Fifty Forty Productions, $0.99
Historical Romance, 2019
The Infamous Duke is the second entry in Allyson Jeleyne’s Staunton Sisters series, and I haven’t read the previous story – in fact, this is the first ever story I’ve read by this author – so I’m still not entirely sure as to why the Simon, Lord Althorne, would invite the governess of his daughter as well as her sisters to his country ball. Perhaps I will know better if I had read that other story, but alas, what’s done is done and I’ve read things out of order. Offended folks can always write me a strongly worded email to feel better.
So, we have a ball full of the predictable marriage-mad misses and their very ambitious mothers. We also have the Staunton sisters, of which the middle girl Cassandra is our heroine. The three sisters had been living on their own ever since their parents’ death, having given their estranged grandfather a very polite middle finger when he demanded that they stay with him or find hubbies ASAP. Oh, only now he acknowledges their existence? He can sod off. Our plucky young ladies will find their ways to survive on their own! Fortunately, they will all get married to well-off men before they have to do any serious survival stuff, like selling fish in the market or pulling tricks down at the pier, phew.
Also present is our hero, the Duke of Waddlebridge… oops, I mean Wadebridge. He has a bit of a reputation as a player, but don’t they all, really. The moment he spies just how much she loves the art hanging around the place, however, Wade is a goner. On her part, Cassandra is enjoying her time under the limelight, so to speak, even when she knows it will soon end, so she doesn’t see the harm in enjoying Wade’s company, flirting a bit. Where’s the harm in that? It’s not like he will want to marry her, or she will fall in love with!
That’s basically this story. It’s pretty much a Courtship in a Country House thing, and while Cassandra and Wade clearly want to see the other person naked up close and personal, the actual sensuality level of the story is more of that of a traditional regency. Plus, there are many conversations here, most of which emphasizing what a noble, virtuous, nice, and awesome couple we have in the hero and heroine. There is hardly any conflict here, as any issue that comes up is pretty easily resolved eventually without too much fuss.
This one isn’t the most exciting thing to read, I must admit, but I still like it mostly because the author manages to drum up a cozy, idyllic story in which love comes easily and beautifully, everything is in a simple black and white, and the heroine is actually a pretty good example of a plucky and determined heroine done right. Sure, Cassandra could use a little more believable flaw or vulnerability to balance out her one-dimensional “virtuous heroine” personality (whatever flaw she has here only ends up underscoring what an awesome person she is), but still, she remains in character as someone who isn’t afraid to embrace life and be the star of her own story. Cassandra does this believably too, her character evolving in a believable, organic manner. As for Wade, his determination to convince Cassandra that he is worthy of her time and affection is pretty sweet. Yes, these two aren’t the most exciting characters around, but they are cute together, and that’s good enough for me.
The Infamous Duke is a good example of a cozy read. It holds little surprises, but it offers little delights here and there to make up for this. I will probably forget about this story a week or so from now, but while I’m reading it, it offers an uncomplicated, almost old-school kind of escapism. There is no dead person mystery, no contemporary politics shoved overtly into the story line, no jarring contemporary elements violating the 19th century setting, nothing else that will detract from the vicarious experience of following a couple as they fall in love. Sometimes, it’s nice to read something like this.