Grand Central Publishing, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-446-57315-3
Historical Romance, 2012
Secrets of an Accidental Duchess? What secrets? And what duchess? Our heroine, Olivia Donovan is a younger daughter who has never married anyone, much less a duke, and the hero Max Buchanan is a marquis. Okay, he’s the heir to a dukedom, but technically, he’s not a duke yet, so what is that title about again? Then again, perhaps a little embroidery when it comes to the title is necessary, because this story is cobbled together using tried-and-true clichés.
Olivia is a beautiful and virginal darling who once had malaria, and therefore, the rest of her family coddle her and the poor darling has to secretly do her running thing in order to remain slim and sexy. Oh, and she will never marry. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because she believes that the malaria she had would cause her to break a thigh bone or two if she lifts them in the air for some happy chi-chi moments. Max, the Marquis of Hasley, due to some sad childhood blues in his past, is also determined never to marry. These two charming potatoes bump into each other one day when their eyes magically meet across a crowded ballroom.
Meanwhile, Max impetuously wagers with his acquaintance Leonard Reece, the Marquess of Fenwicke, that he will seduce Olivia before the year is out. Actually, Max doesn’t want to win the wager – okay, he wants to personally administer a dose of quinine into Olivia, but he doesn’t want to do it because of a wager. Hey, don’t look at me, I didn’t write this thing. At any rate, Fenwicke is determined to win the bet, and because Femwicke’s a… let me see, a wife-beater, a womanizer, a faithless dog, an odious creep, borderline homicidal, and rapist, Max feels compelled to stay close to Olivia to protect her. Meanwhile, Olivia finally realizes that, even if she is determined never to marry, she really wants to have sex with Max – in the name of true love, of course – so really, things are just perfect. After all, she’s determined to be a spinster for life, so why is she keeping her virtue like that? Max, baby, Olivia wants it everywhere! Now, don’t misunderstand, genteel reader – Olivia is not easy or anything like that, she is just determined to have some precious memories to remember for the rest of her life. Isn’t that the most virtuous thing you have ever heard?
In the meantime, because this story needs more filler plots to keep this story going until the word count is met, Olivia decides to save Fenwicke’s wife from her husband, not realizing that Fenwicke has evil designs on her body. After all, there is nothing more patronizing, er, lovely than a skinny pale woman telling a fat plain woman that this fat plain woman should lift her chin up and accept that she’s beautiful inside out. Next: billionaires of the world telling us paupers that money isn’t everything and we should be content with what little dough we have.
On the bright side, Max is a really nice guy who, aside from that silly bet thing, is simply a dream – a wonderful bloke through and through, so much so that he’s tad too good to be true. But at the same time, he also comes off as bland because he doesn’t do anything here that isn’t predictable. Olivia is a typical join-the-dots heroine, and the villain a walking cartoon character. Meanwhile, a passel of sisters mill around, all of them interchangeable sequel baits that embody every cliché that isn’t already present in Olivia.
Secrets of an Accidental Duchess is a pleasant read, but hit me up next week and ask me whether I will remember anything about this book.