How To Seduce A Duke
Three pages into How To Seduce A Duke, I groaned. The opening scene: three girls (triplets, no less) are posing as garden statuary in order to spy on the man who has caught the attention of one of the sisters. They are covered in powder, wearing togas, and hiding behind a hedge. Better yet, we soon find that the triplets are supposedly the unacknowledged offspring of the Prince Regent and Mrs. Fitzherbert. This is a small taste of the absurdity to follow.
Mary Royle (“Royle” – get it?), the star of this show, is enamored with the newly titled Viscount Wetherly. The viscount, at first, is equally smitten, much to the chagrin of his older brother Rogan, the Duke of Blackthorn. Even though Mary and her sisters have a sizable inheritance from their father and large dowries, Mary is a penny-pincher, so Rogan mistakenly concludes that she is only after his brother for his title and money.
Rogan makes it impossible for his brother to court Mary and instead does so himself under false pretenses. I never, even at the end when they confessed there undying love for each other, felt that these two even liked one another. The author seems to be going for the old I Hate You/I Love You plot, but it wasn’t pulled off very well, as Rogan and Mary have zero chemistry.
This lack of chemistry was particularly troublesome during the consummation scene, which occurs after Mary’s hare-brained scheme to flirt with Rogan in the hopes that he will be so horrified as to leave her alone. She has a few too many glasses of wine at a party while trying to build her courage, and passes out. Rogan, who sees that she is more than a little tipsy, and slightly unconscious, takes her home. All of a sudden he can’t control himself around her…she thinks it’s all a dream…and then she wakes up in the morning with blood on her thighs. This situation alone angered me, but Rogan’s reaction was worse; he thought the whole thing was contrived to trap him into marriage. In a dramatic novel with more character dimension, this might have worked. But in what is supposely a lighthearted farce, and it was distasteful, to say the least.
The secondary plot involves the sisters, who, along with a group of elderly rakes and an equally elderly lady, hunt for the truth behind their birth. The sections of the book that concern this sub-plot are tedious at best and rather confusing. The sisters’ father apparently kept a box which holds papers and other types of riffraff that would indicate the girls’ parentage. This plot will flow over into the next two books, if my guess is right, and end with a dramatic flair (probably a coronation that will change English history as we know it) in the final book of the trilogy. I am hard-pressed over which plot I disliked more. If I must choose, I would say Rogan and Mary’s “romance.”
I enjoyed the author’s previous title, Rules Of Engagement, and was prepared for another lighthearted romp through the regency era. This, however, fell flat. I wouldn’t recommend How To Seduce A Duke to anyone.