by Christina Dodd, historical (2010)
Signet, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-22933-5
I was glad when I heard that Christina Dodd had a new historical romance. No, I'm not one of those silly people who rend their clothes when an author changes genre from historical romance - instead, I have found the author's contemporary and paranormal romances to be silly at best and vapid at worst. However, In Bed With The Duke suggests that the decay may not be due to the change in setting - this is a historical romance, after all, but it makes those mediocre books look like masterpieces in comparison.
When I first finished reading this book, my impression of it is that it is very disjointed, full of stupid people that get on my nerves, and I have no good idea what the hero actually did in this story. I tried reading it a second time, but it was such a painful experience that I gave up by page 100 or so.
The title is inaccurate, by the way. Michael Durant is not a Duke: he is the heir of the Duke of Nevitt, although he is thought to be dead by his family. He is a political prisoner in a country called Moricadia because the usurpers to the throne suspect him of being against them. But somehow, he still manages to play the Reaper and kill his enemies on cold and lonely nights. I'm not sure of the logistics of that happening - in one scene he's at the ball, meeting the heroine, and then he's the Reaper, stalking the night; maybe he has a very fast horse - but I don't think I'm supposed to care.
I'm sure Ms Dodd would want me to view Emma Chegwidden as a sympathetic heroine unjustly fired by her nasty employer (a woman, of course). But Emma is such a pathetic doormat who is so inept and stupid to boot - she can't figure out directions, for example, so she always get lost when she has to navigate the halls and corridors during a party - that I can't help thinking that it is better for everyone concerned if she will just die in a fire or something. Michael takes pity on Emma and has her installed as the new companion to his captor's wife. Don't ask me how Michael manages to influence his captors, socialize and mingle, and be the Reaper who kill people - my head is pounding painfully already just remembering all this nonsense.
Of course, being sympathetic to Emma means ravishing her despite her constant no, which is fine because Emma is too stupid to know that she really means yes. This is a typical trope of this author, which is how I can believe that this book is written by her and not some pretender from Satellite of Love. Emma is an inconsistent character apart from her perpetual stupidity. She was a doormat where her now ex-employer was concerned, but when she is with her new employer and the hero, she suddenly becomes a tart and even reckless person who constantly asks questions and says things that she has no right to say. All of a sudden, it makes sense why the nasty Lady Lettice made it a habit to smack that woman on a regular basis.
Emma is really, really stupid - I can't say enough of this. I especially love the heroic stunt she pulls in the end. [spoiler starts] Wanting to save the hero from being arrested as the Reaper, she surrenders herself to the enemies, claiming to be the Reaper. Naturally, this puts her in Prince Sandre's clutches, right where he wants her - Sandre doesn't believe her claim of being the Reaper anyway - and forces the hero to come and save her. [spoiler ends] Oh god, why can't these people let that braindead Emma die?
Then we have the plot, which goes on for as long as it does because there are many people who are bloody stupid on both sides. The author knows half of it, as she often has Sandre remark on the ineptitude and sheer idiocy of his people, but she also labors under this impression that stupid people mucking up things is fun to read. Still, it says a lot that, surrounded by so many idiots, Emma still manages to stand out as the biggest idiot of them all.
There are other problems with this story. One, the hero and the heroine barely interact - and when they do have any quiet moment together, they are having sex rather than getting to know each other better. So there is hardly any romance here, just pages after pages of unbelievably stupid people laboring under the delusion that they are the Borgias or something. Two, there are some very obvious contemporary phrases popping up everywhere. Three, there is hardly any character development. Emma is a victim who transforms overnight into a reckless idiot while Michael is just there. Then again, maybe it's because stupid people can't have personalities. Four, the writing is flat. There is too much telling instead of showing, too much hammy villain cackling, and too much abrupt transition from scene to scene.
This book comes with an offer of a refund if I were not happy with this book. Alas, it's clearly an America-only offer, as I'm expected to ship this book back to them before they will offer me a refund. But oh, I'd have loved to get my money back. I'd also love to get my time back, along with my good memories of the author's books that haven't been completely soiled by this total, complete, and utter dud of a book.
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