Anna And The Duke
by Kathryn Smith, historical (2002)
Avon, $4.99, ISBN 0-06-447338-4


This book makes me feel like thirteen again, and I don't mean that as a compliment. If I wake up one day and realize I am back to being thirteen again, I will probably jump off the window ledge. Was I ever that ridiculous as the heroine Anna Wesley when I was thirteen? (Of course, this book claims that Anna is 18, but that's like 18 going on 10.)

Maybe it is pure marketing genius to create a book that is filled with stereotypical teenage angst. Or maybe True Romance is Avon's nefarious plot to start 'em young so that these lil' tykes will grow up to buy Avon's "Adult Romances" like brainwashed zombies. Either way, I find the whole thing shallow. Shallow can be fun if it's done with a healthy dose of snark (Clueless, anyone?), but in this case, Ms Smith seems to believe that what she is writing is True Romance.

Anna Wesley wants to marry for love. Of course, as a daughter of a rich shipping magnate, it is rich that she is lamenting and sighing over an arranged marriage when there are so many people worse off than Miss Thing here in London. When will these Misses Thing learn that their condescending befriending of their maid (who, in addition to having to clean and cook and all, also has to accompany such said heroines on crazy missions) do not make them samaritans? Of course, she doesn't love her Richard beau because Dick here is proper, boring, and doesn't speak in Byronesque bombastics to her. Her momma is a bitch, her daddy is Anna's dearly beloved, and oh yeah, big brothers are always evil but the Older Family Male Friend? Be still, my immature, barely estrogenic ovaries, er, I mean, heart.

The hero is Ewan MacLaughlin and he comes to town, blowing Richard away as he is revealed to be the heir of the estates and all. Emma loves Ewan because he reads and quotes Byron beautifully. Of course, his now being a titled guy instead of Dick has nothing to do with this, no, no, no. Dick, like all big brothers, is evil evil evil, and Emma's mother is a bitch. Dick plots evil and promptly gets the boot, while Ewan learns that his father really loves him after all. (Daddy is always forgiven because Daddy Is The Best, die Mommy, why don't you die?)

Filled with vapid girly philosophies of love more appropriate to a Seventeen pop quiz, Anna And The Duke bores me, I'm afraid. It is a study of a teenaged girl's hypocritical antics and selfish desires, but the author seems to be laboring, oblivious, under the concept that this book is really a True Romance thing. If it has been more aware of its weakness (it's overfidelity to romance novel formulae, only dumbed down even more for teens) and cheerfully revels in it like those adorable dumb-blonde-wins teen movies out there, it may just be fun. But alas, it hasn't, it didn't, and it isn't.

Rating: 64


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