Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-284974-8
Historical Romance, 2019
Viola Cartwright married a much older man, who left her with a lot of money shortly before he croaked. Hence, her reputation as The Infamous Duchess, although do be assured that she married him for non-prostitute-ish reasons, so don’t hate her because she’s beautiful. She is also the kind of heroine for whom money is vapor: it simply vanishes without her enjoying the fruits of her shopping. With her money, Viola founded a hospital, before she takes in orphans and strays, all the while working like a common person. Will you be shocked if I tell you that she has left zero nest egg for herself, instead having an outward cash flow all this while because apparently none of her ventures return even a little profit?
It’s probably an act of mercy that her son in law – the current Duke of Tremaine (not to be confused with the Duke of Tremayne also from a book from the same publisher) – decides to show up and starts a lawsuit demanding that she repay him everything her late husband left her. I’m not sure about how such a lawsuit can fly, but then again, I’m not supposed to worry about that. I’m supposed to sigh in rapture when Henry Lowell, our hero, swoops in to do everything for her. Seriously, there are rescue fantasies, and then there are stories in which the heroine just behaves like a hapless rag doll, and this one falls into the latter category.
“My life is unraveling, Henry, and there is nothing I can do but to stand by and watch it happen.”
This is her grand show of action late in the story, so don’t expect any character growth or epiphany from Viola. She’s one of the most useless things I’ve ever come across in a romance novel. In fact, she is so useless and passive that she doesn’t even do anything that aggravates me further, so I suppose that is a good thing. Or maybe it’s a bad thing? I don’t know anymore, and I don’t care to analyze this any further, because it’s not worth spending so much time and thought on something as pointless and irrelevant as Viola.
She is also plagued with self-inflicted misery. Oh, Henry doesn’t drop by to see her in two days, so clearly he doesn’t love her anymore, so oh my god, mope and woe. He talks about marrying and being a faithful husband, so it is time for her to mope and whine because clearly he can’t be talking about her. Her utter uselessness in every single aspect of life is made worse by the fact that she just doesn’t do anything about her impending lawsuit. She instead spends her time torturing herself with possibilities that Henry ain’t coming back after sticking parts of his body into her various orifices. When she occasionally dwells on the lawsuit, it’s to resign herself to the fact that there is nothing she can do.
Mind you, she doesn’t even want to win the lawsuit, because she says that the press will only bring up the fact that she used her honey pot to seduce a wealthy old man. While wailing that she will lose all her money in the lawsuit, she continues to spend money on everyone else in the name of being a bleeding heart. Seriously, this creature is utterly worthless in every way, at the same tier as those soiled adult diapers Canadians dump onto the beaches of the Philippines. Wait, at least those diapers had a use – my bad.
Henry starts out pretty creepy. He claims to be a fake rake, pretending to be one to keep away the marriage-minded misses, but when he ends up needing Viola’s bedside care in the hospital (that’s how they meet), he makes the move on her by telling her how good her hands feel on his body and other skin-crawling things. It’s okay, though – he is hot and Viola claims that she is charmed by his “conversations”, so all is fine. A man can’t be a sexual harasser or a creep so long as he is hot, don’t you know. Fortunately, he soon switches into reliable father figure mode as he has to take care of everything for Viola, and he becomes far more tolerable then. However, he annoys me by constantly telling me how intelligent Viola is, when I see zero evidence that this is the case. Has the bar for romance heroines been set so low that one of those things qualifies as genius just because she can safely cross the street?
The Infamous Duchess in question is infamously, cripplingly helpless and useless, so the take home message here is that thank god for men who sweep in and save those poor, hapless womenfolk from having to think or do anything for themselves ever again. Maybe we should extrapolate this to real life, as I know of, er, some romance authors whose works may be better if they asked a man to write their books for them.