ask him for help in ascertaining the location of her daughter. She only ever had one child, a daughter. It was clear from the onset that her daughter would never have a normal life. She did not progress as a normal child would and while Annabel would have been happy to care for her for the rest of her life, her husband did not want her to stain the family name. So he took the child from Annabel when Theadosia was only two and withheld the location from Annabel even after his death.
Annabel presents her case to Phin and even offers payment. If not monetary, maybe another arrangement?
Surprising her, Phin tells her that no payment is required.
As much as I like the direction you are taking, Long, I must ask what the hell you are doing.” She looked up at him from under her lashes as her hand moved to remove the next pin. God, yes. He wanted that pin gone. “I’m undressing, Mayne.” Thank God. Take it all off, he wanted to say. Instead, he said, “I see that. And I cannot believe I am saying this, but do stop.” “Stop?” She frowned at him. “Don’t make me say it again. I don’t know if I can manage.” She gave him an uncertain smile. “You don’t want me to take my dress off?” “Of course, I want you to take your dress off.” What did she take him for? He very much wanted her to take her dress off. “But I don’t want you to disrobe like this.”
He will help her and then completely focuses on where to start looking for this information.
They decide to go to Ceald House where the current earl’s family lives. He is underage so his mother, Lady Wavenwell.
At first Annabel does not wish to make the journey with Phin, it would be unseemly and also she has terrible memories of that house and does not wish to return. However, she does concede that it will make introductions go smoother if she is there.
Arrangements are made and they head out to Ceald house.
On the way to their destination they pause for a leg stretch and to meet Phin’s valet, Reynolds who has ridden ahead to make lodging arrangements. During that pause Annabel and Phin have an exchange. He had made it seem that the journey to Ceald House was helpful to him for estate business but that was a lie. He just wanted to help and Annabel would not believe that it was just an altruistic gesture.
“I’ve made no secret that I’m attracted to you. It’s hardly a crime to wish to spend time with a beautiful woman.” She looked at him as though he were a new species. “I am old enough to be your mother.” “You would have been a very young mother. Regardless, what difference does age make? I’m of age, and you would be beautiful at any age.”
To prove he is no child Phin reaches over and kisses Annabel. She does not push away so he deepens the kiss. Eventually Phin brings it to an end, and while it ends the debate on whether or not he was a child, Annabel tells him that is all there can be between them.
While this is happening, Mrs. Slightly, who had stepped out of the carriage, makes the aquantense of Reynolds, the valet. He is a very handsome man and treats her the way a gentleman should treat a lady. They get their flirt on and become a very nice sub-romance to the main romance.
They group carries on and eventually arrive at the inn. Phin and Annabel are having dinner when a fire breaks out in the main public room. Phin goes upstairs to help get guests out while Annabel is told to leave.
She helps organize a bucket line but then must wait for Phin. While helping clear the rooms Phin feels something strike him in the head. Luckily the innkeeper was able to grab him and they made it out of the fire but now Phin has a splitting headache and he is bleeding from the head.
While they await a doctor, Annabel and Phin learn more about each other and reestablish the attraction between them.
Annabel, the Countess of Longstowe, was the woman he wanted. Now. Forever.
The next day, they are on the move again, despite Phin’s continued headache.
They make it to Ceald House and immediately Phin can see he will need all his negotiating skills with Lady Wavenwell. She is a bit of a harpy.
They do succeed in getting an “invitation” to call back the next day.
That night Annabel invites Phin to her room. Of course she gets impatient and goes to his room instead.
She wanted him to take her hand again. She needed to touch him. For the comfort, yes. But also because she liked his touch. He had said he thought she needed a lover. He might be right. Until she had spent time with him, she hadn’t realized how much she craved touch and affection. Every time his arm brushed against her or his foot nudged hers or he took her hand in his, she wanted more.
However while we do get some undressing and kissing, we do not get an encounter. Phin wants Annabel to bring down her shields and feel free to be herself. She tries but there is still a lot of trauma from her late husband and she ends up leaving Phin.
They go back to Ceald house the next day. Annabel is given access to her late husband’s papers. She has to fight her own fears to get started though. The library is exactly the same as when he was alive, it even still smells like him. She knows she only has a limited time though and finding Theodosia is the priority.
For his part, Phin is asked to entertain Lady Wavenwell’s daughter. She will be coming out next season and an association with a duke will be beneficial. The girl though asks Phin to come outside and help her liberate her rabbit who is destined for stew. While they are looking at the hutch there is a shot that just misses Phin.
