Jul 26 2007
Dear Ms. Carlyle,
At this point, I think I’m going to stop with this trilogy even though the hero who’s left is a character I initially had the most interest in. I had problems with Never Lie to a Lady and they’ve only got worse with Never Deceive a Duke. For one thing, the plot of commoner suddenly being raised to the height of the British peerage is not a favorite of mine and for another, none of the main characters in this book ended up appealing to me. I got tired of their angst, I didn’t see them fall in love and the suspense plot was even weaker than in “Lady.”
First thing: Need does not equal Love. Gareth needs to be needed and Antonia is very needy so in the end, I guess they found the Right Person and might be very happy together – as long as Antonia doesn’t become the independent woman she tells Gareth she wants to be.
Antonia – you tell us she so strong (actually she tells us that) but Gareth is always rushing off to make sure she isn’t struck by lightening, doesn’t fall through the stairs, isn’t afraid of the storm…..need, need, need — he certainly doesn’t seem to really believe in her “strength.” Overbred domestic turkeys also don’t have the sense to come in out of the rain either. Most of Antonia’s scenes are cry, cry, cry me a river. She did survive the nasty things that Daddy Dearest had done to her to snap her out of her postmortem depression but overall much of what I took away from this book about her is her tremulousness, her Barbara Cartland heroine speech hesitations (okay maybe not that bad but just read a few pages of her dialogue to see what I mean), and her dissolving into tears throughout first 150 pages.
For years Neville Shipping is Gareth’s life and yet he barely even thinks about it once tremulous Antonia starts sucking him dry with her need. And at the end Gareth suddenly decides he’s in love? No, he’s in need and he admits that he thought he loved Zee until he decided she didn’t need him. Antonia wants to be an independent woman and Gareth supposedly wants this for her yet he prattles on (when he tells her about conditions on board) that women need to be protected, cared for, swaddled in swans down and isolated from the horrors of life…..and why the fuck does he tell her about life for him on board the “pirate” ship? Why? You said he’s never told anybody and he just spills it all to her? Because he trusts her?
Needs Loves her? Then he wails on and gnashes his teeth over having poisoned her feelings for him. WhyTF tell her dude? Oh, that’s right, the plot requires it.
Did Robert Altman lie to us about servants in “Gosford Park?” How in the hell could two servants (one of whom hates Gareth and would be sure to pass on juicy gossip of Kemble arriving as friend of Keiran and the debate over whether or not Kemble should be upstairs or down and what the hell would a footman have to say in where Kemble would be roomed?) see Kemble arrive and then have Kemble expect to coax their secrets out? Oh puhleeze. Gareth goes on about how he worked his way up the ranks as a business person and respects the working man and yet he expects to try to insult and hoodwink his own staff that way? Oh puhleeze. Servants knew the pecking order of life, knew who was above them in station and how fellow servants were supposed to act. This whole section just felt wrong to me from the beginning. Then we find out what really happened and I’m left thinking, “I spent this amount of time reading this section for this resolution?!” And why have the debate over whether or not to fire a particular servant? Gareth knows that servant is preying on the female staff, hates him, and is causing trouble yet he whinges on for pages over what to do then boom fires him. Why take so long for no purpose?
I had high hopes with prologue but just like “Lady” I ended up more interested in everything but the main romance. Until, that is, I read to the end of the book and saw who actually killed the old
Fart Duke. I guess Gareth and Antonia will be happy together. They both have angsty backgrounds but 1) Antonia is the only one who actually might have progressed a bit in dealing with her issues while 2) Gareth mentions his to her but nothing seems to come from it except to make her feel sorry for him. I read over 400 pages and finished
it wishing for my time back.
Dear Ms. Carlyle:
This will be a “dueling” review because while I was on the fence about this story, I did think it was more compelling than Jayne. The reason I am on the fence about this book is because on the one hand there was a point that this book drove me to tears. On the other hand, it was almost an unrelentingly depressing book. Each chapter except for the very last two started out with a vignette of Gabriel/Gareth's former life and it was all very negative. He had a very very sucky life.
The lighthearted moments were provided by Kemble, the intrepid valet turned master spy/antique dealer/decorator. It is clear to me that you, the author, love this character. He is richly drawn and provides good comedic value to the story. The problem is I just have a hard time buying into his character progression. As Jayne so rightly points out, the character of the servants, including Kemble, seemed so at odds with what my perception of conduct that is historically accurate I find myself jarred from the story. Maybe it is too many viewings of Gosford Park or Georgette Heyer, but the portrayal of the servants in this story, particularly Kemble, never sat right with me.
As for the love story, I believed it because of the very reasons Jayne disliked the story. Antonia is an emotionally vulnerable woman who needs to rely on someone and Gabriel/Gareth needed to be important to someone. Antonia’s need resonated with Gabriel/Gareth and so while this relationship was uneven and unhealthy, it worked for them and I felt that, as a unit, they were better off together.
There was a societal issue that I thought was important but not brought out sufficiently and that was Gabriel/Gareth was part Jewish and he was reviled by some of his servants and some of society for it. I felt that if it was important enough to bring up as a plot point, then something more should have been done to address it instead of making the “good” servants not care and the “bad” servants despise him for it.
The main problem for me wasn’t that Antonia and Gabriel/Gareth had suffered so tremendously throughout their lives, but the fact that so much of the book dwelled upon these dark, unhappy moments. With each chapter end, I grew to dread turning the page because I didn’t know if I could stomach one more depressing scene from Gabriel/Gareth’s life. Despite the darkness of the story, I still read each subsequent chapter and I was emotionally moved so I have to give it a B-.