Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-052841-9
Historical Romance, 2006
Adele Ashworth’s Duke of Scandal by right should work really well on me since the hero and the heroine are well-matched (which is to say, the heroine is not on a moronic rampage in a plot from hell) and there is pretty good sexual tension between them. The hero is nicely done with a mix of strengths and imperfections. But I constantly find myself putting down this book while I’m trying to finish it. Is it the writing style? Is it the presence of some predictable and clichéd pivotal scenes in this story?
Olivia Shea runs Nivan, a Parisian perfume house with some pretty impressive clients such as the Empress Josephine. Unfortunately, she makes this mistake of falling for Edmund Carlisle’s charms and marries him after a whirlwind courtship. He disappears after the wedding night – conveniently without consummating the marriage – with her money. Ooh, the outrage! Because Nivan is in trouble without her funds, Olivia travels to London to locate her missing husband, only to encounter her brother-in-law and Edmund’s twin Samson.
Samson is bored of the ladies of the Ton. They all look and sound the same, it seems. Funny, I feel the same way sometimes when I’m reading a historical romance novel. Olivia intrigues him enough for him to agree to help her find Edmund. But this means he has to pretend to be Edmund in order to draw his naughty brother out of hiding, and this deception also means that Sam will have to confront the issues that he has with his twin brother.
I like Olivia as she is generally smart and I like the fact that I can read this story without fearing that Olivia will pull some master plan out of her behind, a plan that no sane person would ever come up with. Sam is interesting as he comes off like a dark and brooding mastiff at times but when he thaws, he does so beautifully.
And yet I can’t really get into this story. I suspect a big part of my inability to do so is due to the fact that Duke of Scandal could have been so much better, a keeper maybe, but instead it chooses to be bogged down by some clichés that jar me from my reading. Olivia’s feelings for Edmund versus her feelings for Sam, for example, are well-done but they are too simplistic for me. Several aspects of Olivia’s personality are clichéd, such as her feelings about love and duty, as are several aspects of Sam’s personality. The author also comes up with situations that allow her main characters to remain in close proximity and even naked together in an effort to push the relationship somewhere, but these scenes strike me as clichéd and even forced at times.
I generally enjoy reading Duke of Scandal, which is good since the author’s books for Avon until now don’t really work well on me. But at the same time, there are many things about this story that strike me as clichéd and therefore ordinary. The characters could have been so much more given that they are this close to breaking out of the formulaic mold, but at the end of the day they really don’t. As much as I enjoy this story, a part of me will always wonder what will this book be like if the author discards all concessions to the formula. This part of me remains disappointed with Duke of Scandal even if on the whole this book gets a two thumbs up from me. I guess I’m either too hard to please or I’ve read too many historical romances and have grown jaded by the formula and clichés as a result.
Still, it’s nice to know that Adele Ashworth can still pack a punch. Let’s hope her next book will floor me completely instead of just a middling sucker punch like the one that Duke of Scandal delivers. Come on, Ms Ashworth, you know I’ve said some mean things about your books. This book could have been a keeper yet it still came in so close yet so far away from the bulls eye. Don’t be shy. Just ask Eloisa James, I’m nice when I’m made to eat my words. So bite off my ears, give me your best shot, make me eat humble pie!