The Way to a Duke's Heart

Caroline Linden
September 2012, European Historical Romance (1817 England)
Avon, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0062025341
Part of a series

Grade: C
Sensuality: Warm

Over the two months it took to read this book, one question kept running through my mind: How? How could a book so straightforward, interesting enough in premise, and well written be so ridiculously dull? I don’t have an answer, really. I found it painfully slow; others will find it just the right pace. Thus is life.

This is the third book in the Truth About the Duke series, and I don’t feel I missed anything. I mean this in both senses – I easily followed the story of a late bigamous duke and his heirs’ efforts to prove their legitimacy, but I also don’t feel any need to go back to the adventures of Charles de Lacey’s younger brothers.

In this tale, Charles has inherited the task of solving the mystery – are they legit? Aren’t they? – when his brothers abruptly gave it up, one by one, when they met their future wives. Oddly enough (or not), they’re all widows, so when Charles meets Mrs. Tessa Neville – a widow! – it seems reasonable to expect that Charles and Tessa will eventually get together. It turns out I’m right, so I’m a genius.

Anyway, the de Laceys are being blackmailed by someone who has evidence that their late father, the Duke of Durham, was still married to a barmaid (a youthful indiscretion) when he married their mother, thus potentially making them illegitimate. Charles’ trail leads him to Hiram Scott, a slightly shady businessman who is looking for investors for his canal. Hiram Scott leads him to Tessa Neville, who’s sounding out Hiram Scott on behalf of her brother. Tessa, you see, has Brains. But she’s a woman! No one gives her any credibility! So she’s kinda prickly, but don’t blame her for it.

The rest of the story pans out really, really, reeeeeeeaaallllly slowly. There were nice scenes where things perk up temporarily – the bluebell scene, where Charles almost falls ass into a brook, put a smile on my face, and the revelation of the villain is quite satisfying considering I hadn’t read the series before. But overall, the book was remarkably easy to put down. Nothing was terribly compelling, not Charles, not Tessa, not Tessa’s companion, not the plot. I should also add that too many aspects of the book reminded me of Jane Austen. The misjudgement-at-first-sight – Pride and Prejudice. The fact that Tessa’s companion is a tittery, flighty old-ish woman who’s cannier than she seems and is called Miss Bates – Emma. There were several other things, but honestly I’ve forgotten.

I’ve liked Caroline Linden’s books, but more and more her books are hit and miss. I’m guessing her audience is like that as well, so honestly, it might be worth a shot. Then again, it might not be. It wasn’t for me.

-- Jean Wan

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