Dukes Prefer Blondes, by Loretta Chase

14 Jun

Recently the lovely Keira reviewed this novel at Cogitations and Meditations, and after reading her wonderful review, I just had to look it up, with a view to checking the price, perhaps snag it.

Turns out, I already owned it.

I am not exactly sure how long this book has been on my digital TBR pile (frankly, I’m a little afraid to look too closely at these things), but, probably from the first time it was offered at a reduced price.

Long story a bit shorter, this meant I could start reading it on the spot, without budget guilt.

Reader, beware: while there’s very little explicit language, the bedroom door is open.

Dukes Prefer Blondes, by Loretta Chase

I didn’t realize it until I was already a few pages in, but this novel is connected to Ms Chase’s Dressmakers trilogy¹. The heroine, Lady Clara Fairfax, is an important secondary character in the first two books.

Our hero, brilliant barrister Oliver ‘Raven’ Radford, may be not-so-distantly related to a duke, but he’s not what one would call a great catch for the daughter of a Marquess.

Or, perhaps, that’s exactly what he is.

Here’s the blurb, from the author’s site:

Biweekly marriage proposals from men who can’t see beyond her (admittedly breathtaking) looks are starting to get on Lady Clara Fairfax’s nerves. Desperate to be something more than ornamental, she escapes to her favorite charity. When a child is in trouble, she turns to tall, dark and annoying barrister Oliver Radford.

Though he’s unexpectedly found himself in line to inherit a dukedom, Radford’s never been part of fashionable society, and the blonde beauty, though not entirely bereft of brains, isn’t part of his plans. But Clara overwhelms even his infallible logic, and when wedlock looms, all he can do is try not to lose his head over her…

It’s an inconvenient marriage  by ordinary standards, but these two are far from ordinary. Can the ton’s most adored heiress and London’s most difficult bachelor fall victim to their own unruly desires?

Quick and dirty summary: Lady Clara wants to help a poor, troubled girl find her equally troubled brother, who’s gotten himself involved with a criminal gang. Knowing that she lacks the resources or contacts to do anything productive herself, she endeavors to cajole, convince, and (almost but not quite), nag Raven into doing it for her–not only against his inclination, but against his better judgement.

It’s art that makes the path from here to marriage seem both impossible and inevitable.

It’s not just that Raven is a mere mister; he’s also a mister without wealth, and one who works for a living by dealing with courts and criminals. While Clara, the only daughter of the Marquess of Warford, was raised to marry a duke.

I loved that Ms Chase doesn’t shy from the very real difficulties that such a marriage would bring both parties, both in the short and the long term, and that we see both Clara and Raven devote some thought to the matter. Infatuated or not, they are both sensible enough to think of what will happen next.

I confess that it took me a while to warm to Raven. It’s not that he’s always the most intelligent person in any room, nor is it that he knows this. Intelligence is my catnip, and Raven is not unduly arrogant over his.

My issue was that, while he acknowledges Clara’s intelligence, Raven is often dismissive of her feelings about her own life and circumstances. He seems to truly believe that Clara, by virtue of being female and the daughter of a high ranking aristocrat, is incapable of any deep feelings, let alone be in need of a purpose.

Oh, he’s attracted to her, and he indulges her beyond what’s reasonable–such as taking her into some of the poorer and more dangerous areas of London–but there are a couple of exchanges between them that made my blood boil² and made it difficult for me to understand what Clara found attractive about him.

And then, seemingly all of a sudden, I realized that I was completely invested in this relationship.

A few random, out of context quotes, may explain why:

She turned away from the window, sat back, folded her arms, and met his gaze. “Oh, good,” she said, “drama.” (Clara to Raven, Chapter 6)

She said, “I’m not going to ask if you are done being hysterical. It would be plain to the meanest intelligence that you’ve stored up years of that article, and it’s bound to break out at intervals.” (Clara to Raven, Chapter 7)

“And you are not at all provoking, I suppose.”

“Yes, I am,” she said. “But you like it, sir Genius. From his lofty intellectual heights, the Great God Raven looks down upon me with amusement. Don’t pretend you don’t. I see your mouth twitch. I see the glint in your beady avian eye. Why can’t you laugh like a normal person?” (Chapter 9)

“Despair not, o queen of all realms of my life” (Raven to Clara, Chapter 16) 

The dialogue throughout is wonderful; smart, fast, witty. And these two talk to each other, even when they fight, they listen. The growth of the relationship, from attraction, to like, to caring, to love, it’s just lovely.

Finally, there’s competence porn. We are not just told that Raven is good at what he does, we see it. We are not just told that Clara has been raised to occupy a high social position, we see her assess the people and situations around her, and act accordingly.

Dukes Prefer Blondes, despite what I consider an unfortunate title,³ gets a 9.25 out of 10.

~ * ~

¹ All three Dressmakers book are in the digital TBR archive of doom–because of course they are.

² I must confess that this is not a fault of the writing, but a consequence of current events. Watching Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Claire McCaskill being dismissed, silenced, ignored, and ridiculed, for the sin of knowing more, and speaking out, while female, after Hillary Clinton was accused of being ‘too prepared’ to be president, has depleted my patience for males in power dismissing women, even in fiction.

³ Raven is a mere mister for a good two thirds of the novel, and doesn’t become a duke until the postscript/epilogue.

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9 Responses to “Dukes Prefer Blondes, by Loretta Chase”

  1. Lori 14/06/2017 at 5:35 PM #

    This was my favorite of the Dressmakers series. I liked that Clara turned Raven’s bullshit back on him and accused him of the same hysteria and acting like a damsel that he accused her of. Also, I liked that he did learn to respect her. She was a great character.

    • azteclady 14/06/2017 at 7:45 PM #

      Yes, she is. I love her reflections on how she must stand up to him from the start, or his strong personality will eclipse hers.

  2. Carolyn 15/06/2017 at 6:32 PM #

    Thanks for reminding me of this book. Time for a reread. 🙂

  3. willaful 18/06/2017 at 3:52 PM #

    It’s astonishing how much older media reflects current events. Or perhaps it’s inevitable?

    I think I bogged down in the third book, but I really should read this one.

    • azteclady 18/06/2017 at 4:23 PM #

      I think it’s inevitable, myself, more’s the shame.

      And if you do read this one, please do let me know what you think!

  4. Erin S. Burns 20/06/2017 at 5:14 PM #

    Oooh, I adore competence porn! And…I suspect I may have these on Mt. TBR myself…

    • azteclady 20/06/2017 at 9:35 PM #

      Oh, please do let me know what you think of this one! I must find a way to read and review the first three soon myself.

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