Prolixity Julien’s CBR4 Review #8: What I Did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long
I’m still reading historical romance novels and I keep a list of them as though tracking such things makes it any less ignoble. I call it The Shameful Tally; I also track the heroes’ names (Simon and Sebastian being the most popular), and the books so awful that I gave up on them.
What I Did for a Duke is from Julie Anne Long’s “Pennyroyal Green” series about the Redmond and Eversea families. As a relatively new author, she has set herself up quite nicely for a large group of interconnected novels as is a standard practice in this genre. It gives the reader a chance to revisit their favourite characters and is something I particularly like; so much so that I must confess, I have even bought a book only because I knew I’d get to see “Sebastian and Evie” (Lisa Kleypas The Devil in Winter) again. I adore them. I will buy any book they are in. Publishers are smart and I am easily led. From this Julie Anne Long series, I’ve also read How the Marquess Was Won. That book was: so good, so good, oh Sweet Fancy Moses that is romantic, wait is this high school?, oh, now, it’s all fallen apart, RATS!. By the way, if you think these titles are bad, Long she has a book called I Kissed an Earl and it is waiting for me on my Kindle. As if the cover art weren’t embarrassing enough, these titles add insult to ignominy.
I’ve sampled about 2 dozen writers and you’ve got to give a writer credit where it is due: If you can pull off an almost 20 year age difference and make it not only palatable, but irrelevant, you are on the right track. What I Did for a Duke pairs 20 year old Genevieve Eversea with “almost forty” (a phrase often and lovingly repeated) Alex Moncrieffe, Duke of Falconbridge. He is a widower out for revenge against Genevieve’s brother, Colin, for attempting to bed the Duke’s fiancée. Over the course of a house party, Alex sets out to seduce and leave Genevieve, but, pleasantly enough, the revenge plot is called off when this young woman figures it out, and is far lovelier and more attractive than Alex had anticipated. She’s bright and banters well. He’s charming and kind of autocratic. Tra la la. They get married. YAY!
There is nothing new here which is good because I am not looking for anything new, just fresh. It’s nice to see a standard revenge plot dismantled, but the real reason that this book works is simple: Julie Anne Long is very funny and she writes great smolder. That’s all it takes really; in fact, if you can pull off the funny, you don’t necessarily need the smolder, and, yes, she is that funny. Long is also kind of a lazy writer, or maybe just a new one finding her feet. She is clearly paid in italics and has so many she doesn’t know what to do with them, so she scatters them wherever she can. One can’t help but feel that maybe she doesn’t trust the reader to follow her prose exactly as she intended. She gets the forms of address wrong throughout the book: the Duke is called by the wrong short form of his name and the wrong title. Plus the book suffered from Student Font Syndrome. You know what I mean: the font is larger to make the book look longer. The publisher didn’t pull in the margins, but it was a near run thing. I assume that writers of these books have quite specific deadlines and contractual output requirements. This is not Balzac. This is one book every 9 months or so, if my calculations are correct, so if Long doesn’t meet the length requirement, but manages to be really funny, I have no complaints. It’s easy escapism and shows sufficient promise that I will give her other books a try, but not quite enough promise that I am willing to buy any of them. These novels are what library paperback sections are for. Except this particular one. I kind of want my own copy of this one.
This review is also posted on my tiny little blog.