The Duchess presents a tale of a young girl's triumph over tragedy during the 19th century, set in England, France, and the United States. Perfect.
Angelique Latham is the daughter of the Duke of Westerfield. When, at eighteen, her father dies, the entire estate is, according to law, left in the hands of her older half-brother, Tristan. Fearing his eldest's resentment of the younger sister, just before his death, the Duke wisely and silently gives her a small sum of money to tide her over in case the brother throws her out. Indeed, Tristan forces her out the day after her father's death, sending her to work as a nanny for his friends, pretending she is a distant cousin.
When a male visitor wrongfully accuses her of scandal, she is turned out of that home without a reference and forced to flee to her deceased mother's native land of France. With none of her rightful privileges, she must make her way in the world and remain true to her noble upbringing. Her scheme is scandalous and dangerous, but serves her well for a short time. Sadly, fate throws her another wrench and she books passage to the United States. Through it all, she tenaciously clings to her dignity and triumphs in the end.
I adored this tale, despite her descent into scandal. Angelique is such a strong and determined character, overcoming obstacles with grace and style. The plot moves steadily and fully engages the reader. I enjoyed each of the diverse settings and the time-period portrayed. I understand why Steel's novels have received such popular support. She is an excellent writer and master storyteller, whose characters come to life on the page.