The Duke Goes Down
The Duke Goes Down is the first in Sophie Jordan’s The Duke Hunt series. In it, Imogen Bates, local vicar’s daughter, uses rumors to keep her childhood bully, Peregrine Butler, the Duke of Penning before finding out he is illegitimate, from successfully courting an heiress. I generally enjoy Sophie Jordan’s writing, but the pacing here is uneven, and while the characterization of the heroine is strong, that of the hero is less so, and the plot often veers dangerously close to silliness.
This novel opens with a few flashbacks to Imogen and Perry’s childhoods, told from Imogen’s point of view. We see them meet for the first time, and then their last real interaction before the main story begins. In both flashbacks, Perry is unnecessarily cruel to Imogen and dashes her hopes of a mutual friendship.
Ten years later, Perry is no longer the Duke of Penning as it has been discovered that though his parents were married, they were NOT married at the time of his birth. He is suddenly without a title, without a home, and without funds, so he decides his best course of action is to court a local heiress. That endeavor is going well, and this is something Imogen will not tolerate. Because of Perry’s past behavior and the fact that he no longer has money, prospects, and is living with his mother, Imogen decides the women in the town deserve the chance of a better husband – and at the very least, one who isn’t marrying them for financial gain. She starts a few rumors about Perry – his hair isn’t real, he has twelve toes, and he’s a bad kisser – and suddenly, the debutantes once lining up to dance with him want nothing to do with him. Once Perry hears of the rumors, it doesn’t take him long to deduce who has spread them. He confronts Imogen about them, but ends up kissing her to prove her assertions about his lack of kissing prowess completely wrong. It is only after another encounter in which Perry proves what he CAN give a wife – pleasure – before immediately and inadvertently insulting her, that Imogen is finally convinced to about righting her wrongs and correct the rumors.
Imogen is a very well fleshed out character. I got to know her quite well as I read the story, but I didn’t always like what I read. Her inability to get past Perry’s previous behavior when they were children comes across as petty and immature. Yes, he said rude things, but children do that. Her devotion to her father and the townspeople help balance that aspect of her personality out a bit. Perry, on the other hand, is much harder to pin down as a character because we are not really shown how losing his title has affected his life or his feelings but are just told instead. I would’ve liked more scenes of him as just a ‘regular person’ rather than what we got, which is seeing everyone in town still treating him exactly the same as before.
I won’t lie: the rumor part of the plot is amusing in a messed up kind of way, and it does give Perry an organic reason to seek Imogen out. It also gives Imogen the opportunity to grow up a bit and put childish hurts behind her.
This is not an overly plot-driven title, although a few more dramatic scenes do occur, and because of this, the story drags in some places, mostly before Perry and Imogen begin to realize they are attracted to one another.
I am a big Sophie Jordan fan and while her titles are often fun and frothy, this one just didn’t work for me. Uneven pacing and lack of character growth on the hero’s part kept me from enjoying it as much as her other works.
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