REVIEW: When the Duke Found Love by Isabella Bradford
Dear Ms. Bradford :
This book focused on the wrong romance. In the last of three stories about the Wylder sisters, the youngest and fairest daughter of the Earl of Hervey is paired off with the Earl of Crump. With her oldest two sisters married off, Diana has been partaking of society, pushing the boundaries of propriety as far as she could. Her latest flirtation with an Irish officer actually results in some chilliness from certain sectors of society.
The Earl of Crump is a staid, somber man of some advanced years that her mother and her mother’s friend believe will be a steadying influence on Diana. And, you know, woulnd’t it have been wonderful if the two had actually fallen in love? The not so attractive, not so tall, but serious minded Earl as the hero? That would have been refreshing and interesting.
Unfortunately, Crump is merely a foil, the unwanted suitor to provide friction against the illicit shenanigans between Diana and the scandal ridden rake, Duke of Sheffield.
He is ordered by the Prince to get married when news of his dalliance reaches the King’s ears by way of King Louis. The husband Sheffield cuckholded was an honored friend of King Louis. His father figure, the Duke of Breckonridge, told him a) to get married and b) under no circumstances look at Diana.
Of course, what is an unrepentant rake to do?
The better romance would have been between Duke of Breckonridge and Lady Hervey, Diana’s mother. Apparently this romance has been buidling over two books and in this story, it reaches fruition. I would have much rather read about this older, sager couple achieving their HEA than two irresponsible and boring youths.
Diana’s initial response to Lord Crump is disappointment because he is neither tall nor handsome. The characters focus strongly on the physical characteristics and those that are pretty and handsome are good and fun and sexy and those that are unattractive are deemed humorless. Perhaps this underlying emphasis on physical beauty was unintentional but it was strong. It made me long for a good romance between poor Lord Crump and some decent female.
Still staring down at her hands, Diana sighed forlornly. “Is he handsome? If he were to ride by this window, would I take notice of him?”
Mama hesitated a moment, exactly long enough for Diana to know that Lord Crump was decidedly not handsome.
And—oh, preserve her—he wasn’t handsome. The closer he came, the more apparent that became. He was stern and severe, his face beneath his white wig and black cocked hat without the faintest humor.
Sheffield isn’t much different. He is told to start courting Lady Enid. His response was to assume she was no beauty based on her name.
Though Brecon wouldn’t believe it, the fact that Lady Enid was evidently no beauty—how could any woman named Enid be one?—did not distress Sheffield nearly as much as the cold-blooded nature of the arrangement.
If this book had been about Diana setting aside her childish and immature view of people and love and marriage, it would have been far more interesting and engaging. Instead, the romance was as insipid as Diana herself. She barely sounded adult enough to dress herself let alone be the head of a household as she would be as the Marchionness. She kisses a stranger (who just so happens to be the hero) in the garden of a ball because he is not Lord Crump. She announces her acceptance of Lord Crump’s unasked proposal in a fit of pique upon learning the man she kissed was scandalous with a bevy of admirers, forcing the very outcome against which she lamented.
“She was very much aware now of how her breasts were pushed up by her stays and how much of them showed for a fashionable display, and she felt both stylish and adult.”
In sum, Diana has the emotional maturity of a tween who has listened to far too much Taylor Swift or whomever the Regency equivalent was. The hero, while having more emotional maturity, has about as much gravitas as Diana which is to say not much at all. He’s wealthy, titled, likes to sleep around and is fairly indiscriminate about where he puts his penis. He’s bland like unseasoned potatoes but manages to redeem himself somewhat by attempting to help his betrothed find love and to “rescue” Diana from her doomed betrothal.
Diana’s treatment of Lord Crump was unconscionable, particularly at the end. There was more than one moment in which Diana affirmed her willing desire to marry Lord Crump but someone she manages to cast him as the villain in her own mind so that her decision to be “free” of him is supposedly palatable. I know I am supposed to sympathize with Diana because her family treats her poorly by forcing her into an unwanted marriage, but Diana made poor choice after poor choice justifying her family’s actions. C-