The Accidental Duchess
by Jessica Benson, historical (2004)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-6386-2


I have the same problem with this book as I have with books by Judith A Lansdowne - it doesn't take long before I wish that the characters will really just shut their mouths and end their constant prattling. Jessica Benson hasn't fully abandoned the traditional Regency sensibilities with her first full-length historical, so I suspect that traditional Regency fans will be the ones that will enjoy this book the most. Readers more used to historical Regencies will be disappointed, probably.

That's not to say that I don't enjoy my first brush with this author's style. I think that the author's wit and clean prose have their charms, but me being me, I get really impatient when all the characters seem to do is to talk. And they talk about the same things again and again for so many pages to boot. What they are talking about, or rather, what our heroine Gwen can't stop talking about for the first hundred plus pages is that she has married the wrong man. She has married Harry, her childhood intended Bertie's older brother, instead of Bertie! And she learns of this only after "I do" has been done, so she's stuck in a situation she is not too happy about. She is even more exasperated when she learns that everyone knows of this deception but her. Yes, even her parents are in this. So what really happened to Bertie? And why is Gwen falling for Harry, of all the inconvenient things that can happen?

This story is told in first person by Gwen. In the case of this book, I find that the author's tendency to allow Gwen to repeat, reiterate, and explain her every thought, emotion, and feeling over and over again impede the flow of the story. I really want to know what happened to Bertie and I wish Harry is better developed, but Gwen's babbles and internal monologue just keep coming. The problem here is that Gwen isn't too interesting as a narrator. The story feels as if it often makes one step forward only to move three steps back because Gwen can be really repetitious when all I want is the story to move ahead somewhere... anywhere!

Perhaps if Gwen isn't so talkative and the story doesn't seem to be moving in circles thanks to repetitious conversations and internal monologues, The Accidental Duchess would be a quaint attempt to fuse the traditional Regency subgenre with a touch of chick-lit influences in the narrative style. As it is, the end product is less interesting than the concept, I'm afraid.

Rating: 68


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