REVIEW: The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran
Dear Ms. Duran,
One of my fellow reviewers knows you, but I went into this book without any preconceived notions. I didn’t read reviews (including those here), interviews, cover copy, even your posts here at DA. I knew nothing except Janine thought highly of your work. And while that’s usually a good recommendation for me, sometimes we don’t see eye to eye. This time I think we do. This is truly one of the best romances I’ve ever read.
I keep trying to think of how to express the superlatives that went through my mind reading it. I fangirled at each little perfect turn of phrase I’d come across that described a character or situation to a T. I started marking pages to use for quotes, only to find I’d torn a paper napkin to shreds and my book looked like a tissue flower.
For once in a romance it wasn’t a question of loving the hero or heroine, but of loving them together. Of loving their journey to get to know one another, watching them change subtly, slowly, realistically, inevitably. You wrote it with a clarity that on occasion stunned me and had me reading sections over and over.
The first love scene between them opened up the heroine to us even as the hero did the same. Everyone should read this love scene, if they want to know how to do one the right way. It’s that good. From just its beginning paragraph we given so much of Emma’s thoughts and feelings. Her reactions to the unknown say so much about her.
He grasped her face in his hands to slant her head, to give him deeper access, to fill her. Yes, do it, she thought, consume me, swallow me whole. Odd feelings with no root tore through her. She felt frenzied, almost angry, ready to jump out of her skin. He would take her before she went. How would she go? Would she die? Would she face the water again? Could anyone keep the promises she suddenly wanted from him? The questions fluttered up through her mind; then his hand was under her skirt, tracing a pattern on the back of one thigh, and they scattered like startled birds. His fingers slid down, gripping her a few inches above her knee, as his mouth ran down her throat.
Just typing that paragraph melted me. This is extra-strength characterization combined with heat creating some primal understanding between them. Alchemy. It’s exactly what a love scene should be. And it’s this chemistry between them that kept me riveted throughout the book.
If the book had a failing for me it was in the villain. He was stereotypical, and some of the elements of the plot in the very last section of the book were worn ones. But even then, you breathed new life into them with the way your main characters behaved, and I was laughing at how you made me enjoy it despite plot elements that normally annoy me.
I was bored at no point in this book, including the first half. I read the novel in two sittings, sleep and work between them. And the most telling thing is, I think, that when I reached the last page I opened it back up to the first and began reading again, loving it as much the second time around.
I was just telling the others that a couple of the books released this month have made romance new and exciting to me again. We speak of the Golden Age of Romance, of Putneys and Gaffneys and Ivorys as if it’s something we’ll never see again. Your book makes me think we’re wrong. A.