by Blaise Kilgallen, historical (2006)
Liquid Silver Books, $6.20, ISBN 1-59578-227-3
In Blaise Kilgallen's Regency historical The Reluctant Duke, our hero Antonio Thorndyke becomes the new Duke of Weston and gets all the goodies that come with the title after the late Duke of Weston willed everything to him. Is this method of passing on a title historically accurate? I don't know and it doesn't affect the storyline in my opinion, but readers touchy about accuracy may want to take note if Ms Kilgallen is committing a boo-boo here.
Antonio is half-Spanish and his family reside in Spain. When Antonio is made the new Duke, his neighbor and friend Hal Newton (they went to Eton together) decides that it is to his own advantage to introduce Antonio around. Hal therefore decides to throw a supper and invite Antonio along. Hal's sister Caroline however is not to keen on seeing the man who gave her funny feelings when she was a teenage girl and Antonio was her crush. Meanwhile, Antonio in the tradition of Regency era heroes is not happy that he has to marry and pop out an heir, blah blah he wants to be free blah blah blah, but when he sees Caroline he realizes predictably that she's now a hot woman that sets off his fire alarms.
The Reluctant Duke is best off retitled The Reluctant Heroine, if you ask me. I don't know if Antonio is really that obtuse, but he seduces Caroline hoping to get rid of his randy feelings for her and thinking arrogantly that she'll welcome him since her late husband wasn't exactly a firecracker in bed, and then doesn't understand what the problem is when he decides that she's better off as his mistress and she starts reading the Proper Regency Heroine Riot Act on him. She, on the other hand, is that kind of silly woman who can't fight temptation and then gets angry when she gets seduced and realizes that he's only viewing her as mistress material.
Later, she will get randy just thinking about the shag while he alternates between feeling guilt for pushing himself on her and frustration because he can't get her out of his mind and he doesn't want to get married. It is only when he's drunk himself into a stupor that he decides that he doesn't mind marrying her. Common sense will tell you that it's probably not a good idea to do something that only looks good when you're completely foxed but I'm sure you can tell by now that Antonio isn't exactly on intimate terms with common sense. Caroline with seethe with jealousy as he makes his rounds with his mistresses and finally throws herself at him. He then proposes and I'm sure you can guess what her response will be.
And then the story turns into a seafaring one and I feel as if I've somehow jumped from one story into a very different story altogether. The two halves of the story don't come together cohesively and The Reluctant Duke comes off like two halves of two very different stories that end up in the same book by mistake. It's like watching a Looney Tunes cartoon that somehow morphs into a soap opera or something like that. I feel disorientated by the abrupt swift in setting and story direction.
Nonetheless, for the most part, The Reluctant Duke is more about the main characters behaving in far from sensible ways. Caroline, especially, boggles my mind. Why would Caroline sleep with Antonio and then worry that he won't be faithful to her? Shouldn't it be the other way around, worry first and then not sleep with him? This story has the characters behave in ways that seem designed to create conflict. Perhaps their behavior would make sense if the author has done a better job at letting me into her characters' heads, but I'm afraid she doesn't quite succeed there.
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