Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-268548-3
Historical Romance, 2018
People, take a deep breath and brace yourselves, just in case, because the entire premise of the Misadventures in Matchmaking series is going you to either squeal in delight or cringe painfully. How to Forget a Duke is the first book in the series, which means there are plenty of opportunities in future books to either descend deeper in search of the bottom of the barrel or soar to the heavens. It perfectly encapsulates everything about the series that will either drive away or draw in people.
The author describes this book as Jane Austen’s Emma meets Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity, and then ruins it by being too self-referential and having the heroine of each book in possession of a very special edition of Emma. Apparently Emma Woodhouse is now an intelligent and benevolent matchmaker whose successful union of penises to vaginas caused the world to become a better place or something, and these ladies want to emulate the matchmaking goddess in everything they do. Hence, the Bourne Matrimonial Agency is born.
It’s not that these ladies want to roll in money, mind you. That will be crass; we all know good women are not supposed to have mercenary tendencies – they only marry men that just happen to be loaded with lots and lots of money. No, these ladies want to protect people from enduring a terrible marriage like their late mother did, and they do this by investigating the backgrounds of the people who sign up for their services. That way, they will be 100% sure that they will not be sticking some poor soul to some douchebag. This is how we have Jacinda Bourne posing as a house maid in the abode of their latest client, Crispin Montague, the Duke of Rydstrom. You see, Crispin under-reports his wealth to the Agency, and Jacinda must find out why.
Her sisters object, because apparently this will cost them a client, which makes me wonder why these ladies don’t just take the money and do that matchmaking thing ASAP then. But that’s just one of the many contradictory elements in this story, all of which designed to make the heroine and her sisters come off as morons going wild at the dumb-dumb buffet. But dumb dumb heroines are what the author built her career on, so I suppose she’s just gone back to her roots.
At any rate, I hope you are not expecting Jacinda to be an expert spy like the dude in The Bourne Identity, as intelligence is so unbecoming on a romance heroine. Our heroine naturally flails and gets caught. It’s not like even her undercover tendencies are secret – Crispin just has to set her attorney on tracking dog mode and voila, he learns all about her ways. Seriously, how on earth does Bourne Matrimonial Agency stay open for this long without being sued or burned down? Anyway, our heroine loses her memory and ends up in the care of our hero. See, she’s truly a smart, remarkable woman.
It was quite thrilling – the notion of disguising herself as a servant. Though, if that was all it took to excite her, then clearly, she’d led a dull life and wasn’t used to mischief of any kind.
See? How funny! If only amnesiac Jacinda knows that the “real” her lives a life full of unnecessary stunts of stupidity! See, so funny! The author is basically poking me hard in the ribs and yelling into my ear, “See? I am so funny like that! Am I not? So laugh now! Loud!”
Therein lies my issue with this story: the author has a way with humor, yes, but there is a disconnect between what she thinks is funny and what I find funny in this story. This boils down to humor being subjective, of course, and many readers out there find this story funny. That’s fine. I don’t, and that’s fine too. My issue here is that the author labors under this assumption that the heroine’s incessant thoughtlessness and recklessness is rib-tickling funny, and Jacinda deserves to be rewarded for this. The author’s style is also too in-your face and overt to pull off the self-referential humor that she is aiming for here. It is one thing to tell me what the story is inspired by, but the author actually pointing out the self-referential elements in the story (such as the entire Emma thing) is equivalent to a poker player announcing out loud every card she has in her hands before revealing them. That’s not smart or funny, just unnecessarily showy to the point of undermining the author’s own set-up.
How to Forget a Duke has elements of a decent story, hence this one getting two oogies instead of one, and predictably enough, they are all related to the hero. Unfortunately, far too much of this story is powered by the heroine’s complete lack of common sense. And yes, she even pulls that NEVER GONNA MARRY YOU stunt late in the story, as if I needed one last poke in the eye before I reach the last page. Sigh. I need to now work on forgetting that irritating creature.