The Confessions of a Duchess
Several times in my life I’ve met people who seemed quite nice – not ostentatious, perhaps rather bland, but nice, which is always a good thing. And then I get to know them, and their idiosyncracies become annoying little habits, and their companionship begins to pall. Which describes my reaction to The Confessions of a Duchess to a T.
Laura, Dowager Duchess of Cole, and Dexter Anstruther were lovers four years ago, after which they parted acrimoniously. Now they are reunited in the town of Fortune’s Folly, where a grasping squire has resurrected a medieval law that allows him to collect half the fortunes of all unmarried women. With women scrambling to get married, this effectively turns the spa resort village into the première Marriage Mart of England.
And that’s about all I’ll say because even recounting the plot is a chore. It suffers from a distressing accumulation of utter banality married with complicated contrivances piled one atop another. Of the former, we have Reunited Lovers, Heaps of Mental Lusting Between Reunited Lovers, Future Heroes and Heroines Aplenty, and the Secret Baby (no spoiler, because I guessed it from just reading the back cover, and anyway it’s explained within the first twenty pages). Of the latter, we have a machinating local squire and his schemes, Laura & Future Heroines foiling said schemes, Future Couples Aplenty (again), two half-assed suspense plots, and a battle of the sexes. Plus a Secret Baby, and a primary love story. In short, there is just too much.
It doesn’t help that the Ms. Cornick feels the need to repeat herself over and over and over again, whether it’s the hero’s mental lusting, his motivations, or the heroine’s mental lusting and motivations. Or whatever. This is a 376-page book that, in the hands of another author, could easily have been a jazzy 300. I got it the first time – I don’t need to read it a forty gazillionth time. Because by forty gazillion, my eyes have permanently found a new home in my frontal lobe.
On the plus side, the age difference was portrayed very nicely (Laura’s the elder by eight years) – I never doubted their mutual attraction and respect. On the down side, maybe that’s because a) Laura does not act like she’s thirty-four, and b) after reading that they look at each other with lust for the forty gazillionth time, I get it. Also on the plus side the scheming local squire bit had the potential to be a cracking good setup for a battle of the sexes royale. But it’s discouraging (and boring) to read the bits that are supposed to be funny, and not crack a smile at the heavy-handed humor. As a down side, that’s very, very down.
You know, of those acquaintances I mentioned above, some have since become very dear friends because time has allowed either or both of us to become different people. Since The Confessions of a Duchess will never be in a position to change, it will be I who have changed my opinion. But you will excuse me when I say with confidence and intuition that that will never happen.