Daring the Duke
There’s a lot of promise in Anne Mallory’s writing. It is, however, a promise as yet unfulfilled.
The second novel by the author and former Golden Heart finalist, Daring the Duke is a largely formulaic tale of yet another anonymous female thief and the nobleman – one of those aristocratic law-enforcement types found only in romance – determined to catch her. Still, despite the well-worn plot and characters, something better occasionally shines through. Unfortunately, those brighter moments aren’t quite . . . well, “shiny” enough yet to rate this one as more than an average read.
Stephen Chalmers, the new Duke of Marston, is certain he knows the identity of the thief stealing critical documents related to the shipping industry. (It’s too complicated to explain.) After deliberately bumping (literally) into Audrey Kendrick when she’s out one day, Stephen manages to strike up an acquaintance with the seemingly proper young woman he’s convinced is the culprit.
Audrey, of course, is really a good girl, she is! Once forced to survive through stealing, her attempts to go straight were thwarted when two evil men from her past managed to get her beloved sister thrown into prison. (It’s too complicated to explain.) Our heroine, of course, will do anything to free her sister – including stealing exactly what they tell her to take.
So, with Stephen inserting himself into her life and Audrey attempting at the behest or her blackmailers to rebuff him, the stage is set for a dance of seduction between the determined aristocrat and the young woman equally determined to see him fail.
Providing more plot details won’t tell you much more about whether or not you want to read this book, because, chances are, if you’ve gotten this far in the review you’ve already read many (make that many, many) books just like this one. And, right along with more than a few of those books, this one features anachronistic dialogue so profound – a recalcitrant child is referred to as a “nasty kid”, for example – it’s obvious that neither the author nor her editor made the slightest effort to get it even remotely right. I’ll have to admit this puzzles me since the most commercially successful Avon authors take great pains to write dialogue that always feels true to the period. Hey, Avon, do you think there might be a correlation there?
Equally disturbing is the overwhelming wallpaper-y feel to the novel. Daring the Duke could, quite frankly, have taken place anywhere within a 200 year period. I’m a reader with a fairly high tolerance for wallpaper when the story and characters are compelling, but that simply isn’t the case here.
Though her debut romance earned a B- from one of my AAR colleagues, I don’t believe Anne Mallory is quite ready for primetime. However, if she’d take some time to work on both her dialogue and her wallpaper, someday she just might be. I understand that Avon takes a long-term career approach to the development of their authors and that’s all well and good. In that spirit, they would be well advised to put in some serious work with this author now.