Forever My Duke
Forever My Duke is one of those ‘just okay’ romances, one that has its sweet points but whose joints creek alarmingly.
Hadrian Ames, Eighth Duke of Clayton, is on his way to dinner with his family and his prospective bride when he’s waylaid at a taproom by an ice storm. He has not seen his intended, his seventeen-year-old (yikes!) second cousin Lady Ellen, since they were adolescents, and his lateness does not provide a positive impression. Yet he is determined to capture this “perfect bride”.
His valet, Chumley, disapproves the reason for his master’s having journeyed so far from home – the pursuit of liquor – but then a small boy and his mother appear, and Hadrian’s plans go rather sideways.
The woman is American Natalie Fanshawe, and her adopted son, Leo, is the pirate-obsessed boy who disrupts Hadrian’s intentions. Natalie plans to escape their life of drudgery, by opening a school for the poor in the city, and to unite Leo with his British relatives, but it’s a hard row for her to hoe alone.
Hadrian offers her a helping hand, and the two of them begin to develop feelings for one another. But how can a duke who wants to marry an aristocratic miss ever find true love with a common girl?
Well, it’s a romance novel – they’ll find a way. The problem with Forever My Duke is that it doesn’t go about things in a unique or inventive way, resulting in audience fatigue, even though the romance itself is generally all right.
Natalie and Hadrian are decent people, though Hadrian’s obsession with finding the perfect wife does grate, and Natalie occasionally lacks backbone. Their romance is sweet and fairly supportive; I liked that he was willing to stand up to society for her.
The minor characters provide some of the best parts of the novel, specifically little Leo, who is hilarious and comes across as a real kid rather than a plot moppet..
After a while though, the reaction to this American-girl-with-her-American-ideas-and-low-class-birth-Does-Things by the various monocle-popping members of society became totally annoying. I could’ve used with a lot less stereotyping and a lot more general fun and silliness. The downbeats, the inevitable kidnappings – I’ve seen them all before, and seen them better written.
Forever My Duke is just average. For some, it might be exciting. But for me, it was tragically nap-inducing.