Jove, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-515-15518-1
Historical Romance, 2016
Readers of historical romances will know the song and dance. A hero is celebrated for his ability to stick his penis inside every orifice of every whore, and yes, any woman who isn’t his designated true love is a whore because they dare to have sex without justifying their slattern ways using responsibilities and what not. That way, when he declares his love for the heroine, we know for a fact that the love is truly special, as the heroine’s non-prostitute vagina has finally tamed the hero’s unfortunate tendency to be misled by the whores of the world. And the heroine, of course, spreads her legs and goes oh oh baby because she’s doing it out of true love as well as a need to protect the weak and the downtrodden while she’s lying on her back like that.
And that’s basically what The Wicked Duke operates on. This is the conclusion of the Wicked trilogy, and hence, just like every other formulaic series out there, this one is about the SLUTTIEST, HOTTEST DUDE of them all, so we should all buy this book as we romance readers can’t get enough of these promiscuous rakes. Lancelot Hemingford, the new Duke of Aylesbury, is said to have murdered his brother in order to nab the title, and while his brothers worked overtime to clear his name in the previous two books, he spends his time in his country estate lamenting the fact that he has to keep his pants zipped instead of demonstrating his attractive indiscriminate rutting tendencies every ten minutes.
In this book, he is approached by a neighbor, Sir Horace, whom at first seems determined to throw his daughter Nora at him. Well, Lance would rather show off his well-used privates to Horace’s niece, our heroine Marianne Radley. The early parts of the story revolve around him flustering Marianne with his town bicycle ways, and along the way, I am given various accounts of his past sexual exploits. Do you know that he started his profligate ways from as early as when he was sixteen, when he started shagging wives of various noblemen in gardens during house parties? The author seems to assume that the hero’s descriptive history of his slutdom would somehow make up for the fact that our hero has only two variations of personality here: horny and off putting. I can only assume that I’m supposed to the stereotypical romance reader who moans in breathless excitement over the hero’s debauchery even as I disapprove of the heroine doing even a little of the hero’s tour around the block.
And indeed, Marianne is exactly the kind of the heroine who is all mired up in responsibility. Oh, she lusts after Lance too, and she’s also pretty easy when it comes to opening up, er, her heart to that hunky, desirable male prostitute of a hero. But because it is immoral and disgusting, not to mention heinous and vile, for a heroine to be seen as sexual for the sake of liking it, Horace is soon blackmailing Lance to marry Marianne or he will sic a witness that will prove that Lance is a killer to the court, and naturally, Marianne must spread for the sake of poor Nora, who is hysterical and even borderline suicidal at times at the thought of being intimate with a man. And yes, Marianne will soon be putting out and having fun when she’s not making excuses about how Lance – whose problems in this story would have been mostly avoided if he hadn’t been so indiscriminate in sleeping with so many men’s wives – is actually noble and sweet. And yes, she will soon flee towards the end because she knows that he’s just poking it into her everywhere and everytime out of a sense of responsibility so hey, she is a virtuous cow who will sacrifice her entire opportunity to lead a somewhat respectable life in the future just to set him free and let him poke more harlots in his usual indiscriminate manner. Don’t you just love her for her noble, selfless ways?
So yes, this story operates on that tired double standard that sees the hero being free to do anything and everything without earning his redemption and happy ending, while the heroine is so enmeshed in her sense of responsibility and what not that she can’t even enjoy a good rogering without trying to convince me that she’s no whore for doing so and besides, it’s all for Nora. This pattern persists so obviously and frequently that I actually feel mildly insulted that Madeline Hunter seems to believe that I am that kind of reader. The author is pandering hardcore to those readers, and I can only hope that she is making a whole load of money off them as a result – or else, my own sense of boredom as I listlessly turn the pages of this book would be all for naught.
I do like how Horace ends up developing some kind of complexity when it comes to his machinations, though. When it becomes evident why he is doing what he does, he becomes less of a typical unpleasant nasty relative archetype and more of a… well, underdog. He’s not going to be mistaken for a nice guy anytime soon, but I understand why he is driven to do what he does here. It’s a shame that the author doesn’t choose to explore further the ramifications as well as implications of this aspect of the story, preferring instead of lazily pander to the whole “Male slut… good! Female slut… die!” dichotomy.
I know, I know, authors need to make bread too. I can only hope millions of readers enjoy The Wicked Duke, as I certainly don’t, and the thought of the author squandering her talent on such lazy, tedious stories for nothing will only depress me further.