103 - A Lady for a Duke
Viola Carroll is finally living the life she wants, but when an old friend is in need she cannot turn away. The Duke of Gracewood has spent the last two years mourning the loss of his best friend when Viola comes to save him from himself. Sparks fly as these two old friends learn the truths about each other for the very first time. We're reading A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall and it is fantastic! **We live our lives with SPOILERS**
Grab your copy of the book we read today, A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall!
This month (and every month) is a great month to donate to organizations that are working to better LGBTQ+ rights. If you're in a position to donate, we recommend donating to The Trevor Project or The National Center for Transgender Equality.
More information and portraiture of today's featured history fact can be found at https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/desire-love-and-identity/chevalier-deon
Want to listen to a certain segment? Here is our outline this week:
0:00 - 13:43: Intro/Author Facts/History Facts
13:43 - 14:20: Content Guidance
14:20 - 24:19: Synopsis
24:19 - 28:23: Parlour
28:23 - 1:09:12: General Discussion
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 Lady for a Duke Synopsis:
Viola Carroll has been enjoying her life as Companion to Lady Marleigh. That is until Louise gets a letter from Miranda de Vere and expresses great concern for the girl and that of her brother.
The Duke of Gracewood was Viola’s best friend in another life. Keeping him from her new life was necessary because their relationship could never be the same and it was easier for her to have died at Waterloo.
However it turns out in the last two years the Duke has not been doing well and blames himself for her passing.
With trepidation they set out to Morgencald, the duke’s northumberland estate, to help Gracewood and his sister.
Viola is dismayed to see what has become of her former friend. He is a shell of the man she knew and clearly been wallowing in opium and alcohol.
They connect, he starts to improve. He’s detoxing from the opium and has stopped drinking. He is making an effort to visit his tenants, all the while bringing Viola along as she has become like a lifeline to him.
However, Gracewood begins to develop real feelings for Viola. She makes him feel alive in a way he only ever felt with Marleigh. One day they are on the beach and Gracewood asks if he can kiss Viola. She demurs but they are standing on the edge of an embrace when suddenly Gracewood notices the distinct nature of Viola’s freckles along her neck.
“Two years.” At last his eyes fastened onto hers. She had lived this scene a thousand times over in the darkest places of her mind, terrified of his disgust, his hatred, his contempt, his cruelty. Except now she was here there was only pain—hers old and deep and aching, his new and whiplash raw, turned against her like the guns at Waterloo. “You were my closest friend. The best part of my life. The best part of me. You were... my joy, my hope, my faith in better things. All this time, I thought I’d left you. And it was you, who left me.” Tears were spilling down her cheeks, sticky with kohl and powder. “I didn’t want to, Gracewood, please believe that. But I couldn’t go on... I couldn’t go on as I used to. It was destroying me.”
Having to take everything, Gracewood turns from Viola and asks to be left alone.
Full of hurt for what was and wasn’t said, Viola returns to the house and asks to leave immediately. Seeing the anguish she is feeling Louise agrees it is time to go. But instead of going home to the country, they go to London, for Louise feels it is time for Viola to begin to live her life outside the safety of the Marleigh country estate.
A month goes by and Gracewood is at her door in London. He is here to ask for forgiveness but also to look for a way forward.
“I miss my Marleigh.” Gracewood’s gaze did not waver. His eyes were pure water. Shadowless. “But if you think I came here for him, you are wrong. I am here for you. I am here for Viola Carroll.”
“I know it’s not the same, but you weren’t the only one with secrets. I never let Marleigh know how fearful I was. How unsuited I felt for the role cast upon me. How deeply I bore my father’s scorn. But Viola Carroll saw—and found good in me, regardless.” Tears rose hot and heavy to her eyes. “Y-yes. Yes I did. And I always have.” “Viola. Oh, Viola.” His arm came round her then, and he drew her to him, where she wept against his chest, and felt the softness of his tears as they landed in her hair. “Please don’t leave me again,” he whispered. “I think I could learn to live without you, but I have no wish to.” She curled her fingers into his coat, her head still lowered and resolutely tucked away. “I don’t know how to do this.” “Do what?” “Any of it. I don’t know what we are to each other. If how you felt on the beach before you recognised me was real. If it can still be real when you... when you—” Putting a hand beneath her chin, he turned her face to his. “It was real, Viola. It is real. As real as you are.”
