Ten Things I Hate About the Duke, by Loretta Chase

2 Jan
A white redheaded woman, with long hear loose, wearing a fuchsia gown with ruffles and a ribbon futtlering behind her, as she runs up some stone steps towards a white stone mansion far in the distance. She's caught stealing a glance over her shoulders, towards the viewer.

Last week I said that I would wait before reading the next Difficult Dukes book.

What do you know, I was kidding myself. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered whether Ms Chase would make Ashmont, drunkard extraordinaire, work for me.

Reader beware: backstory of maternal death in childbirth and paternal neglect (and a bit of a spoiler for A Duke in Shining Armor in the review).

Ten Things I Hate About The Duke, by Loretta Chase

Several people told me that I was likely to enjoy this book better than I did the previous one, and they were right.

Our protagonists meet a few hours after what is supposed to be the climactic scene in the first book, and by that point, Ashmont is drunk enough to pass out.

Which is why I am very glad that the story starts a couple of days before, with our heroine, one Cassandra Pomfret, disrupting a public function and creating a scene. It’s a great introduction to her character and the family dynamics, and sets up her disastroug meeting with Ashmont very organically.

This time, who’s taming whom…

Cassandra Pomfret holds strong opinions she isn’t shy about voicing. But her extremely plain speaking has caused an uproar, and her exasperated father, hoping a husband will rein her in, has ruled that her beloved sister can’t marry until Cassandra does.

Now, thanks to a certain wild-living nobleman, the last shreds of Cassandra’s reputation are about to disintegrate, taking her sister’s future and her family’s good name along with them.

The Duke of Ashmont’s looks make women swoon. His character flaws are beyond counting. He’s lost a perfectly good bride through his own carelessness. He nearly killed one of his two best friends. Still, troublemaker that he is, he knows that damaging a lady’s good name isn’t sporting.

The only way to right the wrong is to marry her…and hope she doesn’t smother him in his sleep on their wedding night.

Right off the bat, Chase sets up a couple of tropes, then subverts them in entertaining and surprising ways, and continues to do so throughout the book, all the way to the last ‘twist’.

Ashmont has more substance on page than Ripley, and Cassandra, while a bit more annoyingly “not like other girls” than Olympia, is not the aimless harridan she appears at first glance.

Where Olympia was simply ‘boring’ and ‘a bluestocking’, Cassandra is feared for her directness: she ‘makes grown men cry’, basically because she refuses to cater to the male ego at all.

Cassandra is intelligent, well-read, and interested in the world around her beyond her own class and family, and is strong-willed enough to fight the constraints society imposed on women of her class.

As for Ashmont, the shock of almost killing his best friend in the name of ‘honor’, shakes him to the marrow of his bones. Meeting Cassandra, and almost killing Keeffe, her tiger and friend, and one of the most famous jockeys of the time, forces him to take a good, hard look at himself, and at all the things that he’s spent most of his life not thinking about.

And therefore, to stop drinking himself blind drunk, and to start using his brain for more than planning boorish pranks and other outrageous behavior in the name of ‘entertainment’.

There’s something sweet and wholesome about the way Ashmont acknowledges that he’s not as smart as Cassandra, while at the same time it’s clear that his main problem is that he’s been aimless most of his life, bored in the privilege of never wanting for anything but purpose.

However, as sweet as I find a hero acknowledging that the heroine is the brains of the operation, I am bothered by all the other characters continually telling him how stupid he is. If nothing else, it’s fucking rude.

Lord Beckingham and Lady Charles Ancaster continue to be intriguing in the background, and the sweet romance blossoming between one Humphrey Morris and Miss Hyacinth Pomfret was lovely, because both characters evolve from Pollyanna and useless puppy, respectively, to well-rounded sensible yet imperfect people.

Like in the first novel, there are a few hints to plot threads that are dropped and then seem to go nowhere; as at least one of them involves a character who appeared first, fleetingly, in that book, I can but hope that we’ll get some resolution when the third novel comes out, hopefully later this year.

Also, the way Ashmont’s alcoholism is addressed in the novel bothers me more than a bit. To pretend that someone who’s drunk himself into passing out almost daily for about a decade, can just stop drinking cold turkey–no relapses, no withdrawal, no physical or mental symptoms at all…That’s more than a bit problematic. I’ve known enough people struggling with addiction of one kind or another to find this treatment hard to suspend disbelief for.

Same with the fantasy of the privileged white cis man who, once some ugly facts of life are shoved at him, will realize the injustice of the world and decide to do something about it–the last two months alone have shown us just how unbelievable that is.

So yes, I did like this book quite a bit better than A Duke in Shinning Armor, though it’s still not quite up to what I tend to expect from a Loretta Chase novel.

Ten Things I Hate About The Duke gets 7.75 out of 10.

2 Responses to “Ten Things I Hate About the Duke, by Loretta Chase”

  1. willaful 05/01/2023 at 3:15 AM #

    I actually think I read the first book because this one was recommended. And then of course I didn’t read the second one and now I won’t remember anything about the first. Ah well.

    • azteclady 05/01/2023 at 9:11 AM #

      It’s interesting, isn’t it, how some books just don’t stick with us at all?

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