REVIEW: Never Desire a Duke by Lily Dalton
Dear Ms. Dalton:
I’m a big fan of the marriage in trouble trope so when I found this book at 99c, I figured there were worse risks to take. (note it’s not 99c at the moment The book opens with the Sophia, Duchess of Claxton, suffering a miscarriage after a fall. She was rushing to her carriage after reading a letter sent to her husband by a former paramour and fell on the icy stairs.
Fast forward and Sophia is alone at Christmas with her family celebrating her grandfather’s 82 birthday. Vane, the Duke of Claxton, was absent having accepted a diplomatic assignment and only infrequently communicating with his wife.
For a man who was supposedly in love with his wife, he treated her shabbily, running away after her miscarriage, maintaining sparse contact, and then returning to London without informing her. Of course she learns from one of his former mistresses. He returns with the purpose of ending the enstrangement so…why act that way?
Some of the reviews did not like Sophia but I thought Claxton was a bit stupid. First, he doesn’t inform her that he’s in town and then is surprised when she’s miffed. He doesn’t even address it–as if he’s so dumb as to not realize that allowing her to learn from other people would make her look bad and feel small. He also admitted to accompanying other women around town after Sophia had miscarried and turned to her family for comfort instead of him. He took to carrying around a french letter but swore to her that he’d been faithful. That she was cold to him seemed reasonable.
The two are soon trapped in a small village on a smallish estate that had belonged to Claxton’s mother. where they are forced to spend time with each other. In some ways, I wish the two weren’t Duke and Duchess. The setting and problems they encountered were better suited to a couple with much less stature, removing some of the atmosphere of the historical.
Parts of the book where sweet and well drawn–particularly when Vane is attempting to woo Sophia. The two embark on a game that Vane’s mother played, in a way for Vane to reconnect to his deceased mother. It is through this game that the two begin to trust each other and communicate.
But overall, the primary conflict is the inability of the two to speak with one another, the repeated misunderstandings wore me down. The behaviors that led to their separation (ignoring each other, not talking, making assumptions) continued during their reconciliation. I’m not sure whether they actually understood this in the end or both of them were just tired of arguing.
There were some unfortunate mistakes made in titles and the fluidity of the social classes. The title thing seemed like such a bush league mistake to make. I’m not much of a historical scholar but I’ve read enough blog posts to know this is an error:
“Listen here, Claxton,” declared Havering, proving his point. “This nonsense between you and her Grace is going to stop right here, tonight.”
“It’s Lord Claxton to you,” Vane said, striding past. “And I don’t see that ‘this nonsense’ is any of your business.”
The downstairs situation there is…not well depicted. There was a married couple that took care of the property and a footman. That seemed to be it. Other servants would pop up if a scene needed it, but the period details weren’t well baked into the narrative.
It’s a timely book given that it is focused around the holiday. The second half is much stronger than the first but I never felt connected to the characters or invested in their happiness. C