Following is what Julia Quinn says about her series “The Two Dukes of Wyndham” on her website.
Now, I will write what I have to say about the said series.
The Two Dukes of Wyndham is a series of course of two books of two men who at one point or another to be titled the Duke of Wyndham. The two books (in the sequence of their publication) are:
1. The Lost Duke of Wyndham
2. Mr Cavendish, I Presume
Both the books have almost a similar tale to tell, because of the time frame, the major event around which the story revolves and the people involved in it being the same. The only difference being the points of view of the two couples regarding the major event and their own personal tale of emotions and feelings towards each other.
Following are the main characters for this particular story with of course what I think of them too:
This man happens to be the 7th Duke of Wyndham (with many other honorific titles to go with that too). Apparently, since he was born, the importance of duty (to the name of Wyndham) had been drilled in to him to such an extent that he had stopped being the man he should have been and is rather living a life in which all he does and all he allows himself to be is what is expected of the person who bears the title of Wyndham.
In short, for all the riches and power that he seemingly possesses, the man is a prisoner in his own body and a stranger to all except for a chosen few (very few).
He goes by the name of Jack Audley. Audleys being the couple (his mother’s sister and her husband) who took him in and gave the orphaned boy a home since the time of his birth.
He cannot read. No, I do not mean that he is illiterate or not intelligent because that is not the case. The man is too intelligent to manage a dukedom and too clever to have avoided the trip to the gallows as a consequence of his chosen career (being a highway man) after he sold his commission in the army. What he is, is a dyslexic.
He tries to hide his faults behind his charm. His problem lies in the fact that he does not believe in himself. Because he had never brought himself to talk about his inability with identifying alphabets and other written characters he had started to believe himself dumb and a good for nothing idiot.
The man should have been given a pep talk early in life.
An orphan who was saved by the Dowager Duchess of Wyndham from a fate very much unacceptable to her. For five years (after being rescued) she served as the Dowager Duchess’s companion who by all account is a witch (no offence to fantasy writers and Hermione Granger who also happens to be a witch is my favourite). The word here is used loosely to mean that the woman was as cold-hearted as one can be without even a shred of emotion to spare anyone.
Back to Grace. She is an intelligent girl. With nothing and no one to call hers, she befriends the servants at Belgrave where she lives with the Dowager. She finds herself feeling guilty when the plot is revealed. Stupid woman does not understand that it is not her doing if a man (before she was even thought of) went to Ireland, got married, sired a son and then drowned while at sea.
She was a respectable, intelligent, educated woman. That ought to have been enough for her to be an acceptable match to any man.
Born to an Earl and a Countess, she sits in the passenger seat while her life is being driven to another’s whims. Betrothed to the Duke of Wyndham, while she was still in the cradle, she waits for the man to finally set a date for marriage. This man, her betrothed, finally becomes the reason she decided to take her life in her own hands and do as she wishes.
Never knowing the man – behind the title she was to marry – it never bothered what he did. But when she got to know the man himself and fell in love with she decides that she would be perfectly happy to be a country gentleman’s wife rather than a duchess.
A brilliant woman with a heart of gold – who loves maps and travels – teaches the former duke to enjoy what is important for a man in life rather than what is important to a title.
The Story Itself
The story is about identity loss and found. Not falling prey to greed for riches and power. Doing right by everyone and everything. Amidst all that having love bloom in the hearts of people who apparently are not suitable for marriage and people who should have known each other long ago. It shows two aspects of love.
With Jack and Grace it is love at first sight when he stops the Dowager Duchess’s coach to commit thievery. Since then, Grace has known that if the man – as claimed by the Dowager – turns out to be the real duke, she may forget all about being a part of his life. She believes herself too low in rank for a duke to make a duchess of her. In her heart she wants him to be just Mr Audley who is a highwayman. Someone who could very well be her man. As for Jack, he is fighting his own demons. Blaming himself for his cousin’s death (who was felled in the war), the man did not set foot in the country of his birth. A secret that he has never shared with anyone brings about complete fear and distress in him at the thought of a dukedom being made his responsibility. As if that was not enough, his feelings for Grace are too strong for him to consider the dukedom if it comes to making a choice.
But of course, being a duke gives him the power to do as he wishes and what he does astounds all (not really because it is a romance after all). He marries his lady-love.
With Thomas and Amelia, love blooms once they get to know each other and shrug off the element of duty – as they were bound to marry on a contract their fathers signed. Bred to be a duchess later on in her life, Amelia does not need the title to be happy and tries telling that to Thomas with her words and her actions but Thomas being the upstanding man that he was could not bring himself to offer to marry the woman – her woman – when he has nothing to offer her. They find out, all for good of course, that love cannot be thwarted such and it always finds a way to bind the two lives together. Stripped of title(s), riches and power, Thomas realises he can still be wanted for the man he is and with Amelia at his side he could be better than what he is. Together they find their own happiness.
Oh and did I happen to mention that Thomas Cavendish gets bestowed with the title of Earl of Crowland after the death of his father in law (the original Earl of Crowland).