Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-264172-4
Historical Romance, 2017
This is probably the first mostly standalone novel in the Devil’s Duke series, even if The Duke is actually the third book in the series. It’s still not entirely capable of standing on its own, though, because from the very first page we have letters from various characters, which see them addressing one another using terms of endearment that the new reader will not be familiar with, and these characters are all behaving in a most atypical manner for folks in the early 19th century. The new reader may wonder whether he or she has accidentally become drunk while turning the pages.
Now, I don’t remember much of the previous two books, mostly because I don’t care to, so I’m already feeling tipsy by page ten without having imbibed even a single drop of actual alcohol. Amarantha Vale runs away with a preacher… and everyone acts like she’s taken a different path while coming back from school, and her father even approves of what she did. Maybe they are all secretly glad to be rid of her? Two weeks before her wedding to Paul, she takes time out of making her way home to “explore the place” and ends up getting trapped in a storm. She takes shelter with a hot man she calls Shark Bait – our heroine is very precious and feisty that way – and the next thing I know, she finds herself all horny and randy over that other man instead. Perhaps it is a good thing that we are all spared of Amy darling here running off with a second man in a short window of time when Shark Bait disappears and is said to be dead, his ship doing a Titanic thanks to bandits.
And then she hears from gossips that he’s not dead, but rather, putting that pee-pee she desperately craves inside her fifty-nine orifices into some mistress of his instead so, oh, she will hate him. Forever!
And then we cut to five or six years later, when we learn that Paul had died about two weeks prior. That was after he cheated on her (karma, baby!) and generally behaved like an all-round asshole. Now, Amy is in Scotland to search for a friend, only to find this friend dying after giving birth to an illegitimate baby. She vows to track down the evil penis that killed her friend, and eventually discovers this Devil’s Duke, whom gossips claim to have been responsible for several missing ladies in the neighborhood. Actually, that’s right, but he didn’t kill them – he opened a happy commune for these women. Don’t ask me why he doesn’t ship them off to some nice place or sponsor them on shopping sprees in Paris. If you can’t tell by now, this story is like tripping through a pile of comatose bodies in a hippie commune while sampling all kinds of powders and pipes strewn around the place.
The Devil’s Duke is Shark Bait himself! Gabriel Hume, the penis that she has always wanted inside her until she believed everyone who claimed that he’s sticking it to everyone else but her, so she hates him forever, and thus, she will hate him forever. And ever! Because everything that happened to her is his fault even though he wasn’t even physically there when those things happened. Oh, and there are elopements, blackmails, a brat to care for, young girls to save…
After a hundred or so pages of The Duke, my eyebrow can’t go any higher, and something inside me snaps. I stop going “WTF?” at every other paragraph and instead begin chuckling. Oh my god, this story is so ridiculous in a jam packed to the gills with crazy way, I can’t hold back anymore. It’s easier to just let the tidal wave of lunacy sweep me away. When I look at the story in this way, it’s actually quite enjoyable. The characters can be dumb dumb, but that’s dumb dumb in a ha-ha ha-ha hic way. The plot just piles on so many subplots and threads that it’s actually an awesome train wreck to behold. Add in liberal doses of purple prose, and the whole experience is so surreal and bad that it’s almost awesome.
And I didn’t even drink a drop while reading this! Think of how fantastical the experience would be if I were truly wasted.