Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-246364-7
Historical Romance, 2018
The title is accurate for once – in The Duke Buys a Bride, the hero wins the heroine in a bride auction. This is the third entry into Sophie Jordan’s The Rogue Files series, but for the most part, it stands on its own pretty well. This is probably a good thing, considering that I can barely recall anything about the previous two books in this series.
Alyse Bell is married to Mr Beard as part of a Cinderella-like arrangement: an orphan, she was taken in by that man, and the marriage was actually an arrangement in which she cooked, took care of her widower hubby’s kids, and generally toiled around the clock. Now, Mr Beard is tired of this arrangement, as he’d like to get down with the widow down the street who would do all Alyse does and throw in some hot rumpy-pumpy games to boot, and our heroine would really like her freedom. Since divorce is too expensive and an annulment is a hassle to get, she decides on a plan, and you know what happens when romance heroines are allowed to plan something.
You see, Mr Beard will auction her off, and her friend will buy her off him – as you can see, our heroine clearly confuses “sale” with “auction” and has no contingency plan as to what to do if the friend gets outbid – and together, she and her friend will head on to London to start a new life. Only, this friend vamooses to London on his own and now Alyse is stuck in a real auction with her precious hiney in danger of being molested by ugly and poor men, oh the horror.
Now, we all know that every good woman deserves only hot, young, and rich men, so fortunately for our heroine, there is one such worthy gentleman in the village. Marcus, Mr Duke of Autenberry, is slumming it with the great unwashed, and a brawl in the pub broke out the evening before when a maid grabbed his pee-pee under the desk and some guy didn’t like that. Maybe he’d like to grab that pee-pee himself, I don’t know, but at any rate, Marcus wakes up with his face in dung and his wallet much lighter due to the damages he had to pay for. He merely wipes the dung off his face with his collar, and I spend the rest of the story wondering when he will spring other fun hygiene issues on me, like maybe he never changes his underwear or he doesn’t clean his rear end after doing a number two. Still, he drinks, he has a title, he is hot, and he is loaded, so he is clearly husband material. What’s a little feces on the face, really.
So, Marcus stumbles upon Alyse being auctioned off, and gets her for fifty pounds. The end.
Seriously, the story could have ended there and then, because what is used to pad the remaining two-thirds of the story is not interesting at all. I know I’ve said a few times that the Beauty and the Beast premise is overused in the romance genre, but this is one story that could use such a premise. The story would be far more interesting if Marcus had been a hideous fellow, or at the very least, a pig farmer, because then both characters will have to work to connect and form some kind of emotional bond. Instead, we have a hot, loaded hero basically thrown onto Alyse’s lap, and the rest of the story goes down a very familiar path.
Despite being rescued from a fate worse than death – being married to someone poor and ugly, of course – Alyse quickly shows that she has a chip on her shoulder about people not being able to read her mind as well as a tendency to give lip to Marcus because she’s such a feisty independent miss like that. He of course doesn’t want to marry her, and instead installs her as his housekeeper, and despite claiming that she doesn’t want to be married to him or anything, Alyse laments that he only sees her as a housekeeper. And on and on. Really, we have all been down this path before, and the whole thing is as predictable, played out, and boring as can be. Some laird drama shows up in the end because the author needs to connect this book to her next one, and then it’s a wrap.
And that’s it. The Duke Buys a Bride is an overlong story of a heroine who has everything fall into place perfectly for her, but she spends the next two hundred pages acting like she is going to die because Marcus doesn’t immediately declare that he loves her the most. Marcus spends the next two hundred pages waffling about how his little head wants something that his other head isn’t so sure about. The otherwise well-written tale becomes excruciating to read because of how the story just peters out after its first third into a pointless tale of two people indulging in the most vapid kind of navel gazing.