A Duke to Die For
At the risk of sounding like a total bitch and reaping mounds of wrath, I’ll just say it: It’s books like this that make a mockery of the romance genre.
Henrietta’s guardians are cursed: they just keep dying. Now she’s left to the last one on her father’s will, the Duke of Blakewell, and turns up on his doorstep hoping to convince him to sign over her inheritance and make her independent. His Grace, not being a fervent follower of Mary Wollstonecraft, refuses and decides to do the next best thing: He’ll get a husband for her, despite their mutual attraction. But he has other things to worry about, including a family friend who might be bamboozled out of his wealth by a scheming, ballooning adventuress. And with the slew of accidents that just seem to beset him, could Henrietta’s curse be catching up on him?
Of course it can’t be, and the resolutions to all the problems are disappointing or anticlimactic or both. But no worries, because actually the book isn’t even a romance novel – it’s a how-to guide entitled Historical Romances for Dummies (snort chuckle snort), and provides a perfect checklist to anyone wishing to parody historical romances.
* Plot developments that go absolutely nowhere? Check. * Heaps of telling and not a lot of showing? Double check. * Heaving bosoms and tightening loins? Triple check. (She looks at him, it goes to his groin. She opens a letter, it goes to his groin. She could probably take a piss and it would still go straight to his groin.) * Stilted, faux-Georgette Heyer phrasing plus anachronistic language? Oh yes. * Wafer-thin heroine with wafer-thin personality? Yup. * Wafer-thin hero with wafer-thin morals? Uh huh. (And what else would you call it when he initiates all the foreplay and claims she tempts him, then in the next breath reaffirms his intentions to keep her pure for her husband? Jerk.) * Seriously generic title and even more seriously hokey plot? Let’s not go there.
The only feature in the book I unequivocally enjoyed was the ballooning and the ballooning, adventuring schemer, but even that flops at the end like everything else (well, except for the obvious). The author’s prose has its moments, but much of it consists of language along the lines of, “Bloody hell, that was way too close!” Right.
Honestly, when I read books like this it’s hard not to blame the romance-deriding masses who think the genre’s sole purpose consists of fulfilling lonely women’s sexual fantasies. I know there are better books, and you know it (hopefully), but it’s discouraging still to see books like this published, and read cover blurbs extolling the author as a “master storyteller” (and I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt and hope I just read a dud). If the romance genre really wanted to self-destruct it would publish more books like A Duke to Die For every year and lower their standards ever further. However, I refuse to lower mine.
I live in Seattle, Washington and work as a legal assistant. I remember learning to read (comic strips) at a young age and nowadays try to read about 5-6 books a week. I love to travel, especially to Europe, and enjoy exploring smaller towns off the tourist track though London is my favorite city in the world.