Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-239774-4
Historical Romance, 2016
According to the author, heroine Lady Dorothea Beaumont is shy and unassuming. That explains why our lady opens the story writing a letter to our hero, Dalton, the Duke of Osborne, demanding that he lets her snoop around and manhandle the artworks she sees lying around his country home after getting a tour of the place from his housekeeper. Wait, does a housekeeper have the right to let guests wander into her employer’s home? Never want. She also sees some unopened parcels that she is confident to contain artworks, and she must be allowed to open them and touch them. When his lawyers send a polite letter basically telling her to go impale herself on a spike, she decides to open those parcels anyway and ooh, shinies.
She then goes back to London to demand that he allow her to touch his paintings. Hence, our heroine – whom you must remember is shy and unassuming, according to the author – interrupts the hero when he’s getting ready to dry hump the hostess of a party they are both invited to, to insist that she gets to leave her grubby fingerprints on the supposedly priceless artworks of a man who doesn’t even know her. Now, I’m sure that some readers will smile and think how precious and adorable Thea is, but me, I can only say, “They should have let me die in Roanoke…”
Meanwhile, Dalton has been drinking and debauching himself left and right, but ah, readers, this is not the action of a manslut! He’s actually a lovable sad man who just want to locate the villain who murdered his brother and… I don’t know. Maybe he expects the sky to part and an angel will come down with a giant neon sign with the name of the killer if he commits adultery with six million women? He shags women because apparently these women are so unhappy in their lots as widows or unloved wives that his mighty penis floods their barren lives with overflowing joy. He spends a lot of time in gambling dens to humiliate and defeat his targets as a show of tough love, to get them to repent from gambling. And so forth. And believe me, the author is deadly serious – and sober, I’d presume – when she shovels all this horse crap at my face.
At any rate, Dalton can’t have Thea draw too much attention to his oh-so-discreet undercover assignment of being the most infamous rake in London, so he decides to make her popular and drown her with fun things that popular ladies do, leaving him alone to continue to strike a blow against the hypocritical Ton. While claiming that the Ton are all heinous villains who toy and oppress their victims without remorse, he openly waltzes with Thea and then places her name in the betting book of his club. Another blow against hypocrisy!
I’m still not sure what happened next, but Thea is upset when she’s now popular – apparently, having the most over-ridden town bicycle pay attention to her suddenly brings all the boys to her yard – and she is fuming mad because all her life, she only wants to either be a bluestocking living in the country or, once she’s seen the vivid paintings in his house, she now wants to run wild and let Dalton finger her all he wants. Hey, he’s a gentleman who respects women – he has the courtesy to leave Thea a technical virgin for quite a long time, so all of you better respect him or else the author will extend this story by another 200 pages.
Anyway, she charges into his house only to find him naked – well, that’s new, snort – they travel to Ireland under false identities to… uh, do something. Oh no, sleeping arrangement woes – how will she get him to molest her into happiness without coming off too much like a slut and have romance readers give her finger? Lots of lusty thoughts and awkward comedy, of course. There’s a highwayman, the heroine wanting to travel discreetly by telling everyone she is our hero’s mistress, our heroine scolding and lecturing everyone in fearless feats of stupidity, our hero moaning and groaning because he really wants her bad but oh, so many angst to deal with, and OH MY GOD, JUST KILL ME ALREADY.
The only sole good use of If I Only Had a Duke is that this book can be used to swat mosquitoes, flies, and other creepy crawlies that happen to come too close. Or, if reading this book becomes too painful, I suppose one can end the pain by bashing this book hard against the head until one becomes comatose. But to reach that point, one has to read this book, and the million dollar question here is: why the hell is that person reading this wretched thing in the first place?