The Duke and Mrs. Douglas
Donna Simpson used to be one of the few, the proud. Okay she wasn’t a marine, but she was a traditional regency romance writer who told good stories and played the clichés running rampant in other regency trads to good effect. But lately something’s changed. And it ain’t good.
The Duke of Alban wants out of Brighton. The King has been declared mad and doesn’t recognize his loyal followers, including Alban. The Prince of Wales and his cronies are backstabbing and plotting with alarming glee, and Alban has just discovered that his mistress has been selling information about him. What he longs for more than anything is escape. To that end he decides on a visit to Yorkshire to see his beloved aunt – the one constant in his life. Much to his own shame he hasn’t visited her in three years and lately he’s become curious and a little concerned about the woman who is his aunt’s new companion. So with the unexpected and somewhat unwanted company of three of his friends, Alban travels north.
Widow Kittie Douglas thanks God every day for her employment as companion to Lady Eliza Burstead. The job was a life-saver for Kittie, whose husband died and left her nothing but debts. Acting as companion and friend to Lady Eliza, whose failing eyesight makes the job necessary, is just what she needed to regain her footing. The news that the Duke of Alban is coming to Yorkshire for a visit sets the household into a tizzy. Eliza is thrilled that her nephew has finally gotten past his bad memories (beyond the double-dealing mistress there was that unfaithful first wife) and is coming home to see her. And Kittie doesn’t know what to feel. Having been the person to read his letters out loud to his aunt, Kittie has fallen just a little in love with a man she hasn’t even met. When she does meet him, her feelings are further confused because Alban is nothing like the man in the letters. He’s cold and arrogant and disturbingly attractive.
I had high hopes for The Duke and Mrs. Douglas. The set-up of an arrogant Duke who comes up against a woman who’s not impressed by the fact that he’s a Duke almost always works. When that Duke is thrown for a loop, fascinated, and quickly captivated by that woman, the author has already done half the job of engaging me. And that’s where I was, about halfway engaged when Ms. Simpson veered course.
The story started to go south when it became clear that Alban was going to be the kind of regency hero who mistrusts all women because of what his wife’s betrayal. Okay, he has some reason for his skepticism and this could have worked if it wasn’t coupled with a Big Misunderstanding that goes on for far too long. One of the men who came north with Alban is the Earl of Orkenay and he’s made a dead set for Kittie. Alban, who is attracted to Kittie himself, is convinced that she will run off with Orkenay if he asks. What follows is a series of unlikely events designed to keep the misunderstanding going. The straw that began to break this reader’s back occurs when Alban tries to clear the air between them. Unfortunately for the reader, Kittie’s mixed signals only make things worse and perpetuate the Big Mis.
Kittie’s a little too perfectly righteous (sometimes without any good reason for being so) and Alban is all over the place, but I did enjoy the secondary romance between Kittie’s friend Hannah and Alban’s friend Bart. And though Aunt Eliza is occasionally too much of a blind poster child, I liked what Ms.Simpson did with her in the end. Proves there are some interesting people in this book. Unfortunately Alban and Kittie can’t be counted in that group.