Title: Mr Cavendish, I Presume
Author: Julia Quinn
Genre: Historical romance
Stand Alone/series: Book 2 of a two books series called The Two Dukes of Wyndham
Summary: Amelia Willoughby has been engaged to the Duke of Wyndham for as long as she can remember. Literally. A mere six months old when the contracts were signed, she has spent the rest of her life waiting. And waiting. And waiting…for Thomas Cavendish, the oh-so-lofty duke, to finally get around to marrying her. But as she watches him from afar, she has a sneaking suspicion that he never thinks about her at all…
It’s true. He doesn’t. Thomas rather likes having a fiancée—all the better to keep the husband-hunters at bay—and he does intend to marry her…eventually. But just when he begins to realize that his bride might be something more than convenient, Thomas’s world is rocked by the arrival of his long-lost cousin, who may or may not be the true Duke of Wyndham. And if Thomas is not the duke, then he’s not engaged to Amelia. Which is the cruelest joke of all, because this arrogant and illustrious duke has made the mistake of falling in love…with his own fiancée!
Mr. Cavendish, I Presume is the second book in a two-part series called The Two Dukes of Wyndham. Book 1, The Lost Duke of Wyndham was released earlier this year and it started the story of two men, Jack and Thomas (and two women: Grace and Amelia) whose destinies would be forever changed after a chance encounter one night, when Jack, a highway man is recognised by the dowager duchess of Wyndham as the son of her favorite son and therefore, the true Duke. That first book told the story of Jack, and his path to discover the truth about his past whilst falling in love with Grace. I adored The Lost Duke of Wyndham, fell in love with Jack and his sunny personality and couldn’t wait to read book 2, Mr Cavendish, I Presume.
And here is the catch: what makes this series different (and very clever, if you ask me) is that rather than being a proper sequel, Mr Cavendish is actually the very same story told from another point of view, that of Thomas, the man who lost the Dukedom. The story starts a little bit earlier in that fateful evening. They are all at the country ball and although you don’t need to read The Lost Duke to be able to get in this story, it is like you are sharing a little secret with the author – you know that as soon as Grace and the Dowager leave they will meet Jack. But I am getting ahead of myself.
So, they are at the country ball and Amelia is waiting for her fiancé Thomas, the Duke of Wyndham. They have been engaged since they were children in a contract signed by their parents – they know they are getting married soon but no effort has been put into their relationship – it just is. So, Amelia is there waiting for Thomas to arrive so that they can play around the mechanics of their relationship, the one that is repeated over and over again: he would arrive, everyone would fall silent as appropriate in the presence of a Duke, he would walk to Amelia, greet her, they would exchange a few words (about the weather), they would dance and he would leave. No effort from either of them. No meaning behind any of their encounters.
BUT. It just so happens that that night is a fateful night for many reasons – not only Thomas’ destiny as the Duke is about to be changed, this is also the night Amelia decides she has had enough of not being noticed and says “no” when he asks her to dance. And that is all it takes for Thomas to actually pay attention to her for the first time. They have their first meaningful conversation and their first kiss. And this is when BOTH of them truly start to look at each other – but the Fates were having a laugh, because after this night all changes with the prospect of not being the real Duke is hanging over Thomas’ head and a search for the real man behind the title begins. And Amelia? It just so happens that the marriage contract is between Amelia and the DUKE, not with Thomas.
Again, this book is not really about the mystery of who is the Duke, as it is very clear from the start that Jack is the rightful Duke. The point of these books is to find out what this change means for these two men and to follow them both in their journey of self-discovery.
And if Jack’s book was a whiff of summer breeze, a perfect reflection of his sunny personality and full of laughter wrapped up with clever prose, Thomas’ is the complete opposite. It is more serious; it bears deeper reflection of what makes a man. These two books could not be more different.
