Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-074058-2
Historical Romance, 2006
This is definitely going to be a “Did we read the same book?” kind of review because while I’ve come across nothing but reviews about how likable the main characters are, I personally find the hero of In the Bed of a Duke, Philip Maddox, way too over the top and ridiculous when it comes to being stubborn, stupid, and asshole-ish. Philip spends his time in this story humiliating, insulting, and basically hurting the heroine’s feelings left and right to the point that I wonder whether Cathy Maxwell is perhaps enjoying a little vicarious experience of her own in torturing her heroine to the point that she gets a little bit carried away, let’s just say.
Normally Ms Maxwell is well aware when her heroes are being assholes and she usually does a good job in getting her heroes to come to their senses and make amends to the heroine. Here, however, it’s basically a “Love! Hate!” story with very little realistic emotional development between the main characters. The thing about stories with problematic heroes is that the author must take the time to depict the emotions of her characters convincingly. I must know why the heroine will still be able to harbor some softer feelings for the hero when he keeps hurting her pride and breaking her heart again and again. I must be able to believe the hero’s change of heart. But the characterization is merely superficial in this book and the story feels rushed from start to finish. Needless to say, I have a hard time enjoying this story as a result.
Charlotte Cameron encouraged her sister to elope with her asshole boyfriend back in The Price of Indiscretion and now she and her sister are suffering from the consequences of being shunned by the Ton as a result. Her sister’s jilted suitor, Philip, is protected by his gender, wealth, and title. In the previous book, I thought Philip was a better hero for that idiot Miranda, but in this book, Ms Maxwell seems determined to prove me wrong. Philip starts off as a very disagreeable hero, a typical English aristocrat who doesn’t care about anything that doesn’t benefit him or his family name. No matter, Ms Maxwell could always forcefully emasculate him later. In this story, Charlotte is on her way to Laird MacKenna’s place in Scotland with full intention of marrying that man. Philip is on his way there too, but for a different reason: he learns that the Laird is responsible for the kidnapping of his twin brother when they were both infants. He wants to find his twin brother, whom he has thought dead all these years. He and Charlotte meet when she gives him a ride in her carriage one stormy night without catching a glimpse of his face until until it is too late. It goes downhill from here.
Philip does plenty of very disagreeable actions guaranteed to make my blood boil, from deliberately seducing and deflowering Charlotte so that he can blackmail her into cooperating with him in exchange for his keeping her ruination to himself to his constant shag-and-humiliate routines when it comes to Charlotte. I honestly do not know if Ms Maxwell wants to portray Philip as a silly man or a cruel one because he’s both. Even when he believes that he loves Charlotte, he proves it by going at great lengths to crush her pride some more. And Charlotte, that stupid woman, proves that perhaps the Cameron women are genetically inclined to be doormats and punching bags for the Ike Turners of Regency England because she keeps coming back for more. The “change of heart” thing takes place in the last four pages of this story when Philip miraculously decides to love Charlotte freely (I say “miraculously” because it happens out of the blue – wham, just like that) and Charlotte doesn’t even care. She understands. Seriously, the author actually uses the ugly U word to get Charlotte to magnanimously take him back without him even groveling a little.
The author rushes through her external plots as much as she rushes through the paces of the relationship of Philip and Charlotte. The conflict between Philip and his twin brother could be poignant and heartrending were not for the fact that Philip is such an asshole that I end up screaming for his twin brother to rip out Philip’s piggy offals with his bare hands and use them to make haggis for the dogs.
There are some interesting things about this story, such as the dramatic Blood Brothers-type conflict between a twin brother who has had everything and a twin brother who has just lost everything, but Ms Maxwell rushes through this story to the point that characterization is too shallow and the plot relies too much on coincidences and wild melodramatic acts of arrogance and stupidity from the males in this story as well as unbelievable depths of tolerance and understanding of such antics from Charlotte. Everything about In the Bed of a Duke feels like a rushed effort or at least one written under circumstances not favorable to the muse.