Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-79898-0
Historical Romance, 1999
Trevor Phillips, black sheep rake of his family, has just been appointed Duke of Rawlston, much to his shock. He has been estranged from his family because he’s dyslexic and was a flop in Eton. Needless to say, he ignores his duties and continue his wine, woman, and song tour of duty in France.
Not if Sara, the young Dowager Duchess has her way. She leads a minor protest among the staff of Rawlston Hall, hoping to get the absent Duke’s attention, only to have herself thrown into jail. Upon release, she seeks him out and demands that he does his duty to the estates, which are falling apart from neglect. Unfortunately, first impressions are total failures, as he mistakes her for a ladybird and she him a cook. Make no mistake, Trevor is a useless wastrel, so she decides that the best way to reform him is to get him shackled with a proper – and moneyed, of course – woman. However, there’s this annoying attraction she has with this man…
The prodigal son returneth theme is a favorite of mine, but this story sort of bungled things up. The main problem is Trevor. I empathize with his feeling of worthlessness because of his inability to read, but there really is no excuse for irresponsibility, stupidity, and a massive inertia for wallow in self-pity for so long (two-thirds of the book). Trevor takes too long to shape up from the drunkard, leery-eyed useless sod he is, which is a shame because when he does pull up his socks, the story improves tremendously. For the most part this man is either drunk or in heat, and it is a wonder Sara can bring herself to kiss those wine-stained lips. I bet he has bad breath too, and there is no mention of him bathing after a night of drunken revelry. And for her to throw his financial matters to a man who has bullied and tormented him in Eton, a man he knows is a cheat… not very smart, is she?
And when Trevor suddenly gains new-found honor and respectability, it is rather annoying to see that the author uses this turning of new leaf to only wedge a forced “I can’t marry you!” angle into the story. I can’t help feeling that Trevor has to bungle up his redemption from the path of sin, and hence ending up rather incompetent in my view.
Sara is a decent heroine, despite her weakness for disheveled, wine-soaked rakes, but ultimately she can’t stand up to this man. I can’t help wishing she would garb Trevor’s ear and twist it hard as she drags him from his bed to the study and yells at him, “Listen buster, there is so much paperwork, the tenants are starving, so stop whining about the fact that you can’t read, lughead, and HIRE A BLEEDIN’ SECRETARY!”
Maybe then I would like this book better. Ho hum. That’s how I feel about The Duke’s Return, really.