by Adele Ashworth, historical (2007)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-112857-8
The Duke's Indiscretion is so all over the place that it is as if this is the round robin work of several authors who did not bother to communicate with each other before they each take over from what the previous author left off.
The story starts out pretty intriguing. This is set in the Victorian era, but the differences between this story and a typical Regency story are cosmetic in nature, if you ask me. Still, we have the musical prodigy-type heroine Charlotte Hughes who braves the disapproval of her brother to pursue a career of a soprano on stage under the stage name Lottie English. Our hero, Colin Ramsey, is the Duke of Newark and one of the zillions of noblemen who are affiliated with the Crown. For three years he has been a besotted fan of Lottie English.
It happens that one day he is tasked with the purchase of a pianoforte from the Hughes household, a week or so after he finally decides to approach Lottie English to see if she is willing to be his mistress. He meets Charlotte but doesn't recognize her as Lottie because this woman wears glasses and lacks make-up on her face. Hey, this works for Clark Kent so it's not as if Ms Ashworth is operating without precedence here! Okay, Colin is supposed to be this master forger, so I don't know what Ms Ashworth's excuse is. Charlotte, meanwhile, decides that this is her opportunity to get a life that she wants from Colin. She offers him a deal: if they get married, he'll get his heir and his roll in the bed with his darling Lottie English while he will sponsor her trips abroad when she wants to become Europe's new Mariah Carey. He agrees.
Of course, this story will then be only a hundred pages long if there aren't problems afoot such as mysterious accidents targeting Charlotte when she's on stage.
Oh boy, it seems as if the author has no idea what she wants her story to be. Charlotte starts out as an unconventional heroine who will do what it takes to find her place in the world and I am thinking that I can get to like her when, a few chapters later, the frenzied attempts to force Charlotte into a less controversial heroine start coming. I don't know if this is the author's own voluntary subjugation to the masses or this is editorial hijack, but either way it is a big mistake, I feel, to have Charlotte revealing to Colin and the reader that she is strangely untouched by her life on the stage.
For example, Charlotte does not even have a grasp of the concept of birth control. She is stunned at the possibility that you can have sex without getting pregnant, which is really strange if you ask me since I'm pretty sure female performers on stage, who get protectors very often, will know much about birth control methods as getting pregnant can be disastrous for their career. It doesn't get better from there. Charlotte seems to believe that you actually wear a lingerie to sleep in it rather than to seduce the man. She is also clueless about much of the psychology that goes into the sex act that it is really hard to imagine that this woman works on the stage unless she's one of those very stupid people who cannot pick up anything from their surroundings.
And, predictably, despite her being the one who offers to make the marriage a business-like transaction, Charlotte is also the first to whine about the husband loving Lottie English rather than Charlotte the Dim-witted Warbling Hen. I don't know what this woman expects since she is the one who uses the lure of Lottie to get Colin to agree to marry her. But then again, heroines with selective memories who whine about not being loved just because they think they deserve love once they fall in love with the hero are staple of the historical romance subgenre. Charlotte, despite starting out with an unconventional type, soon degenerates into a whining, moaning, and fickle-minded stereotype of an Oh So Stupid Romance Heroine common in the genre.
I don't know what to make of Colin as well. This man takes three years to approach a singer to become his mistress? It's not as if he's some shy kid fresh out of school, so I don't know what his big deal is. His objections to marriage and his subsequent treatment of Charlotte often make him come off even more immature than the shy kid though, and this is supposed to be a man in his late thirties.
The two main characters are inconsistent and their behavior and psychology are often all over the place that I have no idea what to make of them. They end up going through the motions of reenacting a tedious soap opera that I have come across too many times in average and formulaic romance novels. As a result, I can barely muster any interest to care about the external conflict, because a part of me believes that the world will still move on if poor Charlotte accidentally stuffs a light bulb down her throat and gets electrocuted to death as a result.
The Duke's Indiscretion starts out intriguing but it soon degenerates into a painfully boring warbling melodrama of silly people running around without a clue.
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