Wicked Dukes Club, Book #1
Heat Factor: Not very much seduction
Character Chemistry: Woman sniping at man is usually good chemistry, right?
Plot: The only way I can have my dream is to be single, so please step off
Overall: Pretty consistently frustrating
The premise of this story is: Brilliant heroine avoids marriage so she can lead her double life secret crusade to save the world. Duke with something to prove and a penchant for taking dares can’t resist meddling in brilliant heroine’s life.
On the whole, the story is engagingly written, and the back-and-forth between the protagonists was believable in terms of chemistry creation. Unfortunately, it also falls into some genre traps, which is the primary focus of this review. It also had some steady pacing and then just … ended. I did not expect the resolution to occur when it did, although for what it was, it was well constructed.
One of my least favorite plotlines is centered on an ostensibly intelligent heroine making a decision about her life and categorically refusing to consider any alternative pathways. This heroine is typically presented as a strong woman, a woman out of time, struggling with the burden of historical limitations on her freedoms. The hero blunders by treating her like fluff, and has to do some level of grovelling in order to get us across the finish line to HEA land. It’s so obnoxious, and this book that’s engagingly written and has likeable characters is a good example of why that is.
Even though she likes pretty things and dancing and human interaction, Diana Middleton has decided that she needs to be invisible in her aristocratic milieu because her contribution to society can only be made by enforcing a weights and measures law (it’s more important that the common man can buy bread than that she attend balls) (which, I grant you, is true). So here’s Diana, on her crusade, deliberately sabotaging the possibility of a relationship (or, really, a life that she actually wants at all, because she does like dancing and pretty dresses, etc.), and it’s for a noble cause, yes, but for a really stupid reason. If she’s so brilliant, how does she not realize that there are alternatives for her to accomplish meaningful work, like playing power games in the milieu of powerful people? She just assumes she has to be someone else (demure and insipid) if she wants marriage. How could she stand on the sidelines of every social event and not see that there are different kinds of powerful women in society? And yet here we are, with Diana’s myopic determination.
In steps our duke, Cole, meddling where he wasn’t wanted, because he can’t resist a dare. He honestly can’t comprehend that a woman wouldn’t want to get married, and all of his actions stem from that assumption. It is a superior and condescending mindset, but not outlandish in the context of 19th century England upper class society. And yet, when Cole develops feelings for Diana, he likes her for all the things she’s doing in her secret life, and he thinks of all the things they could accomplish together. He doesn’t articulate it well, I grant you, but he certainly thinks it. Diana doesn’t think of all the things they could do together. She thinks he wants to change her…So he has to change. Frankly, if the two protagonists, Cole seems more on board with the give-and-take compromise that is the unified path of a long-term relationship. Hence the grovel.
And lastly, it turns out Diana does want to get married, so I guess all the condescension on Cole’s part isn’t that far off the mark. Because we shouldn’t believe women when they say they don’t want marriage, after all.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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