Rant, Review

Review: A Governess in the Duke’s Darkness by Abigail Agar (2018)

Heat Factor: no idea

Character Chemistry: didn’t even get that far

Plot Development: there might be one

Overall: Did Not Finish

The hero in this story is the Duke of Wellington. I really should have stopped there, but I was looking for something new and different, and it seemed to be positively reviewed, and how bad could it be? Absolutely terrible, that’s how bad.

The hero is the Duke of Wellington, a man so famous in the early 19th century that he becomes a bit player in numerous Regency romance novels. But wait! This Duke of Wellington is not Arthur Wellesley, fourth son of the Earl of Mornington, famed field marshal of the Napoleonic Wars, and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Indeed not! How could he be? That would be silly. He’s Adolphus Caldwell, and although he’s the heir to a dukedom, his family allowed him to become a soldier who actually fights on the Peninsula. But why wouldn’t they do that when the family’s sole source of income is their musical instrument manufacturing business?

I should make a note that this book is written in such a way that it is a serious Regency romance and not an intentionally absurd romantic comedy. I promise, I do have a sense of humor.

Aside from the Duke being (not) Wellington and apparently having to work for his living (actually at the shop, not managing from afar at his estate), which I possibly could have gotten past, the Duke is mostly horrible and the writing is entirely horrible.

Okay, okay, the Duke is mourning the death of his beloved wife, and he’s not coping well. Also, he’s going blind, and if his business fails he won’t be able to provide for his family (again, what?), so it’s a stressful situation. His four children are being neglected due to the fact that he doesn’t want anyone else to take care of them except himself because he doesn’t want other relationships to dampen their relationship to their mother, but he’s impatient, emotionally selfish, and unable even to speak about his wife. In the first chapter, he’s thinking about how much of a burden he’s put on Claudia, his eldest’s, shoulders since she’s the one minding the younger children in an attempt to avoid their father’s emotional abuse (and deal with their own mourning, I should think), and yet: “Claudia was, truth be told, probably his least favorite, the one that he most blamed when things went wrong.”

Then: “…he, Adolphus Caldwell, was the reason that she felt unsafe, that she felt she was meant to ensure that her siblings were happy, content….” Mind you, Claudia is eleven. So yeah, you ARE actually failing as a father, Duke.

Presumably the author is attempting to set up the poor, overwrought Duke such that he and his family can be rescued by the emotionally intelligent, compassionate governess (appearance TBD), but she is not succeeding. He’s just awful and probably enormously depressed, so much so that I was turned off in the first chapter, but I told myself to give the book a chance and read a few more chapters. By chapter two we had arrived at: “He decided not to reprimand [his employee], as it felt too difficult–coming up with some sort of punishment. Instead, he decided to belittle him, ensure that he knew that, without the Duke, he would be out of a job.” A real class act, this Wellington.

While all this misery was occurring (both for me and the characters), I was constantly distracted by atrocious writing. Agar does not attempt to write in a style that jives with the period, using phrases and words like, “bum leg,” “electric green,” “kid,” “mess it up,” and, a pet peeve of mine, “major” as an all purpose descriptor for any and all large, important, or significant things.

When a word is misused here and there, it might be jarring but ultimately does not detract from the story. In this book, words are so commonly misused, and sentences are so nonsensical, that reading becomes a slog:

“Marybeth’s fingers had graced along the edge of the Duke’s.” What does that even mean?

“Always, she was worried about the Duke, trying to ensure that he didn’t fall into one of his ‘irritant’ moods…” I wonder what an “irritant” mood is? I suppose my moods might be an irritant to my husband at times, but somehow I don’t feel Agar was trying to communicate that.

And then this is somehow a sentence: “As the one you hired just last week has taken off in the middle of the night.” I’m all about non-sentence “sentences” for emphasis or other stylistic purposes, but this is not that.

Then this happened about halfway through chapter two: “They’d also been contacted by the Duke of Earl…” and I said NOPE, and shelved this heinous insult to good smut.

Buy Now: Amazon

(Or if this review turned you off but you really really want to see if it’s truly all that bad, it’s free with Kindle Unlimited.)

2 thoughts on “Review: A Governess in the Duke’s Darkness by Abigail Agar (2018)”

  1. Badly in need of a grammar checker. And the correct address to a Duke is Your Grace. Never Sir, never Duke, never My Duke. Surely the word Ms. did not appear until long after Georgian times. And all those parentheses! Ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually Ms first appeared in the 17th century and was in use but fell out of favour around the early 19th century and reappeared in the 20th


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