When it was clear Jack was his cousin, Thomas loses all bearings – suspended in space, not knowing whom the hell he was. His entire life up to that moment was about Wyndham: the tile, which always came first, along with the sense of propriety, with the sense of pride, a deep knowledge of the History of his position, and a care for the lives of people that depended on him. Nothing was ever about Thomas Cavendish and once he is stripped of the Title and Wyndham he is no more, he is left alone with himself and that is truly the moment where he wakes up, for he must find out who Mr Cavendish is. And that is when he realises that what he always thought was the title was indeed he – HIM alone, the honour, the pride, and the sense of duty. It turns out Mr Cavendish made the title and not the other way around. But it is a long journey before he realises that and one that is profoundly moving. He is at the same time, dismayed, terrified that his is losing his identity but also somewhat exhilarated at the prospect of freedom.
At the same time, the romance in Mr Cavendish is as complex as The Lost Duke’s was simple. In the latter, it was a matter of love at first sight, with no doubts about it. But Thomas feels, one he gets to know Amelia, that he cannot love her, will not love her because he just can’t bear to offer nothing to her. But, what about Amelia? Does she have any saying in any of this? A woman who has always been a pawn finally allows herself to ask questions – to question other people but also to question herself and Thomas. To find her voice. And it turns out, once they start a friendship, that Amelia really wants the man, whomever he is.
They begin the story sharing a destiny but that meant NOTHING to them. Paradoxically it was only when they lost their future and shared noting, stripped of what they thought they were, that they started to fall in love. And their one and only sex scene is one of the most beautiful and meaningful I ever read.
I cannot tell you how much I loved Mr Cavendish, I Presume. It was an amazing reading experience to finally be able to fill in the gaps from The Lost Duke and to understand what was going on inside Amelia and Thomas’ head. Similarly, it was great fun to read about Jack and Grace from Thomas’s and Amelia’s point of view and KNOWING what was really going on between them.
My reaction to each of these books was completely opposite – I had a huge smile on my face whilst reading the Lost Duke and tears in my eyes whilst reading Mr Cavendish, not because it was sad but because it was so beautiful and significant.
It occurred to me that one of the things I love the most about Julia Quinn’s books is the simplicity of her plotlines: there is no great drama, no great villains, no great misunderstandings. It is usually all very simple love stories, gift wrapped with some wonderful, clever dialogues and a lot of sense of humour and a lot of heart. Differences apart, both The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr Cavendish, I Presume share the same heart-warming feel – you know the one, that one that leaves you with a smile on your face and a dreaming look in your eyes when you close a really good book.
The Two Dukes of Wyndham series and its two books will most definitely make my top 10 reads of 2008.
And to wrap things up, there is a surprise, a gift really, for long-term fans of Julia Quinn: in the epilogue there is a crossover with another one of her series, the Bridgertons. I will say no more.
Notable quotes / Parts: I can’ really quote anything because I read an ARC and I don’t know what made the final book or not. But there is one scene when they are on the boat to Ireland to go looking for Jack’s parents marriage certificate and they are approaching the end of the journey and Thomas knows they are going to find out that Jack is the real Duke. Amelia is sitting on a bench and he comes and sits next to her and they start to talk. And then Amelia says they would have been friends. If they had met in different circumstances, they could have met in London, in another time, not at a ball, but sitting on a bench and they would talk about maps (something they both love) and Thomas would think how nice to know a woman who didn’t hide her intelligence and she would think how lovely to have a man who didn’t assume she didn’t have any. They would have been friends – and he says she will make a perfect duchess and he regrets that she was never his. And I truly hope this scene has made the final cut, because it is SUCH a poignant, powerful scene that says a lot about who they were and they had become to each other – not yet love but on the way to be.
Additional Thoughts: GUESS WHAT: WE HAVE TEN PACKAGES WITH BOTH BOOKS TO GIVEAWAY! ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS LEAVE A MESSAGE ON THIS POST BETWEEN TODAY AND SATURDAY MORNING FOR A CHANCE TO WIN ONE OF THEM. GOOD LUCK!!!
Verdict: Need I say more?
Rating: 9, damn near perfection
Reading next: King of Sword and Sky by C. L. Wilson