Never a Duke
Once upon a time, I read some Grace Burrowes books I really loved. They were rich and historical and character-driven. Never a Duke, unfortunately, is none of those things.
Ned Wentworth is the adopted brother of the Wentworth family because he saved the life of their brother Quinn, now the duke, when he was in Newgate prison. He is, by title, second in command of the bank, but in reality puts most of his waking hours into the enterprise. Until, that is, Lady Rosalind Kinwood approaches him and asks him to investigate the disappearance of her maid. The two slide into affection and a relationship in a way that doesn’t have much conflict. Lady Rosalind hates going out in Society, but Ned knows they can’t marry because there will be gossip about his origins, which will prevent her from going about in society. You can see why this objection isn’t exactly a crisis.
The missing-maid plot is frustrating for two main reasons. First, there is no sense of urgency in the pursuit. I get that investigations go slowly in real life, but the characters seem completely indifferent to how much time is passing; they keep setting up dates and times to meet that are days apart. Second, although we learn who is responsible for snatching the maid – and other women, too – the motivation is nonsense. If the guilty party is doing this independently, which the book suggests, they have zero reason to do so (they don’t profit or benefit, either directly or indirectly). If the guilty party is the middleman, we don’t know who their boss and therefore the main criminal was, which is a gibberish way to end a series.
This book will be a much better fit for people who have been following the Wentworth saga, of which this is the seventh (and apparently final) installment, because everybody who has ever been in one of these books is back. The author actually does a good job of maintaining the characters, including flaws, of these previous protagonists; it’s just the sheer quantity of them that’s exhausting. Everyone has to stick their oar in, and I couldn’t even keep them straight. Well, except for Lord Stephen, who apparently has a limp or leg injury, because the author makes sure to comment on his disability every single time he’s in the scene. Sure, our physical bodies are a part of identities, but do we really need it shoehorned into comments like how Stephen had “come to crave such domesticity, to need it more desperately than he needed his canes”?
So we have a suspense plot that is annoying while in process and unsatisfying when it resolves, perhaps eight or so returning secondary characters who, although at least not rubber stamps of bliss, are not serving a narrative purpose, and a weird writing tic around disabilities. What this book needs, then, is a bizarre coincidence in the finale!
I’ve seen a lot of authors go this way, where they start writing faster and their books get more and more dilute. I’m sorry this seems to be the case here, but I’ll still hope for a return to form, because Burrowes is capable of better.
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I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.