Grand Central Publishing, $6.00, ISBN 978-1-4555-8381-2
Historical Romance, 2014
Gisele Whitby is “dead”. She arranged for her own “death” as well as her stepdaughter’s to flee her abusive husband. Of course, she still keeps the name “Gisele” to this day, because every other woman in England has that name. Today, Gisele is also the defender of the downtrodden women, helping them flee their abusers often by arranging their “deaths”. She and her gay BFF need a mule for their latest mission, however: she needs to stop a marriage of a young lady to an abusive asshole… her own husband. So, she decides to “test” people she meets, and it turns out that a drunkard in an inn is perfect because, in his drunkenness, he still stops to help her when she pretends to be attacked by a lout. I suppose simply hiring some muscle from the poorer side of the town won’t do, because that would be too straightforward to make a marvelous romance story?
This man, Jamie Montcrief, is the bastard son of a now dead Duke. The current Duke is not on speaking terms with him, obviously, and he just wanders around getting drunk when he’s not doing odd labor jobs to make ends meet. He decides to go along with Gisele’s offer of employment, so off we go to another story that seems to be constructed in a manner to deliberately exorcise any logic whatsoever from the pages.
Gisele is, of course, selfless to a fault. Instead of fleeing to another country, she stays just outside of town to help fellow abused women. I have no idea how she manages to keep a stash of money to spend on Jamie’s clothes and such, since she doesn’t work and she also spends money on things to help those women in need. Maybe she’s like Moses, money rains on her every morning because she’s so pure and noble like that. I’d think it’d be easier to fake an accident that would take her husband’s life instead of allowing him to continue trying to marry – and kill – his wives, but oh no, heroines don’t do that. So I guess she’d keep thwarting her husband’s efforts to marry?
Gisele is so ridiculously selfless that it’s not long before she’s basically standing right there in a scene, unable to do anything because she doesn’t want anyone to get hurt. She can’t put Jamie in danger. A war hero who has proven so many times to be able to throw a punch – surely, he’d die when he is pitted against a nobleman who has never seen battle before! So, no, our noble heroine refuses to put Jamie in danger – despite the fact that she paid him and bought him clothes and such for this purpose – SHE MUST BE THE ONE TO SACRIFICE HERSELF!
How on earth did someone with such a pathetic bleeding heart nature manage to have a track record of helping so many women again? To do such a thing, she’d need to have some kind of pragmatic or sensible streak to go along with the cunning. She can’t be changing her mind and waffling every other second like Gisele here. Villains don’t need to put much effort to thwart Gisele – her instinctive reaction to martyr herself in the face of even the slightest hint of adversity, by right, should have sunk her during her first mission. Or maybe when she wakes up to have breakfast, starts weeping at the thought of the chicken embryos that died just to ensure that she has eggs at the start of the day, and ends up starving to death.
Then again, this is a dingbat who couldn’t even change her name when she is on the run, so I don’t know why I’m expecting anything more from this creature. She is also a terrible mastermind: she expects Jamie to be honest with her and do everything she tells him to, while refusing to tell him anything about her plans just because. Maybe Gisele isn’t the brain, it’s the men around her that prop her up, because heaven knows, this heroine has no head for planning.
Jamie doesn’t feel real either. Here is a man who supposedly spent time fighting and has done things to turn him bitter and disillusioned with life, but he can be shocked – shocked! – when he learns that Gisele’s husband may have drowned his first wife. All those horrible things in war… and he can still be taken aback by such things in Society, how charming.
Jamie is initially such a drunk that he often drinks into a stupor and forgets what happened the evening before. But after he meets the heroine, who needs liquor anymore? Romance heroes are too virile to be straddled with addiction issues! He may be an ex-communicated bastard of a Duke and most people seem to be aware of this, but he has no problems being invited into balls and such, and mothers even want their daughters to dance with him. I don’t get it – it’s not even like he’s loaded or anything like that. Oh, and you may think that there may be problems with the hero marrying a lady when he’s a bastard, but don’t worry, the author pulls a clichéd stunt to improve her hero’s social status eventually, and it’s a stunt that doesn’t make sense at all in the context of this story.
The hero’s father married his mother before the mother died during childbirth, and there was a record of that. What, the powerful Duke, the hero’s grandfather who was staunchly against the marriage, couldn’t pull strings to get the record of that marriage stricken out? But I guess if we are sensible, then the hero won’t be a Duke, and we can’t have that.
And the “suspense”. It’s really bad. Outlandish developments, over the top evil villain, and a resolution that ties everything neatly in a way that has me rolling up my eyes so much that I start to feel dizzy.
I’ve Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm suffers from idiot plotting from page one to last, and the author is more preoccupied with making sure that Gisele wins the selfless braindead darling of the year award. This story features characters that suffer from either naïveté or cluelessness to an extent that does not ring true for their supposed life experiences, and the villain is ridiculously hammy and overwrought. Kelly Bowen shows here that she knows her genre clichés well, but there is so much more room for improvement when it comes to using these clichés in their proper context so that the story makes sense. This story makes as much sense as the idea of me winning the next United States presidential election.