At the Duke's Pleasure
For some plots to work, the reader needs to suspend their disbelief a bit. Sometimes the only time you can enjoy a story is if you just accept that a character is acting illogically – but without that lack of rational thought, there wouldn’t be a plot. You acknowledge, accept, and enjoy. At the Duke’s Pleasure features a most definitely illogical heroine, but while that’s easy to acknowledge, it’s not so easy to accept.
Lady Claire Marsden has been betrothed to the Duke of Clybourne since birth. She’s been raised to be a duchess and she’s even lucky enough to be in love with her affianced. So when His Grace Edward Byron decides it is time to marry, one would think this would be what Claire wants. However, it isn’t. After overhearing Edward’s less-than-enthusiastic opinion on his arranged marriage, Claire is convinced he doesn’t care for her and never will. She refuses to marry a man whom she loves unrequitedly, fearing the slow death of her soul. So she resolves to do everything possible to make Edward break the engagement.
Edward knows she’s up to something, but just doesn’t know why she’s so hell-bent on ruining herself. There is that thing she mentioned about not wanting to marry him, but he thought she got over that. However, despite her antics, he finds himself falling for her.
Claire is a classic TSTL heroine. She does everything possible to destroy herself, seeing absolutely none of the true consequences. She’s selfish, indulgent, indecisive, and almost criminally stupid. Though her tricks are all to save her dignity and prevent her from marrying someone who will never love her, I found them to be more indicative of a lack of dignity in her willingness to ruin herself in the eyes the man she loves as well as everyone else in society. She is, at her heart, a good person with a feisty personality. She just loses this in her irresponsible behavior. Any redeeming quality she reveals soon gets blotted out.
Edward has remarkable patience. He’s a good hero, if a perplexing one. He’s involved in some sort of intrigue that was never quite explained, clearly carrying over from another book about the Byron family. I never quite understood his affection for Claire, but his restraint and ability to look past her deeds was admirable.
I was constantly reminded of the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days while reading this book – only it lacked the charm and humor of the film. Though this book failed for me, that was largely based on the specific circumstances of the novel. I know Tracy Anne Warren has gotten good grades here in the past, so, while I may not recommend this book, I won’t write her off totally. There is an intriguing set-up for Edward’s sister’s story, which I often found more compelling than Edward and Claire’s story. I just hope the next book in this Byron series features more levelheaded and intelligent characters.