However, Viola does not believe that any relationship between them could work, but she does desire to help the Duke as he tries to move forward with his life. He does not believe she can be as effective in another household, so devises a way for them to live together that will not be looked upon with reproach by society.
Viola moves into the duke’s household “on loan” from Lady Marleigh as Miranda’s chaperone.
The arrangement is overall a success. In an effort to connect with Miranda and offer friendship, Viola shows her all her cards. At first Miranda is upset, because Viola was instrumental in why she felt so alone over the years. Gracewood left her at home because he preferred Marliegh’s company than that of his little sister. However, she believes that the offer of friendship is true and Miranda does wish to have a life filled with friends and hopefully a better relationship with her brother.
Thus the London season starts for everyone. Viola and Gracewood do have a bond that grows stronger by the day and they begin to share intimacies. They kiss at a Card Party thrown by Louise and they share a waltz in the early morning hours after Miranda’s debut ball.
The friendship is becoming more and it is not a one sided thing. Gracewood meant it when he told Viola he sees only her. She is the one person he can share his burdens and failings with. Something he finds difficult, as his upbringing taught him that showing vulnerability was equal to weakness and that is not to be tolerated.
After weeks of growing friendship and sharing vulnerability, Gracewood wishes to be more intimate with Viola and she is finally able to accept. Before she could not because she was worried about how it would reflect on her in society but also because she did not want to start something if it meant she had to compromise. She would rather be a spinster than a mistress, but after a while it seems cruel to deny pleasure, even if it is just in the short term.
When we finally have an encounter we also get a very satisfying I love you.
“I would say”—he shaped the words close to her mouth, as if each of them was its own kiss, a private prayer—“I love you as a man loves a woman, but we both know that love is not bound by such narrow terms. So instead let me simply tell you that I love you. I love you with the unfading flame of my friendship. With every drop of ardour in my blood. I love you with my soul, as some reserve their faith for absent gods. I love you as I believe in what is right and hope for what is good. I love you with everything I am and ever was—and if you will only let me, with every day that comes, and every self that I could ever be.” She was silent. For a while it seemed the only possible answer. Then she smiled. A smile that felt like no other smile she had ever smiled. “Good. Now give me all the pleasure.”
And then things get a little wild.
Miranda is kidnapped from a Masquerade Ball and they find the event was orchestrated by the Duke of Amberglass who is a strange character who seems to have no regard for anyone because he sees everything with apathy and boredom and therefore manipulates people just to see if it will relieve his boredom.
When confronted, he refuses to tell them anything and also sets about trying to get a reaction from Gracewood by demeaning him. Viola, cannot stand for this and, taking Gracewoods sword from his cane, duels Amberglass. Finally breaking his nose and on the way out, get Miranda’s location.
They ride out to Kent when Miranda was taken in a suitor’s hairbrained scheme to force her into matrimony for her money.
They have almost arrived when they see a horse and rider coming at them. Turns out it is Miranda who has saved herself but is so happy to see Gracewood having come after her and supporting her.
They confront the Viscount who is a bit of an idiot because he still wants to persist in the arranged marriage and Gracewood is like. Ab-so-fucking-lutely not. So Miranda’s reputation is saved and also a brother/sister relationship is repaired.
However, it does give Gracewood an idea. He wakes Viola early one morning to take her for a walk.
He tells her he is planning to buy the viscounts estate to make it their home.
“I am richer and more powerful than any of them. If Viscount Stirling can abduct innocent debutantes and the Duke of Amberglass can start a fight in a brothel and have nobody say a word about it, then I’ll be damned if I can’t marry the woman I love.”
Still a little worried about the requirements of a Duke to produce and heir, Viola is minorly hesitant. Luckily, Gracewood is not hung up on having his own kids. Either Miranda’s son or a far off cousin can take it. He has found he doesn’t care as much for those things as he does for Viola’s love.
So she says yes and they live happily ever after.
Epilogue: Jack is the oldest of Gracewood and Viola’s children. He is questioning that he is not of the ducal blood but Gracewood assures him he is his son. We see a little bit of the family dynamic and then we see a bit of Viola being Viola. She jumps off the cliff with her son, just as she did with Gracewood when they were young. Inspiring life and freedom in another generation.
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