The Duke's Guide to Correct Behavior
What is it about dukes? There are an absolute ton (not to be confused with the ton found in oh so many Regency romances) of dukes in Romancelandia. There are dangerous dukes, dukes who can’t be trusted, devilish dukes, in general far too many dukes to count. Well, we can add Dukes Behaving Badly to that mix with Megan Frampton’s first installment of the new series. I have to admit to being on a bit of a duke burn-out, but this book seems to be nudging me back into the duke line.
Marcus did not expect to become Duke of Rutherford – as a younger son, he never expected to become much of anything. He’d rather be out walking. But he knows his duty: to move in society, find a wife, and sire some children. Unfortunately, he seems to be doing these things out of order – he appears to be the father of a 4-year-old girl, Rose, who has just lost her mother. Determined to do the right thing by the child, he sets off to find her a governess, and decides to start looking for a wife. Marcus is slightly less than adept at moving in society, though (seriously, he never expected to amount to much, and looks back at happy memories of walking around, just for the sake of walking), and decides that the new governess would make an excellent teacher for him. After all, a governess is supposed to walk amid society without ever actually being part of it.
Fortunately for Marcus, Miss Lily Russell doesn’t seem to mind taking on a second student, even if this one was older and bigger and more handsome than she was used to. Unfortunately, Miss Lily Russell is holding on to some sort of secret in her past that seems determined to come back and bite her (and the duke) in the….derriere.
There is definitely humor in this story, although some of the inner monologues tread on that line between funny and immature. The romance and the desire between Marcus and Lily kept me interested, and the drama involved with Lily’s past, and starting to introduce Rose to society, was well done. I wish there was more of a villain to the piece – it kinda got glossed over, and I never really found a resolution to the issues with them being together. In the end, I was just missing…that something more. I’m honestly not sure what it is, but in the end I found the book to be a comfortable read – I enjoyed it, but it didn’t quite hit that “love” mark for me.
But it was cute. Marcus is trying so hard to do what is right and expected, but he lacks the motivation to really care about what people think of him – adding a child into the mix is the perfect motivator, because now it’s not about doing what is right for him, but for someone else. He’s the kind of person who needs outside motivation, which is different for a duke in a romance. He’s both earnest and clueless – it’s a heady combination, to be sure. And he is determined not to abuse his status – Lily has to tell him what she wants before he does anything. I liked Lily more than I was expecting – she starts off a bit slow in the beginning, but stands up for herself and, more importantly, stands up to Marcus.
We also get little snippets of the Duke’s Guide before the different chapters, and they are quite entertaining. For example:
If it is in a duke’s power to buy his governess clothing to improve his surroundings, and can afford to do so, he should, despite what his governess’s other opinions might be on the subject.
Little bits of humor, obviously influenced and shaped by the story, had me reading these bits rather than skipping over them (a shameful habit of mine, from far too many fantasy novels with extended excerpts from magical or political tomes). Also, I loved the absolute herd of cats running around Marcus’ home, simply because he doesn’t have the heart to get rid of them, especially after Rose arrives.
I do have to point out that little miss Rose is quite the adorable 4-year-old. Instead of being just another plot moppet, and never seeing the child again after the governess is in the house, we get quite a lot of interaction between not only Lily and Rose, but also between Marcus and Rose – it’s really quite adorable. Rose gets to play a part throughout the whole story, which is nice, along with being the thing that moves the plot along.
So returning to my question: What is it about dukes? And really, it’s not just dukes, it’s dukes that need to be reformed – just a bit – by the right woman. A duke conjures up the Regency Alpha Male – they are strong and capable, and stand up for themselves, their love and their family, however unconventional they may be. Megan Frampton’s Marcus fits in well with that crowd, and I’m looking forward to reading more of the series.