The Duke's Indiscretion
Along with many others in the romance community, I anxiously awaited the last installment of Adele Ashworth’s Duke’s Trilogy. Both of the earlier books in this series garnered B+ grades for me personally. Knowing that Colin’s book was yet to come meant things could only get better – or so I thought. Probably failing in part to a case of high expectations, The Duke’s Indiscretion at times made me feel angry, at other times bewildered, and when reflecting on the book’s lost potential, just plain sad.
Sitting in his box at the Royal Italian Opera House, Colin Ramsey, Duke of Newark, is enraptured by the leading soprano, Lottie English, and enthusiastically cheers each and every one of her performances. He has followed her career to the point of obsession over the past three years and now is determined to not only meet the elusive lady but make her his mistress as well. Colin sees no problem in achieving his objective since no woman has ever been able to resist his seduction attempts. But his preoccupation with the beautiful Miss English causes Colin’s friends to question his judgment.
Charlotte Hughes, sister to the Earl of Brixham, has one love in life and that is performing at the opera. Her mesmerizing voice has made her quite famous, but her true identity must remain hidden since a woman of her standing can never sing in such performances. So, at night Charlotte becomes Lottie and lives the life she loves, then quickly slips into the night to evade possible recognition, returning to her life as the unappreciated spinster sister who causes her brother untold anxiety with her refusal to select a husband and her “tasteless” nightly performances.
One evening, Lottie returns to her dressing room to find Colin waiting within and he wastes no time making his intentions known to her. In his arrogance, he leaves confident that she will accept his offer, but fails to recognize that Charlotte is far from the compliant type (although I think a more accurate description is opportunistic). She immediately capitalizes on Colin’s desire for her by approaching him first to reveal her true identity and to offer a marriage of convenience of sorts. She has something he wants – namely her. And he has something she wants and that is funds to tour Europe, as well as freedom she cannot find in a normal marriage.
Having a sense of Colin’s character from previous books, I knew he was a strong, forthright man with the ability to charm women. And that is what I expected. But, no, Colin is so busy spouting how beautiful and entrancing Charlotte is each time he sees her that the confident, plain-speaking man is lost in clouds of pointless flattery and I wondered, “where did he go?” In the beginning Colin made his views on marriage clear to Charlotte, but as I continued to turn the pages, I realized that any attempts on Colin’s part to hold to his original stance seemed lost in his thoughts yet again of her magnificent beauty.
And Charlotte – I will attempt to hold myself in check and speak only of the reasons her character did not work for me. From the first page of meeting Colin when she states “You may leave, Lucy Beth. I’ll handle him.”, I had no idea that handling would be characteristic of her interaction with Colin, period. Granted, his presence in her dressing room clearly states that his intentions are far from honorable, but I soon lost any initial sympathy I may have felt when I had the unpleasant realization that this woman required the upper hand every time, and that any attempt to challenge her actions or even greet her for the day was likely to be met with downright meanness.
I found it difficult to grab hold of either Colin or Charlotte’s characters, especially in light of the fact that they seemed to change significantly after the initial chapters. Although Colin feels like he has been placed in an unmanly position by Charlotte asking him to marry her, he recovers and thereafter seems impervious each time she emasculates him with her stinging put-downs. His response? To smile or laugh or think that she is adorable or beautiful. I quickly lost interest in both of these characters and, therefore, saw little sexual tension until the last third of the book, when the situation all around gradually improved.
Characters from the two previous books in the series, Duke of Sin and Duke of Scandal, appear several times and served to be a few of the more interesting pages for me although they were clearly the obligatory series reappearances rather than any significant addition to the storyline.
In addition to the aggravations I have already mentioned, this is clearly a book wherein the hero is in pursuit of a heroine who clearly doesn’t want to be caught. This is one of my least favorite scenarios and I had to fight that prejudice the entire book as well, so, before finalizing this review, I decided to let it sit for a while to make certain I was not overreacting in my conclusions. After all, Adele Ashworth is an author on my auto-buy list. But after a day, then a few days, and then finally a week, my thoughts remained largely unenthusiastic. Oh, there is still the wonderful descriptive writing I have come to expect from this author but Colin and Charlotte’s characters, as written, failed to inspire much more than frustration, making The Duke’s Indiscretion a sad disappointment.