Dear Ms. Boyle:
I haven’t read many of your books, but each time I start one, I think to myself, why haven’t I gone on a Boyle glom and then I get to the end feeling one part happy and one part dissatisfied and I think its the latter feeling that drives my buying decisions. Love Letters From a Duke was a fun, sweet, and humorous romance whose flow was interrupted by frequent summary monologues but worse, we weren’t privy to many of the love letters which purportedly exchanged between the hero and heroine.
When Felicity Langley was 17, she wrote to the Marquess of Standon, the future Duke of Hollindrake, and suggested that they were a well suited pair and should marry. The recipient of the letter was not the Marquess of Standon as he was off fighting for his country. Instead the Marquess’ grandfather and current duke received the letter and with his secretary embarked on a four year letter writing exchange with Ms. Langley which culminated in an expectation of marriage.
Upon Hollindrake’s ascension to the title four years later and his return from abroad, Felicity, her twin sister, and their cousin, Pippin, ensconce themselves in a London house and await Felicity’s proposal. It is something that must be done soon for three women have no money for which to pay for their house, their servants, a proper wardrobe, cattle, and, it seems, even food.
Aubrey Sterling aka Captain Thatcher did not expect to be Hollindrake. He was the third son of a third son. When he’s off at war, he can forget about the unwelcome obligations that will be thrust upon him when he comes home but come home he must because Hollindrake is dead, long live Hollindrake. Thatcher does not want to be married, though, and when informed by his late grandfather’s secretary of the promise the two of them made posing as him, he’s incensed and determined to call it off.
When he arrives at Felicity’s home, however, he’s mistaken for a footman and the coil of deception begins. The conflict was very genuine. Thatcher finds a freedom in being the footman for the madcap home run by Felicity and her companions. Here there is no pressure to be ducal. Further, there were intrigues to be discovered and once caught in Felicity’s net, he couldn’t bear to let go. But once he starts to fall for Felicity and realizes that he cannot cry off, every day of continued deception becomes more fraught. He further finds himself in the awful position of being jealous of himself.
Felicity is shown as brave, clever, and vulnerable. Her passion to become a duchess is largely in part due her feelings of inadequacy and that no one could think less of a duchess. Overtime spent with Thatcher, Felicity comes to learn the true meaning of a “nobleman” and that perhaps her footman might be more ducal than the man on the other side of her letters.
There were parts of this story that were funny and tender and smart and touching. But many of those moments were degraded by the constant summary narrations. For example, a scene would show us how clever Felicity was in manuevering those around her and then Thatcher would spend three paragraphs telling us readers how clever Felicity was in the scene we just read, essentially retelling the scene and every emotion to be derived from that. It seemed like every smart scene was following by a “scene for dummies” guide so that the reader wasn’t left with even one nuance. I felt as if I was hit over the head with the importance of each exchange, each action.
I was even further disappointed by the fact that the title was “Love Letters from a Duke” and that the grandfather and Felicity exchanged four years of correspondence during which Felicity fell in love with the grandfather (posing as her promised betrothed) and the grandfather and his secretary became enamored of Felicity and we readers were only treated to two tiny, insignificant passages from these letters. It was like being promised chocolate pudding cake and getting cake but only a tiny piece of chocolate and a dab of pudding. (Probably a bad analogy but I’m hungry right now). The point is why have the “letters” be so important and not share them with the reader?
The characters are well developed, the romance is believable, but with so much unnecessary summarizing monologues and the lack of the promised epistolary exchanges made for an uneven and somewhat disappointing read. C+
This book is released on August 28, 2007 and will be in eform and mass market.