Avon, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-06-222981-6
Historical Romance, 2013
I Married the Duke is the first book in Katharine Ashe’s The Prince Catchers series. Three orphaned sisters Arabella, Eleanor, and Ravenna Caulfield were told by a fortune teller that one of them would marry a prince. When that happened, good things would come, et cetera, so they must never lose that ring that their mother gave them, a ring that belonged to this prince. Since they were kids when they met this fortune teller, I hope their mother stole the ring from a boy and not, say, a wizened old crone, or else fulfilling the prophecy would be awkward. A boy that would grow up to be a straight handsome prince, that is, because a gay prince wouldn’t do any of these darlings any good.
Anyway, this is Arabella’s story. Don’t worry, she’s all grown up now, so this isn’t a book that one needs to hide from the FBI. Of course, from the title of this book alone, clearly the darling isn’t going to marry any prince. She’s a governess, and when the story opens, she needs passage ASAP to Château Saint Revée-des-Beaux to take up a new position. Every other ship is unavailable – chasing Moby Dick, hunting for pirates of the Caribbean, et cetera – so she has to turn to the eye-patched Captain Luc Westfall. At first he refuses, and then he agrees after making her pay an exorbitant sum, and then tries to humiliate her in front of his men by suggesting that she sleep with him (this is how you treat paying customers, so pay attention, kids), and then alternates between asking her to check out his one-eyed hot dog and being the gentleman (she gets seasick, naturally). I guess his current mood – gentleman or lech – depends on whether the last number of the page is odd or even, or whatever the phase of the moon was when Ms Ashe was writing.
As for Arabella, she is sassy, she is spunky – except when she’s all seasick – and she is also another heroine who gambles on getting by once she reaches her destination without much money left on her. Fortunately, Luc keeps bumping into her and helps her out despite her protests. Eventually, she reaches her destination, only to discover that she is a Comtesse – how nice, so the penniless dunce doesn’t have to resort to stripping in bars to pay her bills – and our naval hero is also a French Comte in addition to being the heir of the Duke of Lycombe. Wait, he’s the Duke now. Isn’t France such a wonderful place for great things to happen? I tell you, the last time I went to this place, I discovered that I’m actually a long lost princess of Monaco!
Arabella is like, ooh why all the lies! And do you know that all men tend to treat her like a tramp giving out easy lays for free just because she is a governess? She must keep Luc at arm’s length… well, surely a poke or two is alright, as we need a couple of love scenes here and there to keep the story going, after all… anyway, no love, no love! Lover no loving, swiver no swiving! And on and on these two would go. God spare me from English dolts pretending to be French – they are crazier than the French could ever be.
Technically, there is nothing wrong with I Married the Duke. It’s a competently written story, and the author knows her way around when it comes to pacing and humor. However, I find myself losing interest more and more as the story progresses, as the whole thing becomes increasingly dependent on inability to communicate and the drama that arises from this inability. Why can’t he tell her? Why can’t she just stop and think before reacting in a knee-jerk fashion? Well, they just do. As a result, the story resembles never-ending storms in a teacup that are on the boring and, worse, overdone side. I mean, the conflicts here are typical ones found in historical romances that feature these character archetypes, so the conflicts in this story seems to be planned according to some uninspired formulaic script. It is only the author’s vivacious narrative style that keeps this story for being too much like a by-the-numbers read.