Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-241278-2
Historical Romance, 2016
There are many great ideas in One-Eyed Dukes Are Wild, but none of them is adequately executed to my liking. There are also some missed opportunities, such as the title not being a gloriously tasteless play of words about the hero’s penis, for instance, or that the author didn’t change an alphabet in the second word of the title as well as the gender of the hero for some tasty kind of non-conforming fun read. But that will probably work only for a different author. Megan Frampton’s ideas here are good, mind you, which is why I’m so disappointed that this one isn’t any more better.
Lady Margaret Wood is a Lady of Mystery, author of stories that has the Ton at the edge of their seats, and she is also an infamously independent unmarried woman who is proud of what she has achieved on her own merits. Therefore, even as her reputation may not be a spotless slate, she gets invited to parties the way one brings in a performing monkey to keep the other guests awake. The new Duke of Lasham, Vortigern, is socially inept in many ways, and all he wants to do is to stay home and enjoy the quiet. Lasham has been raised to do what is considered the right thing, however, and mingling with the Ton, looking for a wife – those are the right things to do, even if doing them makes him want to drown himself in alcohol.
When Lasham first meets Margaret, he thinks that she is the most exciting creature in the entire world. Even as his heart beats faster in her presence, he tries to tell himself that she is not for him. Who knows, if he does that often enough, his heart and little head may buy it as the truth. Margaret thinks at first that he must surely be a thrilling man to be with, as he has an eye patch and looks like a dashing pirate. Alas, he lost his eye due to a rather not-very-exciting accident, and she also discovers that he is on the prim and proper side. Therefore, he is definitely not her cup of tea. Or so she tries to convince herself.
The rest of the story is basically events and plot twists that keep bringing our hero and heroine together. There is no overlying story arc, just things that happen. This is not a bad thing, as authors such as Loretta Chase demonstrated that stories revolving around the interactions of two characters who seem to be opposites attract at first can be fun (see Lord of Scoundrels and The Last Hellion, both stories with plots in which things just happen).
I like the idea behind the premise. I love the idea that goes into the creation of Margaret and Lasham. Both are lonely people who try very hard to fit in in a society that will always see them as a little bit weird. Of course, Lasham and Margaret aren’t true outcasts – both are protected by their pedigree and connections to truly risk being ostracized by their peers. But they could have been charming and adorable characters, what with Margaret and her go-for-it attitude being such a fun counterpart to Lasham’s more restrained and careful nature. This relationship has plenty of possibilities. I also like how the story Margaret is writing mirrors her developing relationship with Lasham.
But things never really come together like they should. One big problem with this book is the constant repetition. Things are constantly rehashed by the main characters and repeated again in the narrative, so much so that I wonder whether I’m expected to memorize everything and sit for an exam after reading this book. For instance, early on, I’m told way too often how our main characters are not the usual type. Also, there are moments when Margaret would do or say something, and then when the story is related from Lasham’s point of view (don’t worry, the story is still all “he” and “she” instead of “I”), what Margaret did or said would be brought up again. The pacing of the story drags pretty badly because of this.
Because the story feels so slow and draggy, my mind begins to wander, and I get distracted by small things in this story. Why is Margaret so easily accepted by the Ton despite her reputation, only to later face the threat of being cut by the same people only because the villain decides to bad mouth her? The whole thing is like me being celebrated for stealing bread, only to be given the finger later when these people learn that I steal the milk too. If they can like me for one thing, why can’t they like me for the other thing too? Also, why is Lasham so socially inept? I’d understand if he’s an introvert or something like that, but I’m not sure what to make of him here. He’s been raised to be a duke – so he has never had anyone teach him how to at least say the usual nice things he is expected to say in social situations? If he’s such a prickly pooh-bear, how did he end up friends with a guy who is the complete opposite of him? In this story, it seems like they don’t have anything much in common to even talk about. The whole cast seems to be one big family only because the author insists that they be that way.
I also feel that this is one story that would have been stronger if the author had allowed the hero and the heroine to have a happily ever after in which she becomes his mistress. Marrying seems to be too big a compromise of her personal philosophy and beliefs, and I feel that the only reason she agrees to marry Lasham is because every romance novel is expected to have the hero and the heroine tie the knot. Here, it feels more realistic and natural if they live happily ever after, but as a mistress and her constant and loving protector rather than husband and wife.
At any rate, One-Eyed Dukes Are Wild have all the ingredients to be grand, but something went wrong somewhere during the execution, and the end result is far from wild. What a pity, as I suspect that I would really love this one if things had been done differently.