Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Jen's Review: Duke of Desire

Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (October 17, 2017)
Series: Maiden Lane, 12
Genre: Historical Romance


Refined, kind, and intelligent, Lady Iris Jordan finds herself the unlikely target of a diabolical kidnapping. Her captors are the notoriously evil Lords of Chaos. When one of the masked-and nude!-Lords spirits her away to his carriage, she shoots him . . . only to find she may have been a trifle hasty.


Cynical, scarred, and brooding, Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has made it his personal mission to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and destroy them. Rescuing Lady Jordan was never in his plans. But now with the Lords out to kill them both, he has but one choice: marry the lady in order to keep her safe.


Much to Raphael's irritation, Iris insists on being the sort of duchess who involves herself in his life-and bed. Soon he's drawn both to her quick wit and her fiery passion. But when Iris discovers that Raphael's past may be even more dangerous than the present, she falters. Is their love strong enough to withstand not only the Lords of Chaos but also Raphael's own demons? 

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Jen's Review:

When it comes to romance, I’m just more of a contemporary girl. I think there’s two primary reasons that I struggle with historicals. The first reason is more from the story perspective. Maybe I’m reading the wrong historicals, but it seems to me that the relationship road is always straight, narrow and leading to a single destination: matrimony. The couple’s emotional journey can surprise me, but the details are always circling the drain of the marriage plot: Can, will, should they marry? Who approves or disapproves of the marriage? Who is preventing or what is impeding the marriage? What emotional baggage do they each bring to the marriage? It’s not my favorite thing.

Another thing I really struggle with is how the entire sub-genre is so whitewashed. Smarter people than me have explained this problem, such as Asha Ganesan in this piece from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. To be fair, this isn’t a romance specific problem. For example, last summer, a dude freaked out on twitter because the BBC put a black Roman in a kid’s cartoon. Mary Beard and the rest of twitter completely owned the guy, but there seems to be a persistent belief among white folks that people of color just weren’t a part of history except as slaves or servants. The combination of plot fatigue and wanting to read more inclusively means that I simply don’t read that many historicals. Basically, I’ll reread (Derek Craven forever -- and he's $2.99!) and only start new ones from authors that got grandfathered in or that are more inclusive in their approach.

One of those authors that got grandfathered in is Elizabeth Hoyt, and Duke of Desire is the 12th book in the Maiden Lane series. (By the way, I’ve only read installments 1 [currently $1.99!], 2, and 10 of this series, and easily followed the plot.) Duke of Desire has a dramatic beginning. Our heroine Iris Jordan has been kidnapped by a group of nefarious and evil aristocrats that call themselves the Lords of Chaos. They intend to rape and kill Iris; however, one of the masked men realizes she’s not who they think she is and whisks her away, promising he’ll kill her for them. What a guy. It turns out that Raphael, the Duke of Dyemore, is undercover, trying to destroy the Lords of Chaos from the inside. Iris has no idea that Raphael is a bad guy and after finding a pistol hidden in the carriage, she channels her inner Jessica Trent and shoots him. I thought to myself, “Take that, marriage plot!”

Well. Not so fast. Raphael fears that his wound is mortal and knows that even if he dies, his name and status can protect her from the Lords of Chaos. He insists that they should marry from what he thinks is his deathbed, and it’s only the middle of the second chapter! The tension in the remaining 90% of the book comes from Iris and Raphael learning who they are and trying to build a future from this unconventional beginning.

I tend to like books with lots of tortured inner conflict. Raphael suffered terrible abuse at the hands of his father. He is determined not to bring a child into the world, fearing that the sins of his father will corrupt the family for generations. Even though this seems silly to me as a modern reader, the author skillfully portrays him as a man torn between his fears and his desires. Iris is a strong woman, determined to make the best of her situation. She wants a real husband and longs for a child. Even though Raphael desperately wants her, admitting that he fell in love with her at first sight, he refuses to sleep with her because he is determined not to father any children. You know that feeling of watching an old movie where all the conflicts would have been solved if only the characters had cell phones!? That’s how I felt about Iris and Raphael. Honestly, this poor man would have been much less tortured if only he had access to reliable birth control! Those wacky historicals.

As a major plot point, this had the potential to be mishandled. I’ve read this plot before where it has devolved into manipulation or even non-consensual sex. In Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I, for example, the heroine takes advantage of her husband when he’s drunk, which is pretty terrible. I was thrilled Elizabeth Hoyt does not fall into this trap. Iris takes his fears seriously. They work towards figuring out their marriage and its conflicts without lies and subterfuge. Of course, there’s still an external conflict: those terrifying Lords of Chaos are stomping around, trying to kill Iris for what she witnessed. Raphael is determined to protect her and bring down their leader.

I enjoyed Duke of Desire and was invested in the relationship between Iris and Raphael. I wanted them to find love and happiness in their marriage and felt both characters were well-developed. In fact, I read this book in what I can now tell you is the most unfriendly reading experience I’ve ever had---my ARC from NetGalley was almost entirely in italics. I read this entire book---three hundred and fifty three pages-- in ITALICS just to find out how these two would evade the Lords of Chaos and find their post-marriage happily ever after. Three hundred and fifty three pages of italics!! 

4 1/2 STARS! 

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Jen received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley.

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Thanks for the review, Jen! I do love this series, and while I agree you can easily jump in, I'm *trying* to be a Good Reader (for once!) and go in order; I'm waiting on book 9 from my library right now. Can't wait to get to this one as well.

Also: I tip my hat to you for reading such a horribly formatted ARC. Damn!

Remember, since this is a Royal Pick, come back on October 26th for a chance to WIN an ecopy of your own!

Have you read Elizabeth Hoyt? YOU SHOULD. Ahem. Do you perhaps have some amazing historicals for Jen to try?


Until Next Time,

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