Friday, January 7, 2011
Review: How to Marry a Duke by Vicky Dreiling
Tristan, the Duke of Shelbourne is a man with a mission: find a wife he can tolerate as long as they both shall live. Love is not necessary--nor desired. But how to choose among a dizzying array of wealthy-yet-witless candidates? Hire London's infamously prim and proper matchmaker. Then pretend she's not the most captivating woman he's ever met...
Helping a devilish Duke create a contest to pick his perfect mate is the kind of challenge Tessa Mansfield relishes. Her methods may be scandalous, but she's determined to find the notorious bachelor more than a wife--she'll bring him true love. Yet when Tessa watches the women vie for the Duke's affections, she longs to win his heart herself. And after a stolen kiss confirms Tristan's desire, Tessa knows she has broken a matchmaker's number one rule: never fall in love with the groom.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I went in really excited about it-- the premise sounded cute and it started off well. Tristan isn't thrilled about getting married, but he knows it's time. When he meets the lovely Tessa, a spinster who has gained a reputation as a matchmaker, he decides to use her professional help. Tessa hopes to seal that reputation by making the match of the season. She not only agrees to take on Tristan as a client, she turns his courtship into a Bachelor-like contest, with 24 of the most beautiful and accomplished girls of the season competing for the Duke's hand.
After that fun set up, the book took a turn for the angsty. It turns out Tessa has a deep, dark secret. We get to hear that she has this secret, and how it makes it impossible for her to ever marry. But it's not until almost the end of the book that we find out what the secret is. (It's pretty much exactly what you think it is.)
In the meantime, Tristan, who is know as a notorious rake and constantly appears in the scandal pages, becomes obsessed with not making waves of any kind. He keeps saying that he doesn't want to cause his mother and sister pain. This is his reason for constantly denying his feelings for Tessa; choosing the matchmaker would dishonor the girls in the contest and create a huge scandal. My problem with this line of reasoning is that he's been causing scandals for years with no problem. Why does it suddenly start bothering him now?
*This next bit is spoilery, so read at your own peril.*
The frustrating part about all this angst is that there's no pay off. When Tessa is finally forced to reveal her secret to Tristan, he goes off in a rage. He feels that Tessa has brought shame to his family and the girls with her scandalous past. But one five minute conversation with his mother and all is forgiven. And when it comes time to announce his decision to marry Tessa there's no negative backlash at all. All that hand wringing, and then they go ahead and do what they want to do anyway, and no one bats an eye. It made the previous couple hundred pages kind of pointless.
*OK, you can come back now.*
Also, Tristan calls his dick "Bad Boy" in one scene, which is not attractive.
I was motivated to like this one, but it just didn't work for me. There were some enjoyable moments, but they were overshadowed by all the pointless worrying. I'm sorry to say I give this one a D. Full disclosure-- I know and really like the author, although she may not be speaking to me after this review. I pre-ordered and paid for my copy myself.