Never Dare a Duke

Gayle Callen
December 2008, European Historical Romance (1840s [Victorian] England and Scotland)
Avon, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0061235067

Grade: D-
Sensuality: Warm

Math and I were never the best of friends, but, nevertheless, (and probably to amuse myself - something I desperately needed) I found myself thinking in mathematical terms as I read this book. Here goes: The flimsiest of premises + the most pedestrian and unimaginative of executions = no reason I can think of to recommend this book.

See if this makes any sense to you: With her father’s newspaper in trouble, Abigail Shaw – who anonymously contributes to the paper and desperately wants Daddy’s respect – decides to “investigate” a scandalous duke in the hopes that a big story will save the family business. Only problem is, she’s basing her “investigation” on gossip from a BFF who seems to have her own agenda.

So, Abigail, using an assumed identity in order to aid her “investigation," and her BFF and a host of others find themselves at a house party at the duke’s magnificent palatial estate. Of course, the duke’s mommy wants him to find a wife and, in order to aid her purpose and make certain that all bases in the European Historical House Party Checklist are covered, she has invited eligible young misses to the party, including the BFF. Only the duke isn’t interested.

Still, while he’s protesting and harrumph-ing, he kinda sorta find himself drawn to plain Jane Abigail. Who, of course, is fighting her attraction to the duke both because he’s a duke and because he’s the guy she’s “investigating.” That is until she gets an inspiration: She proposes to the duke that they pretend to be courting in order to keep the other young ladies at bay and – unbeknownst to the duke, of course – allow her to get closer to him in order to aid her “investigation.”

Okay, the premise of this book made no sense. None. A supposedly serious journalist wannabe launches an "investigation" because her BFF says this duke guy is like s-o-o-o-o-o bad? Really? And the characters? Paper-thin – and that is giving short shrift to your average piece of paper. Factor in the really, really big type and this one adds up to one of the most obvious pieces of wallpaper I’ve ever come across.

There is absolutely nothing here to give this story any texture, any historical vibrancy, or any reason to believe that Abigal isn’t Miley Cyrus and her BFF Paris Hilton. There are some excellent historical romances out there these days. This isn’t one of them.

-- Sandy Coleman

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