Avon, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-06-235220-0
Historical Romance, 2014
Marcus, the Duke of Rutherford, has first world problems. He’s a Duke, you see, and that means he has responsibilities that all Dukes have: marry, have kids, and presumably play backgammon for the rest of his life. This is horrible, of course, because all he wants in life is to be free, to run wild on the hills and stick it to every orifice he sees, that kind of thing. Being a Duke is such a horrible fate, so he spends his days and nights in debauchery. How can we not shed a tear for his moneyed derrière? Oh, and when the story opens, the illegitimate daughter he sired and paid the mother off to keep out of his sight plops onto his doorstep, wearing a sign around her neck that says: “Daddy, the shell-shocked silent daughter plot device has arrived. Prepare to shag the nanny for life, because your days of sticking it to happy ladies are over.”
Lily Russell is our typical heroine with a sordid past – or so she claims – despite the fact that no bodily protrusions of another person has ever touched her virtue before. She has to make ends meet, so she does what every practical and sensible heroine of solid morals would do: make no profit from establishing a governess agency of sorts that places innocent ladies despoiled by fate in better posts. When the summon from the Duke arrives, looking for a governess for the daughter, she sees an opportunity to make a name for the agency. There are no soiled virginal doves at the moment, so she decides to offer herself for the post. It’s a remarkable business model, actually, that she and her friends have. Anyone can just walk away when the other two co-owners are away.
Our well-prepared heroine needs this post, so she understandably forgets her references. She also has no experience in steering child plot devices around, but that’s okay, our heroine is armed with natural spunk and sass that would bowl Marcus over. I mean, she calls herself the Snarly Governess and Marcus is, of course, the Dangerous Duke. Her thought processes have cute phrases, each word beginning with a capital letter – Before Kiss, After Kiss, and so forth – so yes, Lily is oh so precious and cute that, surely, only heartless monsters can bring themselves to hate this sparkling gem of a woman even a little.
The daughter responds to the heroine’s innate spunky nature and soon, Lily the wonder nanny is having tea with the dowager when she is not exchanging sassy retorts with Marcus. At the culmination of this courtship, Marcus would urge her, “Stroke it up and down.” Lily of course turns out to be a professional stroker in addition to the already naturally professional everything that she just is, and love just erupts all over the place like a Valentine’s Day Old Faithful special.
Oh, but Lily can’t marry him because of her past – let’s add professional martyr to her list of impressive professional awesomeness – so oh, everything is so sad. Don’t worry, she’ll be back to playing with his snowman a handful of pages later because in this story, nobody really means what they complain about. He hates his life, but I don’t see him becoming a fisherman or something, and I don’t see her rejecting him and walking off alone into the sunset.
The Duke’s Guide to Correct Behavior, to make it short, is basically that story. If you have read a story with such a premise before, this one won’t bear many surprises. The author seems aware of how tired her story can be, as she often inserts little sentences here and there to go, “Oh, this is just like the story you’ve read before!” However, while she may be aware of the fact that her story is tired and played out, she doesn’t do much to keep things fresh. Things here feel like old furniture given yet another layer of varnish – underneath the new coat, it’s still the same damned thing. It’s like watching a karaoke singer go, “Oh, I’m sure you’re sick of hearing this by now, but I’m going to sing Let It Go from that movie Frozen!” only to then perform it in the same bloody way the song has been performed so many times before. If you’re still fine with it, then you will go along and smile. If you’re like me, you may feel like hurling eggs at the stage out of spite.
So yeah, the author does have a nice bouncy narrative style that I will probably enjoy under other circumstances, but this story is too much of a tired old retread of a formula for it to stick to my mind.