Annabel hears the shot too and comes running out. After it is determined everyone is okay, they take their leave with hope to come back the next day.
On the way home, things get steamy in the carriage. Annabel suggests that maybe the shot was destined for Phin. That maybe his brothers did not die in an accident. But Phin is not really listening to that. Instead he is listening to the jealousy in Annabel’s voice when she asks why he went outside with Lady Wavenwell’s daughter.
This leads to kissing and finally to touching. Phin puts Annabel in charge. He won’t do anything unless Annabel asks for it. She is so close to that elusive orgasm, something she has felt unable to have after the traumatic nature of bedsport with her husband.
Yet they arrive at the inn too soon. But that does not mean they do not have the night.
She arrives at his door after dinner. Annabel tells him her history. With her husband, with her lovers. While she may have had the moniker the Wanton Widow, she has not actually had a lover in ten years.
That is rectified when we get an encounter two and three. They are both orgasmic.
The following morning they are allowed back to Ceald house but not for long. Fortunately, Annabel is able to ascertain the location of her daughter. They head there directly after leaving Ceald house for the last time. They also may have escaped with a recently liberated rabbit named twitchy.
Annabel is very nervous on the journey toward her daughter, so Phin sets out to distract her and if you can guess, it’s a very steamy distraction.
She held him afterward, as though he were the one who needed comforting. As though he were the one about to meet a long-lost child. And yet, he put his head on her shoulder and welcomed her caresses. He feared the closer they came to finding Theadosia, the closer he was to losing Annabel.
Everything is arranged for Annabel to see her daughter the next day. She meets her grown daughter for the first time. Although twenty, she is very childlike and does not hear well. Nor can she read. She does however have a very good friend and has been living in a sanitarium that is actually helping and not hurting her. Annabel is so overjoyed to see her. Sadly though the doctor tells her that Theodosia’s heart is not strong and she may only have a year or so left. Annabel had originally hoped to take her back to London with her but instead realizes that she will instead have to move closer to her daughter so she can spend as much time with her as she can.
While she is meeting her daughter, Phin is told someone is there to see him. It is his brother-in-law John Clare. He tells Phin he is there to take him home. He needs to stop his relationship with Annabel and come home to marry a girl who can give him heirs. Phin tells him he’s a grown man who can make his own choices.
When they get back to the inn, Annabel breaks things off with Phin. His job is to marry and shire heirs for the dukedom. She is pushing 50 and cannot provide that for him. She is planning to stay in Berkshire and it would not make sense for him to do the same. He is needed to manage the estates.
The words were clear. Her meaning was clear, but he couldn’t seem to wrap his head around them. He winced, anticipating the punch, but he would have her speak plainly. “What are you saying, Annabel?” She looked him directly in the face, her bright blue eyes clear and steadfast. “I’m saying goodbye.”
At the inn Annabel gives Meg (Mrs. Slightly) the news and she goes to Reynolds to say goodbye to him. He asks her to marry him instead. The two are then interrupted when Phin returns to his room. Reynolds and Meg were quick and hid in the dressing room. They are making plans to sneak Meg out when Annabel arrives at the door. Phin is hoping she has changed her mind and gos about trying to persuade her. Even declaring his love. They are interrupted by another knock on the door, from John Carr. Phin tells Annabel to go to the dressing room while he deals with Mr. Carr.
Annabel is shocked to see the dressing room so full but then everyone realizes that Mr. Carr has a pistol and is planning to use it on Phin. Turns out those “accidents” that killed all the previous dukes, yeah. Not accidents.
He plans to have his adopted son take over the dukedom. Turns out he thinks all Phin’s brother’s did not deserve it, it should be his but since he cannot have it, it can at least go to his ward.
Reynolds comes to the rescue and goes to rush Carr. He is shot in the process but it gives Phin enough time to get the pistol away from Carr and subdue him.
A surgeon is called and Annabel is doing her best to comfort Meg and Phin.
In the end, Reynolds survives, Meg agrees to marry him, Phin and Annabel reconcile. Nothing like the prospect of death to make people get over themselves.
She went to him, wrapping her arms about his body, which was stiff from surprise. “I do love you, Phin. I do want to be your wife. That is, if you’ll have me.” He started violently, like a dead man reanimated. “If I’ll have you? Annabel, the only question, ever, was whether you’d have me.” He twirled her around, barely keeping her feet from hitting the edge of the bed. “Annabel, I love you. You’ll marry me?” He looked down at her, concern furrowing his brow. “I’ll marry you.”