I've enjoyed other books by this author, but I finished this one feeling unconvinced of any happy-ever-after ending for this couple. Why?
Well, she may have started out as a gently-bred young lady, but after FIVE YEARS of captivity in a brothel, Anne can no longer be considered "angelic" in any way, shape, or form. She has been kidnapped, beaten, raped, and forced to service men, including men of the TON, and there is no way she would ever be accepted into society, where she would be recognized by former johns and not allowed anywhere near their wives or daughters.
That said, I suppose it isn't fair to also blame the duke for hesitating to consider marrying her so long after realizing his feelings for her. Well, yes, his mother made him promise to marry for love, and he promised himself he wouldn't betray his wife, so he really had to decide to marry her or say goodbye to her, and he could not for the LONGEST time. But Anne could see the writing on the wall, and she made the right decision to leave him.
In my opinion, the author wrote herself into a corner on this one, and the way she chose to resolve this issue was just not convincing to me. There is just no way this heroine would ever have been accepted by his family or her great-grandmother, let alone the ton. The way she was treated when recognized in the park by a former client. . . are we really supposed to believe that somehow the duke's reputation will protect her in his absence? Or that people would not notice the fact that the marriage and the birth of the child occurred at the same time?
I WISH something like this could have happened, but there is no way that such a marriage could have done anything but drag down the duke and his entire family. It's not fair, and I hate it, but five years as a prostitute will disqualify any woman from a HEA ending with a duke. Frankly, my impression is that few prostitutes lived past their 20's in those days, what with primitive contraceptive methods and sexually-transmitted diseases, not to mention the harsh treatment.
Maybe Anne could have been only a LITTLE bit ruined (in secret)? Or the duke could have been a commoner who decided to run off to America with her for a new start? Or just decided to avoid society and immerse himself in good works (although this would be hard since he had a mother and sisters to consider)?
As you can see, I really want to believe in this story, but it's just not happening. There is just too much water under the bridge for Anne to be redeemed. And as a duchess? Never!