The Duke's Double
The Duke’s Double is an expanded rewrite of one of Anita Mill’s Regencies. (Why the publisher does not say so on the cover or inside the book is beyond me.) Don’t expect a romp or lots of intrigue, however. This is a story about a hero who committed a nearly unpardonable act, hurting both his wife and best friend, and a heroine who was too proud to set him straight.
Joanna Sherwood was once married to Adrian Delacourt, the Duke of Roxbury. When Adrian’s mother led him to believe that Jo had an affair with his best friend, Gareth, he divorced her. To escape the public humiliation, Jo fled to Italy and married Gareth, even though she was pregnant with Adrian’s child. After Gareth’s death, Jo returns to England with her two sons. It’s obvious to everyone that her oldest son is Adrian’s son. And Adrian begins to have doubts about the past. Were the stories about Jo and Gareth true? Even if they were true, was it all his fault for leaving Jo to fend for herself his snobbish mother?
Both Jo and Adrian find themselves tangled in potential relationships. Adrian’s mother is trying to persuade him to marry a “proper” bride, but the woman she has handpicked for him leaves him cold. Meanwhile, Jo considers accepting a proposal from another nobleman, even if it means leaving Adrian behind forever. However, a crisis forces Jo and her children to stay on Adrian’s estate, leading to some bitter confrontations.
We’ve all read romance novels where one character does something unforgivable, and then finds forgiveness, and love, weeks later. This novel gives a different, and realistic, perspective on the situation. Sometimes, it takes years for wounds to heal. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that both Jo and Adrian were too young and immature when they first married. They’re still haunted by the mistakes they made. The reader gets to see the characters come to terms with the past, and gets a glimpse of the changes the characters have undergone. However, the fact that the “new” Adrian was in many ways still allowing his mother to order his life was frustrating and somewhat unbelievable.
Adrian’s mother is the type of woman who would ruin her son’s life to make sure he marries the “right” woman. Romance readers will be eager to despise her, yet they may be disappointed because the final confrontation with her lacks resolution. On a similar note, they may want to see Adrian’s guests (or rather, his mother’s guests) get their comeuppance. I couldn’t believe that Adrian put up with all these people as long as he did. At the same time, once the snobbish characters were out of the story, the novel dragged.
Your enjoyment of this book will depend on your tolerance for heroes who make terrible accusations, and heroines who refuse to defend themselves because of pride. While I enjoyed this book, I have read other books that dealt with the same subject matter in a better way. In fact, I’m eager to reread Elsie Lee’s Season of Evil to remind myself how a spunkier heroine will deal with baseless accusations.