Michelle L Bono, $2.99, ISBN 978-0-615-40530-8
Historical Romance, 2010
Say hello to Selinda, the heroine in Michelle Bono’s debut effort The Last Duchess of Havenhurst. A widow, she takes advantage of the current exodus of many blue-blooded folks from England to the colonies to set up lucrative plantations in order to do some smuggling while visiting her late husband’s cousin in Virginia. She hopes that, with a few more rounds of gem trafficking, she will be able to gather enough money to live the rest of her life in genteel comfort, without the need to marry again. However, Colin, the Duke of Brent and the cousin of her late husband, is determined to petition Queen Anne for Selinda’s hand in marriage! As Selinda finds herself embarking on a seafaring adventure as her gem smuggling activities catch up with her, there is fortunately a handsome military man to give her some TLC.
There are some obvious gaffes in the edition I’m reading – the use of “loosing” instead of “losing” on page 3, for example – and it’s quite unfortunate because I often find myself pulled out from the story by such boo-boos.
Having said that, I’m quite bemused by this story, mostly because of how Ms Bono sometimes tips expectations topsy-turvy in this story. Colin is disagreeable and boorish, which means there is a very good chance that he’d be the romance hero in another book. Here, however, Selinda ends up with a far more agreeable fellow who will move mountains for her. There is almost an old-school feel to this romp, in the sense that Ms Bono isn’t too concerned about getting tied down by tropes and clichés typical of the romance genre.
However, characterization could have been better. Selinda is a rare heroine who knows her worth and isn’t above demanding the best in life because she’s worth it. She is also an independent heroine who’d do things to help herself instead of waiting for rescue. However, there are many moments when Selinda seems imbued with superhuman properties. She experiences or shows very little vulnerability even in situations in which she should be out of her depths, and every man who meets her instantly adores her.
Like Selinda, Alexei, our hero, seems almost superhuman at times as well. He’s a nice fellow who can be relied on when the going gets tough, and he is also besotted with Selinda. But apart from this, there is nothing much here to give Alexei the depths he needs to come off as a three-dimensional character.
The author has a writing style that is easy to read and pretty engaging, and her sense of pacing is fine in this story. However, The Last Duchess of Havenhurst also feels rough around the edges when it comes to the characters and the occasional narrative boo-boo. There is some potential in here, but the author doesn’t fully capture that potential in the end.