Title: The Duke and I
Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, has sworn never to marry. Daphne Bridgerton has sworn to marry only for love. They make a bargain and fake a courtship to keep the ton’s matchmakers at bay–but what happens when the charade becomes all too real?
Let me start off by saying, I’m not much of a romantic, and I would never have purchased this book if it hadn’t been for Ana. Like most cynics, I viewed the genre as trite and silly, with the Fabios and disheveled maidens on the covers and taglines like “If he had to TAME her, he WOULD!” *collapses into giggles* That said, however, I never had given romance novels a try…and I’m glad that I did! While you can bet your ass that there are many romance ‘novels’ (for lack of a better word) out there that involve no plot between bodice ripping and descriptions of throbbing phalluses, there are legitimate romance novels that actually have wonderful characters and decent plots (and of course, the requisite steamy sex). The Duke and I can be included in the latter category, and is a charming, sexy story. It is a whimsical, fun read that I enjoyed immensely…and finished within about 3 hours.
Daphne Bridgerton is an amiable, quick-witted young woman with a sly sense of humor. The eldest daughter in the Bridgerton family, she finds herself being pushed out into society by her driven mother (a so-called “ambitious mama”) to find a husband. The Bridgertons are not in financial straits nor do they need to gain higher social position—refreshing for a regency period novel that seems to constantly have a heroine who is penniless/indebted/of low social rank—but Violet Bridgerton (said ambitious mama) is in a tizzy to marry off her daughter. Simultaneously, Simon Basset, Earl of Clyvedon, Duke of Hastings (isn’t THAT a mouthful) is making his entrance to society after gaining notoriety as a rake in his university days and traveling the world to escape having to deal with his nasty father. Hastings is best friends with Daphne’s older brother, Anthony, and thus by the unspoken man-rule between friends, shall not covet his friend’s sister. Of course things are never that simple, and Simon stumbles upon Daphne and comes to her rescue from an overzealous suitor. Before he knows who exactly she is, he finds himself irrevocably attracted to her.
After getting a taste of the rabid marriage-minded ton, Simon—who has sworn an oath never to marry—makes a proposition to level-headed Daphne. They will form a false attachment to each other, thereby freeing Daff from the vicelike grip of her mother’s marital schemes and simultaneously deterring any matronly ambitions towards Simon. In the meantime, Simon convinces Daphne that her stock will increase dramatically, because all men want what they cannot have.
Of course, you can tell where this is going.
The Duke and I isn’t exactly the literary equivalent of a winter feast in Glasgow—but it isn’t meant to be. It is a light, airy romance that is more along the lines of a fresh squeezed glass of cold lemonade on a summer day. It won’t linger with you when you are done, but it satisfies a craving for something sweet, and smooth.
Food metaphors aside, The Duke and I is fun. The characters are stock and the plot is predictable, but for what it is, it hits the mark. Daphne is intelligent, very pretty, selfless and kind. Simon, although described as a rake and hoards a dark secret (he *gasp* stutters), isn’t really a rake, and is a nice, moral guy that is ashamed of his past and has some daddy issues to work out (again with the daddy issues!). Daphne, kind woman that she is, saves him from his own demons, and after a short period of angst and light misunderstanding, they both live happily ever after. While the writing isn’t particularly well done–people laugh and eyes sparkle waaaay too much–it is paced well.