To Marry the Duke, by Julianne MacLean

>> Tuesday, July 24, 2007

TITLE: To Marry the Duke (excerpt)
AUTHOR: Julianne MacLean

PAGES: 373

SETTING: Victorian England
TYPE: Straight romance
SERIES: Starts the American Heiress series. See the other book titles here.

REASON FOR READING: It's been in my TBR for a while. I finally picked it up after reading Ana's post about it.

My dear sister Clara,

London society is so much more complicated than I could ever have known! Every night is a different ball or assembly, and a different swirl of glittering jewels and rustling gowns. Though I fear I am making social blunders left and right I am having some measure of success in my (or rather, Mother's) objective. Mother is beside herself with glee at the attentions I have been receiving from a few gentlemen she finds supremely suitable as husband material.

But my dearest sister, it is so hard for me to even look at any gentleman but a certain duke, who, if I may confess, makes my heart beat so that I fear it can be seen across a ballroom. He is James Langdon, the Duke of Wentworth, and though I may sound dramatic, he makes me feel as no man ever has before.

But I must push these feelings away. I sometimes hear whispers about his dark past, and he is quietly called the Dangerous Duke. Oh Clara! I am secretly overjoyed that he may love me, and at the same time terrified of his attentions. I have waited so long for my true love, and now I must resist him to protect my heart.

If only I knew how to proceed…

Your devoted sister,
THE PLOT: Ugh, I hate those letter-from-the-characters blurbs. This one's particularly silly (not to mention this doesn't sound like Sophia at all). The plot is quite simple. Sophia is an American heiress with a social climbing mother. After rejecting some good prospects in America, she accedes to her mother's demands that they go to England to find her a husband.

Sophia is determined to marry for love, but soon word of her obscenely huge dowry gets out and she fears any man who proposes to her will be out for her money. James Langdon, the Duke of Wentworth, doesn't seem to be one of them, though, and she allows herself to be courted by him and consents to his proposal of marriage.

But James is out for her money, or at least that's what he tells himself. He's felt drawn to Sophia from the start, but a fear of giving in to his passions and ending up like his father (and his grandfather before him) keep him from approaching her. It's only when he hears about her dowry and is reminded of just how bad things are at his estate that he gives himself permission to go after her. After all, a marriage between them will be all about business: she gets his title, he gets her money.

Too bad no one told Sophia until after the marriage.

MY THOUGHTS: My entire problem with the book hinges on one thing: I didn't buy James' motivation for fighting his feelings for Sophia.

The whole thing about how his father and his grandfather had been so awful was sad and yes, I felt sorry for him. It's just that I wasn't able to make the connection between not wanting to be like those two men and his conviction that having a real relationship with his wife would have that effect. His thought processes in that area made no sense to me and made me think he was a bit stupid.

And when he rejects Sophia so painfully, I added "cruel" to "stupid". The man is completely thoughtless in all his dealings with her, seems to delight in hurting her feelings as much as he can and all for no good reason. That's just not good.

I think at the point when James reveals his real intentions in the marriage the book could still have been salvaged, if only Sophia had reacted in a different way to James' actions. Maybe a "so you want a cold wife? I'll give you a cold wife" reaction that made James realize how much he would be missing if he made his marriage into his idea of what a proper marriage should be like. But no, Sophia just keeps acting the same, still giving James all he wants. I lost a lot of respect for her because of it. I expected something better than this doormat behaviour from someone previously characterized as intelligent and strong.

Up until the last 100 or so pages I was still engaged in the book. I wasn't liking how the conflict was going, but at least I was interested in it. But then the action moves to a booooring and trite plot about someone who's blackmailing the dowager duchess and oh we must rescue James' sister. And of course, the French are evil and treacherous. Bah.

MacLean writes nicely, but this story wasn't my cup of tea. Sorry, Ana!

MY GRADE: A C-. I don't think I'll be reading the rest of the series.


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