Title: Only a Duke Will Do
Author: Tamara Gill
Series: To Marry a Rogue #2
Genre: Regency Romance
Available: 20th Feb
Without a Season, Lady Isolde Worthingham captured the Duke of Moore’s heart at a country dance. But on the eve of her wedding, a scandal that rocked the ton and sent her fleeing to Scotland alone and unwed, leaves her perfectly planned future in a tangle of disgrace and heartbreak.
Merrick Mountshaw, the Duke of Moore, loathes the pitiful existence he portrays to the ton. With a scandalous wife he never wanted, who flaunts her many indiscretions, life is a never-ending parade of hell. When the one woman he loved and lost returns to London, he knows he can no longer live without her.
But vows and past hurts are not easily forgotten. Love may not win against the ton when a too proper lord and lady play by the rules.
Spoilers. Spoilers. And ranting lies below.
Read at own risk.
Source: ARC from Entangled: Select Historical via NetGalley
Well, this was depressing. Which is probably to be expected in a romance when the hero is married to someone else while still pining after the heroine, and the heroine herself gets engaged to someone else. I don’t know why, but I expected Merrick’s wife, Leonora, to die off pretty quickly and for him to have to work to win Isolde back, but that’s not what happens. Leonora is alive for most of the book, which makes for a pretty miserable read.
That’s not the only issue I had with this book. In fact, there were many, many problems that made the whole read a distracting exercise for me because I simply couldn’t believe most of what was going on.
Firstly, Leonora has all the power. From her first appearance, even after her death, she is completely in control. The daughter of a country vicar. Somehow, she gets the whiphand over two dukes, and that’s within the first chapter. It just doesn’t make sense. Leaving aside what she does to Merrick, her attempt to blackmail Isolde’s father should have been laughable. Considering even in this day women who accuse powerful men of abuse are rarely believed, the idea that she can ruin not just one powerful duke, but two, by spreading a lie was ridiculous. Even if she’d been believed, rape culture is so strong it would likely have been shrugged off. It is a horrible accusation she makes, and I can understand why it repulsed all involved, but the fact Leonora can use it to gain everything she wants is so unlikely.
It also blatantly undercut everything else she was saying, because it’s such an obvious lie to everyone in the room that it shreds her credibility. Who would believe anything else she said after that? None of them. Merrick would have walked away, Isolde’s family would have thrown Leonora out and her life would have been ruined. The idea that Merrick, a duke!, can be forced to marry someone who has clearly manipulated her way to a coronet is ridiculous. The scandal would have blown over for him or he could have gone abroad for a year or two and returned largely unscathed. If he truly loved Isolde so much, I can’t believe he would ever have married the woman who ruined it all.
Not only that, but he lets her live the life she wants. He controls everything about their life. He could have forced her to live in the country, taken his son away and cut off all her money, all within his rights as her husband, but no, he prefers to mope about like a loser while she has as much fun as she likes. This did not endear Merrick to me. He’s far too passive and lets everyone else rule his life for him.
Plus Leonora is completely irredeemable. She is manipulative, spiteful and a rapist. She doesn’t even have a sympathetic back story. She doesn’t have much of anything. She’s plain nasty, so the fact that both Isolde and Merrick feel guilt/forgiveness for her after her death made me like them a little less. They’re so shiny and perfect, but I think they’re allowed a bit of hatred or ill feeling. It’s the least Leonora deserved.
Isolde is boring. She’s a proper lady most of the time, except for when she decides to go walking about the seedy side of London without any kind of back up, for reasons that never make much sense. She also runs over to Merrick’s house in the middle of the night and walks around in front of his servants, but doesn’t think this is particularly scandalous. It’s so brainless.
A bit like the idea that of all the eligible men in London that she could marry, she thinks Merrick’s best friend is her best bet. This never makes sense to me. If she cared so much about coming between them she could, I don’t know, pick someone else! And even if she didn’t come between them, surely the idea that she would spend the rest of her life in close company with Merrick would have been too painful to bear. But apparently not.
Also, why are her family so nice to Leonora? The cut direct was a real weapon and since it’s obvious the duchess is scandalous and awful, why do they acknowledge her, let alone invite her and Merrick to their house? On top of that, why does Merrick ever escort her anywhere? Oh, that’s right, because he’s spineless and prefers to wallow in his misery.
I was willing to have so much sympathy for Merrick and Isolde over what was done to them. Leonora is awful and the things she freely admits before dying prove what a monster she was, but Merrick and Isolde are so boringly passive throughout it all that I couldn’t care about them. They don’t deserve a grand passion, because neither of them do a thing to fight for it. Even the end felt like a complete let down. They’re so disappointing.
Overall, I think it’s safe to say that this book and I did not get along. Guess this one just wasn’t for me.
Only a Duke Will Do is out February 20th.
Visit Tamara Gill for more details.