Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4926-2159-1
Historical Romance, 2016
What the Duke Doesn’t Know sees the author moving back to the whole “the hero and the heroine need to solve a mystery” route, and unfortunately, this one sees her doing what way too many historical romances do: have the whole plot catalyzed and fueled by the heroine’s exasperating stupidity. And my goodness, Kawena Benson is one of the worst examples of this kind of heroine I’ve come across in a while.
Kawena is half-Polynesian, hailing from the fictitious island of Valatu. This is an important fact, because it will be used as a constant excuse for Kawena’s inability to understand cues, societal norms, nuances in English conversations, and more. Her father was killed and his cachet of expensive jewels were missing, so Kawena reasons that the captain of the last ship to dock by (her father was in charge of the port) must be the killer. So she travels at the way to London, armed with a rusty old pistol that cannot fire unless it’s by accident, to jump out of the bush during a house party and yell “Thief! Murderer!” at our hero, Lord James Gresham, non-stop.
No, really, that is her plan. Let’s all stand up and applaud this lady!
Kawena is overpowered by James, naturally, and his family takes a shine to her and allows her to be a guest while they try to get her story out of her. Soon, James decides to help her out, and falls for her in the process. I have no idea why, but early on, the author lets me know that he’s restless after his ship has been decommissioned by the Navy. Not many battle ships are needed in more peaceful times, after all. So I can only imagine that she makes a novel sexy distraction for him. Heaven knows, it’s not like she’s going to win anyone over with her intelligence.
Really, this heroine is relentlessly stupid and naïve that I actually feel some kind of panic attack coming on if I don’t put down this book and take a deep breath after every few pages. Everything wrong that one can do in a situation, Kawena can be counted on to do it. Her contributions to any discussion are reliably banal and dumb. For example, James and his brothers discuss about whether they should approach an admiral to help with locating his former crew mates to see whether any of them can be a suspect. They are going through the pros and the cons… and then Kawena decides to interrupt in order to contribute her insight: “Then we must find an admiral!” Oh god.
And she does this all the time. Sit down at that corner, dumb bitch, and go suck on a lollypop while the adults talk, okay?
She also has no idea how to behave in public, she doesn’t want to behave because she’s too edgy for that, et cetera, and the hero and his powerful family are the ones who have to work overtime to ensure that she doesn’t crash and burn. The sad thing is, she doesn’t fully understand just how lucky she is to be protected like this, and the few times she realizes that she has been helped, she’s like, oh, whatever.
I don’t know what the author was thinking when she made our heroine to be this relentless, non-stop ball of acting and talking stupid. It is a painful as well as exhausting, draining experience following her around, and to add insult of the injury, the hero and his family consider Kawena a spirited, intelligent woman. I feel like the author is patronizing me in a “There, there, the heroine doesn’t die while trying to cross the street – isn’t she the smartest thing ever?” manner.
The hero is fine, but he’s stuck in the thankless role of babysitting the heroine and, later, doing his best to convince her to marry him. Yes, she’s also doing that “He deserves someone else!” thing – not that I don’t agree with her, it’s just that I’m so tired of her being the constant source of problems for the hero. JUST DIE ALREADY, THAT STUPID THING, GOD. Oh, and she comes with loathsome relatives too. This creature has no redeeming feature outside of her boobs and ass, I tell you.
Anyway, What the Duke Doesn’t Know is too painful a read. Even writing this review is giving me unhappy flashbacks of having to sit through Kawena’s neverending stupidity and obstinacy. Here’s a big fat one oogie for the book, and that’s only because the hero is tolerable and deserves so much better than that thing he’s stuck with for the happily ever after.