One Eyed Dukes Are Wild
This review has taken me an absurdly long time to write, most likely because this book took me an absurdly long time to read. For the most part, I read books in two or three sittings – even when I don’t like them I Must. Keep. Reading. One would think a book about a wild, one-eyed duke would be a real page-turner.
One would be wrong.
The Duke of Lasham, known simply as Lasham to his friends, lives a dull life as a slave to propriety. Most of his days are filled with estate management, his nights with an endless round of parties he feels obligated to attend. He’s long since grown tired of society and its fixation on him, but he knows no other way to live his life. He has the vague idea that he might be a bit too stiff, might need something to shake him up, but he doesn’t know quite what to do or what that means… until he meets Lady Margaret Sawford.
Lady Margaret is a Woman with a Reputation. Although she isn’t technically “fallen,” a broken engagement years ago has left her as a bit of a scandal in the eyes of society. Margaret hasn’t regretted it for a minute, though. Her life as an independent woman is full – she still receives invitations to some parties, has a steady income from playing cards and writing a feminist serial called Georgina and the Dragon, and in her spare time she rescues women from abusive homes. In other words, she controls her own destiny.
Margaret and Lasham meet at one of those endless parties, described as “Too much noise, too many people.” This meeting sets off a predictable chain of events. Lasham is captivated by Margaret, finding in her the certain something that is missing in his life. They begin seeing each other quietly, hoping to avoid the notice of the ton. For all her worldly experience, Margaret is new to the business of having an affair, and Lasham is certainly new to the idea of doing anything spontaneous. In spite of a few awkward moments, particularly as pertains to the future of their relationship, they muddle through together.
Right away, I was put off by how frequently Lasham is characterized as dull and overly proper. There’s a difference between dutiful or responsible and outright boring. Lasham—or rather, Vortigern, which is his real name—falls on the wrong side of this line. It’s not only comments from Lasham’s friends about his predictable behavior and misanthropy that cause this. Even before other people comment on how dull Lasham is, it becomes obvious how bored he is with his life. If Lasham can’t even find interest in his own life, how might I expect to?
Margaret, for her part, is initially likeable. By the time she entered the scene, I was ready to latch on to any character that wasn’t dry as dust. Yet I couldn’t help asking myself, “How many women in 1844 could have supported themselves on some minor gambling and the proceeds of Georgina and the Dragon?” And beyond that, how has Margaret survived even this long in her position as Rescuer of Abused Women? We see her walk into multiple scenarios blindly, unprepared for the level of violence she’s met with and desperately in need of Lash’s assistance. I’m not sure quite how she managed her life without her piratical-duke/sidekick, because she’s rather lacking in the street-smarts and worldliness I would expect of an independent woman.
Looking back, it’s clear that Lasham is meant to grow more wild under Margaret’s influence and thus inspire the title One-Eyed Dukes Are Wild. Unfortunately, rather than see him grow more wild, I just saw how Margaret was his foil. Putting these two extremely different characters together, each of whom already had issues with being too boring or too reckless, only made them appear more boring and reckless when together. The intent was to show how a dull duke was secretly wild, but really, he just stays a stick in the mud next to Margaret’s imprudent damsel in distress.
No book is for everyone, and One-Eyed Dukes Are Wild certainly wasn’t for me. If you can get past the annoying bits of Lasham and Margaret’s characters, though, it’s a simple, light read with some enjoyable descriptions of London. In fact, there’s enough skill evident in Ms. Frampton’s writing that I’ll probably seek out another of her books down the road. For the time being, though, this is enough.