Sourcebooks Casablanca, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-5840-4
Historical Romance, 2013
Lady Vivian Defies a Duke offers a unique interpretation of the word “defies”, as the heroine in question, Vivian Worth, spends a considerable amount of time trying to get the hero, Luke Forest who is the Duke of Foxhaven, to marry her. Vivian and Luke are betrothed in an arrangement between Vivian’s brother and Luke’s father. None of them had any say in the matter when it was done, naturally.
Luke doesn’t want to marry, so he decides to meet the lady in question. You see, he doesn’t want to be the one to break the contract, so he’d like her to convince her brother to break it off instead. Vivian however needs to get married, but she can’t help doing silly things – like skinny dipping just in time for the hero to get a glimpse of her assets – that, under other circumstances, would spell disaster. Fortunately, Luke likes how Vivian isn’t like those boring misses in Society. It’s just that he doesn’t want to marry as much as she needs to get married. So they end up circling each other while doing… things… to while the time.
See, that’s my issue with this story – everything about the characters’ angst and drama feels trivial at the end of the day, despite the characters’ often exaggerated insistence that the world will end if they don’t get their way. When this becomes the main driving force of the drama, and the characters begin finding ways to upstage one another in who is more undeserving of the other person, I can only sigh. Here we go again, with that some old boring story.
Why does Vivian need to get married? You see, her cousin loves the vicar, so it’s important that they marry, but this cousin won’t marry unless Vivian marries first, so there you go: another heroine willing to throw her entire life away just to make someone happy. In this instance, that someone isn’t even suffering from terminal cancer so I hope nobody is expecting me to give her a medal anytime soon for her valiant attempts at selfless sacrifice.
Mind you, I actually like Vivian for a while. Yes, she’s often silly and she does a lot of things that end up sabotaging her own efforts to get married, but she’s earnest and spirited. That kind of never-say-die attitude is infectious. However, Vivian also has a secret, which when revealed, ends up making her often silly antics up to that point – running off alone to skinny dip, meeting a man at dawn with only her maid accompanying her – pretty dumb in a cringe-inducing way. This revelation turns Vivian instantly from earnest but rather dim-witted twit into a dumb creature who needs saving from herself.
As for Luke, he has headaches every time he reads, he never wanted to be a cuke, he has Daddy issues even when Daddy is dead, and on and on. So, basically, he’s just a big weenie who isn’t up to the challenge of shaping up for his title. He wants Vivian… no he doesn’t… ooh, she’s hot… but he really doesn’t want to marry… hot… not… hot.. not… oh god. For a while, I like Luke as much as I like Vivian. He’s a nice change from the usual rake with issues, but as the story progresses, he’s just singing the same old song all the time and things get boring quickly. This is especially when his issues aren’t interesting or compelling in the first place.
Because the characters spend a lot of time doing trivial little things that feel suspiciously like filler, and their issues feel more exaggerated than anything else in their supposed “heaviness”, this story runs out of steam quickly by the midway point. I find myself wishing that something – anything – would happen, something that doesn’t feel like a boring retread. Both characters do their best to upstage one another in coming up with dramatic declarations of why they are not worthy of the other person, and really, I’ve read this many times before and the author isn’t doing a good job in making me care for her regurgitation of the “I’m the biggest martyr! No, me!” drama.
Lady Vivian Defies a Duke starts out most charming, but it loses steam way too quickly. It ends up being another one of the many formulaic historical romps that fail to stand out from the rest of the mediocre same-old, same-old in the market. So here’s a big whatever to it. If it’s lucky, I may still manage to recall the title of this book a few days from now, although heaven knows why I should even want to try.