Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-246689-1
Historical Romance, 2017
Now, if you have been around here long enough, you will know that I am a fan of Karen Ranney, so every time I have to write a review such as this one, my heart breaks. But alas, I can’t lie: The English Duke can be summed up in one alphabet, and that’s Zzzzzzzzzz… This is because the hero and the hero are so flat and dull, I can’t bring myself to care about them at all.
Let’s start with the heroine. Martha York’s entire personality can be reduced into two words: Daddy and Boyfriend. She’s the only one who is still devoted to the memory and crusade of her late father, an absent-minded man who paid more attention to his inventions than his family. Fortunately, this daddy left them enough for them to be well off – more than just “well off”, actually, but our heroine doesn’t care because it’s all about daddy. You see, she was his father’s PA, taking down his notes and what not, and now, she’s mad that her father’s correspondent, the equally invention-crazy Jordan Hamilton, the Duke of York, didn’t show up to collect the thing her father had bequeathed the man. How dare the duke didn’t reply to her letters? Her father is the most awesome man in the world – NOBODY IS ALLOWED TO DISLIKE HIM EVEN A LITTLE BECAUSE… DADDY! So, she drags off to drop that thing off at the duke’s place, and her sister and grandmother both tag along.
Jordan, our hero, is obsessed with inventions so he doesn’t want to be bothered by anything else. He inherited a bankrupt estate, but is he doing anything to make things better for himself? Are you kidding? He’s too busy brooding and playing with his schematics for a torpedo, thank you very much. A bad injury left his leg wounded to an extent that movements still pain him, but that’s just another excuse for him to flail around manfully in his “Ooh! I’m so tortured, don’t you find this sexy, readers?” shtick.
Martha’s grandmother falls ill shortly after their arrival, and Josephine, Martha’s sister, plots to marry Jordan. Meanwhile, Jordan and Martha endlessly dwells on how hot the other person is, and how they wish the other person will stay out of their way because getting all randy and hormonal is a bother when one is determined to be all angsty-boo-boo. And my goodness, if I have a drink each time Martha calls Jordan the most handsome thing she’s ever seen, I’d be an alcoholic by the midway point of this book. Let’s see, to her he is “handsome”, “supremely male”, “more handsome than any man she’d ever known”, “too handsome for her”, and so forth. It’s like someone had offered the author extra bonus for every time she includes “handsome” and “male” in this story.
So, basically, we have a story of two people who are determined to think the worst of themselves when it’s pretty obvious that they are both hot, hot, hot people. I mean, even as a reclusive inventor who shuts himself in, Jordan still manages to look hot, and keeps a six-pack abs, instead of smelling like unwashed socks and suffering from vitamin D deficiency like he should be. For someone who deliberately views pampering and grooming vapid feminine acts, Martha still manages to look and smell good while having her BMI within the sexy range. Jordan, as a duke, neglects his finances and his obligations to his title, and yet Martha sees him as the most awesome, perfect, handsome, virile, smartest, handsome, educated, HANDSOME man ever. She’d probably have a nervous breakdown if we force her to pick between Jordan and her father, so it’s probably a good thing that one of them is dead.
And I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your notice that Martha is basically marrying her father in this story. He’s going to continue neglecting his family, just like her father did, and she’s going to be by his side, enabling him just like she enabled her father, and their kids will most likely grow up with various loose screws in the head and briefcases full of daddy and mommy issues. And lucky Jordan – he gets a wealthy wife who will be his loyal, unpaid notekeeper, housekeeper, and waifu pillow. What the hell did this cow do to be this lucky?
Jordan and Martha are boring characters, and they make things more boring by being annoyingly passive. The secondary characters are the ones kicking the plot into gear, and our tepid twosome respond more often than not by either brooding (him) or wringing hands in helplessness or indecisiveness (her). It gets to a point where I am actually rooting for the wicked sister and her boyfriend to succeed, because those two actually do something. And despite being a boring twit, Martha’s thoughts about her sister are so sanctimonious and self-righteous in the usual “As a good woman, I will never care about my looks, beauty, or future, unlike that vapid sister of mine!” vein that I can definitely understand why Josephine hates her.
Here’s the thing: the author actually treats Josephine and her boyfriend pretty fairly here. The two of them, in fact, go off to the sunset for their own happily for now, and the author gives them a fair share of character development. Therefore, in an ideal world, these two should have been the main couple while Martha and Jordan would be relegated to the B-plot. But I suppose making the boring turds the main couple is the safest option, sigh.
The English Duke is a good example of how a romance story can be bogged down by passive, whiny characters who spend more time beating me in the head with their first world problems instead of actually doing anything to get over themselves. I really wish I’ve been reading the other couple’s story instead.