Zebra, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-3552-7
Historical Romance, 2015
Before you ask, yes, this is a fake courtesan story. I know, you can stop reading now. Seriously, though, The Courtesan Duchess isn’t just a fake courtesan story, it is also a tale of a hero behaving like an absolute horror story only to grovel in the end. Unfortunately, the payoff is a limp disappointment, but let me get to that later. First, take a deep breath as I’m going to share the plot and you may want to brace yourself: it’s an idiot plot.
Julia, the Duchess of Colton, has not seen her husband in eight years. You see, they were married when she was 16, and it was a marriage arranged by their parents. Her husband, Nicholas Seaton, refuses to even see her, much less be with her, because (a) he hates his father, (b) he feels guilty because he survived and his brother died, and (c) he has to sink his depression by whoring, gambling, and drinking 24/7 in the brothels of Venice. Actually, he has been whoring, drinking, and gambling even before the whole thing began, so saying that these are his ways of exorcising his inner demons is really pushing it. Oh, and he wants to punish the people who want to push him into doing things he doesn’t want, and this includes his wife, whom he considers his father’s pawn to control him. In other words, we have a spoiled man-child who spent the last 8 years basically stomping his foot and saying, “You can’t make me!”
Julia needs to have an heir, otherwise her husband’s cousin would ruin her and throw her in debtor’s prison. Now, you may be wondering how some nobody could put the Duchess of Colton in such a position, but that’s the least of the head-scratching brain gnats plaguing this story. Anyway, so Julia needs a bun in her oven. She needs her husband to supply the butter, naturally. So, what does she do? First, she sells off everything she has to learn the skills of amazing sex from the renowned courtesan. Then, she’d get her best friend – also her husband’s best friend – to tag along with her to Venice to pretend to be her lover. As “Mrs Juliet Leighton”, she’d have her husband think of her as his favorite kind of women – the one that can be bought to spread her legs – and boink her into pregnancy. I suppose she’d then go home, pop out a brat, and send her husband a note saying, “Surprise! Guess what came out of my vagina?” and the husband would just nod and leave her be.
Oh, “Juliet” and Nick get on fine, the sperm fertilizes an egg, and then, oops, Julia’s cover is blown and Nick sees red. His wife… is a liar, a betrayer, a whore, a slut, a town bicycle! As he furiously shoves his pee-pee into the mouth of another woman, he rages that his wife dares to betray her wedding vows and he’d make her pay. She clearly wasn’t a virgin when he slept with her because she was too skilled in bed – clearly, the signs of a whore being a whore. As he gnashes his teeth in frustration because trying to slake his lust on other women couldn’t banish his chubby for the wifey, he knows that the baby isn’t his, because clearly, his wife must have slept with his best friend (whom he’d shared women before and that was okay in the past), his cousin, and the homeless grandpa down the street. He has no proof, but he knows. Slut is a slut, after all, so… slut. So, what he will do is to hurt the wife some more and try valiantly but vainly to wag it to other women until his wife pops out the baby, prematurely like he knows she would because slut is a slut, and then he’d have his proof and HA HA HA, HE IS THE WINNER.
I tell you, these two – both husband and wife – would probably get divorced while trying to decide on what they should eat for dinner because both of them clearly have dung for brains. As far as plot goes, the one in The Courtesan Duchess is a spectacular failure because it relies on both characters behaving like complete imbeciles.
I can also bring up how the secondary characters and future heroes of their own stories all speak and act like women instead of guys in a band of slutty brothers, but really, that’s like singling out a pimple on Quasimodo’s face. Now, I have nothing against “grovel romances” – the ones where the heroes by design are complete idiots and cruel asses just for a grand grovel. And Nick, to his credit, holds himself accountable for his complete failure both as a husband and a human being. If the author stops there, this story could be salvaged – it’d then merely be a story with a spectacular failure of a plot. Unfortunately, Julia proceeds to insist that Nick isn’t so bad, she’s responsible for this or that too, and really, it’s okay. With this, the story mutates from a grovel romance into a train wreck with enabler heroines who would justify all the nonsense a man heaps on them because they are pathetic imbeciles that way. To be fair to the author, Julia is in character at that moment – she has been consistently a spineless imbecile with a pile of dung for a brain – but the story would have been salvaged if she’d consider leaving him even once, because she deserves better than the way she has been treated. Instead, she plays the victim who is too quick to forgive the people who hurt her because she likes to imagine that everything that happens to her is her fault too. In other words, she has no self esteem or a sense of self worth, so no, I don’t care for her because she clearly doesn’t care for her own self.
The Courtesan Duchess is nothing like it is advertised to be, but worse, it has an idiot plot of all idiot plots and its heroine’s meek and useless “walk all over me, and I will put on a face of noble suffering” behavior fails to make this way a grovel romance worth sitting through the hero’s nonsense for. Any of those in a story and I may still be able to finish the book with just a little grimace, but have all of them in one single book and I get the mother of all dry heaves.