Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea
Sometimes a bad book is just a mediocre book with some bad patches – utterly unremarkable or memorable. This book, however, is so ridiculously bad that I’d prefer to forget it but I can’t. The author took what could have been an interesting premise and added every type of Dumb and Dumber plot device to a Hangover inspired plot to contrive to be funny.
There was very little that was believable in this book. Prime example is the beginning. All, I repeat all, the dukes of England are eligible bachelors attending a bachelor party with Prinny, where they all get so drunk that they rampage through London without memory. They realize the next morning that between the six of them, they stood up an engagement, went swimming in the Serpentine, had midnight duels, lawn bowling in “unmentionables,” paraded about with the queen’s jewels etc. Alexander Barclay, the Duke of Kress, is held responsible by the Regent since he provided the liquor that led to the debauchery. The Prince Regent orders all dukes to be married within a short period to calm his people’s anger against the excesses. Alex is exiled to Cornwall immediately, ordered to repair it, and find a wife in a matter of weeks.
On his way to Cornwall, Alex finds Roxanne Vanderhaven clinging to a cliff. She was pushed over the cliff in a murder attempt by her husband, the Earl of Paxton, and presumed to be dead. Roxanne has spent eight years giving her all to the marriage, and is surprised, to say the least, to discover that her dear husband is so willing to kill her. Alex rescues her off the cliff and takes her to Cornwall, a short distance away from Roxanne’s home. Roxanne is bent on revenge, and asks Alex to house and help her for a short period. She volunteers to help him in his bride search as a favor in return.
Thereafter follows a crazy attempt at revenge on Roxanne’s husband by uprooting the Earl’s gardens (which was partially funny) and a hunt for the treasure Roxanne’s father left her. All of this happens during a house party at Alex’s estate with the aim of finding him a bride. Roxanne attends most events of the house party even though she is supposed to be in hiding so as not to alert the Earl as to her presence. She is only a few miles from the Earl’s estate after all.
What was also disturbing in the book was the lack of emotion Roxanne shows towards her marriage and a murder attempt. This is evidenced by her attendance of social events, the fact that she falls in love with Alex within two weeks of her murder attempt by her husband, and makes out with him not much after. Really!
Other areas that made me roll my eyes were how there were attempts to stick to the moral codes of the Regency era. A still married heroine in a romance must have been a complication, so Ms. Nash guided the characters to refrain from intercourse due to marital vows but Bill Clinton type sex was apparently permissible. When cornered on his wife’s death, the Earl tells Alex that he tried to murder Roxanne because she was frigid and couldn’t orgasm, and that she should have asked for his forgiveness for her sin to not find “completion.” There were other reasons I would likely have believed, like her tradesman family background, as a potentially valid reason for a noble to disassociate with his wife. But wanting to kill his wife because she was not a sexual wanton seemed like quite a stretch for the period.
Roxanne is juvenile at best in her behavior while Alex is trying hard to be a hero throughout the book. Their characters were never truly fully developed or likable. There are also too many secondary characters to even begin to understand their thinking or how they are all linked together, although a couple of them (like the Duchess of March and Meme, the great aunt) are interesting and funny at times. The ending was less than satisfactory and did not resolve important plot points.
I appreciate Ms. Nash’s attempt to deliver new content and story line in a cliched genre. There is some witty dialogue, yet the book stops short of being funny. The romance was the red-headed child in this line-up of event-driven pseudo-suspense frippery. Overall this book is not worth the time to go through it in entirety.