When Seducing a Duke
I’ve heard good things about Kathryn Smith’s historicals, so when I saw she’d returned to them after a paranormal sojourn I thought, why not?
Here is why not.
Picture this: You’re a gently bred 23-year-old Victorian maiden re-entering the ton after mourning to make a suitable marriage. You’ve been in love with your family friend and kinda-sorta guardian, Grey, for a really long time. But you can’t marry him because he never goes into the social world while you loooove the social life. So what do you do? Well, duh – you put on a mask, go to a skanky masquerade, and sleep with him to get him out of your system.
Now picture this: You used to be one of the worst rakehells ever. But then someone carved up your pretty face and you decided society is shallow and hypocritical and if you go back you’ll fall into your old ways again, so you just stay away. Oh, and lust after your sorta-kinda ward, Rose, and sleep with her lookalike at skanky masquerades.
What follows is an unholy mess. There’s Rose, who is a spoiled brat, and there’s Grey, who is vain and cowardly, and then there’s Voluptuous, a Victorian version of Cosmo that’s just ridiculous. Secondary characters abound, most of whom don’t add much except to bounce around screaming “write my book.” And there’s also the writing, which is ripe with overused and clumsy words and weird swearing like “Christ in a frock coat,” and unbelievably tasteless gems like “he was harder than an oratory competition for mutes.”
With the exception of that last stinker, all of that takes us to page 93. Then page 94 comes along, and Rose blurts out that she is the mysterious masked lover. And Grey says, yeah, he knew all along but continued shagging her anyway because it was nicer to pretend, and why the hell couldn’t she have just kept her mouth shut so they could continue their affair? Now, aside from the fact that when he figured it out is a complete mystery to me, Grey has gone from slightly noble narcissist to undiluted, no-holds-barred, class-A bastard.
I’ll give the author this: She tries. She tries to renew one of the dumbest cliches ever (the mask) by giving Rose an out: Part of Rose wants Grey to recognize her, hoping that will make him acknowledge his feelings. And she tries to renew the rake cliche by making both him and the reader face up to his wickedness and the consequences. Grey was the real thing, a vile seducer of innocents, and in any other book he’d have been the villain. But he has always been good to Rose and her family, and she’s seen nothing but kindness. I can deal with all of that. What I can’t deal with is a hero who takes way too long to get over himself and a heroine who strikes me as more than a little stupid.
You know what the saddest part is, though? There are moments when I can see the appeal to this author’s books. One of Grey’s ex-victims is well written and I might be interested in her story. And once they marry, Rose and Grey show maturity, chemistry, and genuine affection. But based on When Seducing a Duke, unless I hear otherwise, I’m gone. Permanently.