Zebra, $7.99, ISBN 978=1-4201-4347-8
Historical Romance, 2017
The title A Good Day to Marry a Duke is both misleading and accurate at the same time. Yes, Daisy Bumgarten should marry Arthur Graham, the sixth Duke of Meridian, on a good day, but the man she ends up marrying in the end is the duke’s younger brother Ashton. No, this isn’t a spoiler – it is even advertised on the back cover, after all, that Ashton is the hero.
Daisy is raised by her Uncle Red to be the stereotypical tomboy horse-riding-yeehaw-me-drink-alcohol sort, and she initially goes her way to mock and sabotage her mother’s efforts to turn her into a polished lady… until her deliberate beyond the pale behavior during her debut at Mrs Astor’s party causes her, her mother, and her sisters to be social pariahs among the rich folks in New York State. It is at that moment when she hears how the others aren’t celebrating her awesomeness, but rather, ridiculing her and attributing her antics to her less-than-sterling pedigree, that Daisy realizes that she may have gotten her wish to be free of manners and constricting dresses, but she has also dragged down her younger sisters with her. Good job!
I’m so taken aback by this development, as romance authors often prefer to celebrate their heroines’ reckless breaking of society rules without letting these heroines face any consequences of their action. Will the following pages offer a different kind of story?
Sadly, no. Two years later, Daisy’s mother manages to arrange for our heroine to make another debut, this time in London under the tutelage of the Countess of Kew. The countess has decided that the Duke of Meridian will be a nice catch for our heroine, but unfortunately, his brother Ashton has a different opinion of this. You see, Daisy is blunt, upfront, and forward in her behavior, so to our roger-dodger hero, this means that she is likely not a virgin, and hence, a scheming harlot. I mean, she has to be one, since she makes his little soldier stand at attention. So he decides to dog her, fluster her, trip her up in her scheming efforts, and oops, next time they know, they are so macking lips and all while believing that she is going to marry Arthur anyway. So yes, in the end, these two are quite the ho bags indeed.
That’s basically the story; it can be summed up in one word: shenanigans. She does and says things that are meant to be funny, then it’s his turn, rinse and repeat for as long as possible. The author is a pro at this, having been in the business for long, so it’s to be expected that the comedy sort of works. I say “sort of” because, with the lack of a strong plot or even story direction, haw-haw-haw alone gets old pretty fast. I eventually crave for something more substantial,
How about the characters? Well, they don’t have much depth, unfortunately. Daisy is a big disappointment. After her American crash and burn, I’d have thought she would be a little wiser, but she’s still pretty much the same old impulsive and reckless sort. Worse, she isn’t afraid to admit that she harbors sexual desire, but in this story, it means that she has no capability in reining in her hormones whatsoever. Ooh, Ashton makes her horny, so she must kiss him… and more! Seeing how she behaves, I can only feel sympathy for her mother. As for Ashton, he’s the usual rake hero sort, although his distinct lack of crushing, brooding emo nonsense is a nice change of pace.
In the end, how readers react to this story may hinge on how fond they are of Arthur, the older friend. Me, I’m taken a liking to that silly oaf that many people underestimate after a while, so I can only wince when his feelings are crushed once he discovers that his brother and Daisy are making eyes at one another. This is a set up for him to man up and become a romance hero in his own right in a future book, if this story is anything to go by, but still, it doesn’t sit well with me that most people here, including the hero and the heroine, don’t show much consideration for him in this story. Ashton and Daisy come off as very self-absorbed and even petty types as a result.
In the end, A Good Day to Marry a Duke is a decent read, but it’s not very memorable because of its lack of strong story line and emotional moments. It’s a lightweight romantic comedy, nothing too deep, and will be a serviceable read. Just try not to get too fond of poor Arthur, or else Daisy and Ashton may come off pretty poorly by the last page.