Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-210034-4
Historical Romance, 2016
Lady Clara Fairfax is very, very beautiful and she is also very, very intelligent, which surprises our hero Oliver Radford because he is convinced that women rank below gerbils when it comes to brainpower.
Top of the list of the brainiest of the brainy is, of course, himself, as he is confident that there is nobody in this world that can ever match his perfect intelligence. Every time he has an orgasm, he screams out his full name and, even louder, “Sona si Latine loqueris!” Oliver is very busy playing the best barrister that has ever lived, and if you want to tag along his rear end as he makes his rounds of awesomeness, you have to pass a test by reciting his awesome courtroom machinations to his face. I wish I’m kidding, but that’s what Clara has to do here to be allowed the privilege to breathe the same rarefied air as him. Clara needs his help to find a missing brother of one of the young ladies in some vocational center for the homeless, the fallen, and something something that she helps out in – she wears the best clothes to show up at the school, make a few turns to dazzle those girls whose faces are pressed against the window, and be content that she has blessed them with her presence and made them forget the hopelessness in their lives for a few seconds, and I really wish I’m kidding about that. Okay, she also helps out by doing some snooping around, but that act of showing off nice dresses to poor girls whose job is to make dresses for people like her is laugh out loud in the most cringe-inducing manner ever.
Anyway, the rest of the story is about the most intelligent man ever, Oliver whom every one of us should aspire to evolve to one day, doing his thing while mocking Clara for never going to ever match his intelligence even as he quietly squeezes his thighs together tightly and inhales her perfume each time she’s nearby, and Clara is like, oh, he’s so vexing but he makes her feel so hot with all the constant mocking condescension and patronizing daddy-knows-best antics of his, so she wants him. There is a marriage somewhere in here, and at the end of the day, they trample the bad guys and Oliver acknowledges that, okay, maybe Clara is worthy of basking in his aura for the rest of her life, so she can go ahead and bear him kids. Other people are still gerbils, though, and they can just die of disappointment of being deprived of a chance to breed with him and produce kids that they can only hope will be half as smart as him.
Unfortunately for Dukes Prefer Blondes, I spent way too much time in the academia world, and I have developed an instinctive revulsion to people like Oliver. I know, Oliver is fiction, but – and I don’t know if the author should be given lots of credit for this – his behavior mirrors in eerie accuracy some of the most annoying jackasses I had to deal with back in those days, so I find myself gritting my teeth and wanting to throttle something, somebody, every few pages. I know, I know – ventis secundis, tene cursum – but I really don’t know why the supposedly intelligent Clara can bear to be in Oliver’s company for more than ten minutes before doing a flying kick at his face.
This is another story where things mostly just happen. Most of the drama involving street kids and other riffraff are designed to make the main characters look noble, but the bulk of the tale is about getting Oliver to crack even a little. I get that. But he’s such an annoying twat, and I can only read so many times about Clara getting exasperated and frustrated with him before I wonder why oh why she is even with him. She complains that she’s looking for someone special to fall in love with, someone who will treat her as something better than an ornament. But Oliver is worse – he treats her with a degree of condescension that makes it obvious that he’s constantly surprised that she can use her brain to string two words together. I know he’s supposed to be a nicer person in the end, but that’s because I know I’m reading a romance novel and there is a happy ending. Clara doesn’t know that. For all she knows, she’s putting out to a guy who always acts like she’s a burden to him because she will never measure up to his intelligence. So why is she putting herself through all that nonsense? I don’t get it. Maybe that darling likes it when men treat her like that.
Dukes Prefer Blondes, but I prefer taking a baseball bat to the hero’s head. The heroine could do better, but since she’s willing to settle, I guess she’s not as smart as I thought. Great, now I sound like Oliver. God, I hate this book.