Wish Upon a Duke
Erica Ridley’s story about astronomy, fear, and flirtation, Wish Upon a Duke, has a few charming points but subjects us to a hero who thinks that the heroine is a hopeless ninny.
Gloria Goodwin, daughter of a the Royal Navy captain, runs a stargazing lecture at Marlowe Castle called sky-walking – the best way for her to feel slightly more visible against a world that seems dedicated to making her invisible. All she yearns for is to be noticed – especially by a mysterious duke who catches her eye during one of her stargazing excursions.
When compared to his rakish brother Nick, Mr. Christopher Pringle is an enigma and unable to attract even a quarter of the female attention Nick does. Christopher embarked upon the season hoping to find himself a wife, but has instead indulged his passion for astronomy – one that Gloria shares. When Nick announces his betrothal and the banns are posted, women do indeed flock to Christopher – but Christopher couldn’t give a flying fig, as he wants is to emerge from Nick’s shadow, not become his clone.
It’s Nick’s new fiancée’s idea to set Christopher up with a matchmaker – and the matchmaker they select is Gloria. Gloria was smitten with Christopher when he interrupted her sky-walking lecture to expound on his own celestial knowledge, and continues to be attracted to him even though he repeatedly reiterates her belief that she’s very dumb. No matter, however, because Gloria refuses to allow herself a slice of romantic happiness after watching what her father’s death did to her mother.
Normally in such circumstances, Gloria’s preferred choice is to run. But as the connection between her and Christopher grows ever stronger, she is forced to face her fear of both deep, dark water and deep, dark emotions.
Wish Upon a Duke has a few things going for it. The way our hero and heroine bond over astronomy is creative and well-researched, and the idea of their falling in love because of failed matchmaking is fun. Gloria is quite likable and her reasons for being traumatized completely sympathetic.
But then there’s Christopher’s persistence in seeing Gloria as an idiot on and off throughout the story, which is wildly and tragically uncharming. His being annoyed by her lack of factuality or memory is fine (his being unable to stomach her inability to remember the lyrics to The Twelve Days of Christmas is even amusing); him all but calling her a dolt near the end of the book isn’t. I was hoping he’d end up gaining some respect for her eventually, but while he does admire her, his lack of respect for her intelligence did grate.
Wish Upon a Duke is a quick read, and it’s breezy and light entertainment for a winter’s evening. Sadly however, the lack of respect the hero had for the heroine, turned this into a non-starter for me.