The Very Daring Duchess
by Miranda Jarrett, historical (2001)
Sonnet, $6.50, ISBN 0-7434-1792-5


The Very Daring Duchess is a very difficult book to dislike. Similarly, it is also very difficult to rave about it because it is Very Average. It's neither here nor there - in The Phantom Tollbooth-speak, this book is right in the middle of the Doldrums.

Let's see, Daddy's girl and artist (you know, that sort of heroine) Francesca Robin is desperate, in need of money, the usual. Stranded in Naples right before Napoleon sticks his fat ass into the British territory, she has to get out. But how? Well, she tries to raise money by selling fake art stuff to British soldiers, but she is caught in the act by Edward Marsden (hard-hearted, doesn't believe in love, hates daddy, war hero, et cetera).

Still, Edward decides to marry Fran so that she can board the Navy ship and flee to England. They will annul the marriage when they hit English shores, and look, that record player is playing the same old tune again.

See, the main problem lies in the portrayal of the characters. Okay, Edward is strictly stereotypical with all the usual baggages and irrational mistrust of all womankind. Fine. Fran is a different story. Supposedly a resourceful heroine who has lived on her own after Daddy died, this woman, however, is written as the usual indecisive, hand-wringing, can't-lie tell-truths-even-if-I-die nitwit. Now, unless someone tells me this author's Naples are run by Tweedledum and Tweedledee, I think this story doesn't make much sense in the heroine department.

The relationship between these two are predictably hot and cold, with our heroine scrambling and jumping around to prove to Edward that she is Not Like The Others and she Deserves His Love. Eh. To top it off, the author and Sonnet don't even want to keep a semblance of mystery where the plot is concerned. Fran is not a countess. Edward is somewhere in the middle of the inheritance queue (he's a middle son). And see the title? The Very Daring Duchess. Anyone for a mystery novel titled The Butler Did It? Granted, you could argue that this is a romance novel where the emphasis is on the romance, not the plot. But the romance is lackluster. Give away the plot in a lackluster romance, no matter how lackluster the plot is in itself, and there will be absolutely nothing left to recommend The Very Daring Duchess for.

Rating: 65


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