Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-241279-9
Historical Romance, 2017
Genevieve would like to imagine that she is a confident and smart lady, but being elevated to the lofty heights of the Ton when she inherits the Duchess of Blakesly title is something she has never imagined would happen to her and, hence, she is ill-prepared for the what being a duchess will entail. Hey, don’t scoff. The author says in the foreword that there was a real life case which saw some noble dude managing to get some legal dispensation to allow his title to be passed on to an immediate heir regardless of whether the heir is male or female, so this premise is 100% legit. At any rate, which only a near-blind granny as her constant companion, Genevieve is not getting any good advice to help her settle in, so in desperate she writes to a dotty god-aunt.
The aunt in question sends Archibald Salisbury, a retired war hero who is also the spare brat of a viscount, to help Genevieve learn her Ps and Qs, and thus, our Pygmalion or My Fair Lady story begins. He’s all about things being orderly, while she is on the more emotional and spirited side, so of course they will fall in love.
The author is still doing her cutesy-cutesy comedy thing here, and I’m glad to report that there is a better balance here in that at least this time around, the hero and heroine don’t abruptly jump from bratty repartee to handling pee-pees in one’s mouth in a way that is comparable to watching a Disney cartoon only to have the characters break out into a no-holds barred orgy without a warning. That’s one good thing. The characters here also have their moments, making me chuckle and thinking that they can be quite precious in a good way.
But for the most part, I admit I feel rather indifferent to the whole thing. While the premise of an unexpected duchess needing polish is a little different from noblemen polishing street urchin heroines on a dare or for some kind of spy plot – the usual premises used by authors for their compulsory take on My Fair Lady, usually after doing their take on Beauty and the Beast – the rest of the story is disappointingly familiar and predictable. As I’ve mentioned, it does seem like every romance author apparently must do a story based on My Fair Lady and Beauty and the Beast, perhaps because the RWA will send bouncers to beat them up in their sleep if they dare to ignore this holy obligation, so any author who does this thing has better serve up something that can capture my attention.
But My Fair Duchess just follows the script, right down to the predictable twist where she will never – never – marry him, not because of the disparity of their social status, but because
he never tells her that he loves her after sticking it into her (that’s okay, because the sex is totally true love on her part, so don’t you dare call her a whore) she is an independent lady who will never marry just because he feels that she has to. At least, until he tells her that he loves her and then it’s yes, yes, yes. I hate to say it, but I’m bored.
And I find myself thinking of how the author could have tweaked things to come up with something that doesn’t feel like it’s been done so many times before. Instead of being another pretty boy with angst and parent issues, Baldy could have been, say, someone who is not conventionally pretty or perhaps even ugly, or perhaps a working class guy who runs a charm school. Or Genevieve could have been frumpy and dowdy, completely unsuitable in both deportment and looks instead of some pretty lady who just needs a few pointers to calm her nerves. As it is, he’s hot and she’s hot and the two of them spend a long time indulging in repetitive mental lusting, and she has a hard time thinking straight every time she is confronted by his dazzling good looks. I don’t find all this interesting.
Still, perhaps it’s just me, as I am a cranky jaded reader who has read too many books. The romance genre is driven by tropes and conventions, so I don’t blame the author for following a well-trodden path, as doing otherwise may just not bring in money, and money is of course very important. Therefore, while I don’t blame the author – or any author – for playing it safe, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m bored.