Thursday, June 4, 2009

ONLY A DUKE WILL DO by Sabrina Jeffries

Due to the characters in my latest manuscript not co-operating with the plot I set up for them, and to bad luck with my random romance novel choices, I was in a bit of a pickle. I needed a book to review.

So I traipsed into Target (I actually do traipse, just because I'm staring at 40 in a few years doesn't mean my traipsing days are behind me). I looked at every single historical romance on the shelves. Read back copy to find out what the marketers thought the book was about. Then I read the first chapter to find out what the book REALLY was about. Couldn't find one to tickle my fancy.

I picked up Only A Duke Will Do by Sabrina Jeffries. Yes, there were two more titles by her but this one appealed to me. I started reading it (right there in Target) and it gripped me. Sounded familiar but then I average a romance novel a day, they all sound familiar. Checked the copyright. 'This Pocket Books paperback edition May 2009.' Well, that is last month, isn't it? I knew I didn't read it last month. I plunked down my not-so-hard-earned money and went home.

Half way through enjoying the novel (and I DID very much enjoy it), I said to myself 'I KNOW I read this book before.' Sabrina Jeffries has some unique characters and the outwardly cool, politically bent, honesty challenged Duke Of Foxwood is one of the best she's ever created. I checked the copyright page again. 'Copyright 2006 by Deborah Gonzales.' Dang it! Tricked! Rummaging through my receipts, not only have I read this book before but I've bought it before.

Perhaps it was fate. Perhaps I was supposed to review this book. Perhaps there's a reader out there (maybe you) needing this book at this specific time. The world works in mysterious ways and as I'm not one to fight fate, here goes...

Years ago, Simon Tremaine, the ambitious Duke Of Foxwood, agreed to 'distract' the King's illegitimate daughter Louisa North by flirting with her. In exchange for this heinous duty (she's witty and gorgeous and wealthy), the King was to support his political career. Instead, the flirting went a tad bit too far and Simon got banished to India. It wasn't a bad banishment as far as banishments go. He was made Governor-General and ended up a hero.

Now he's back in England, determined to become Prime Minister and ignore the still single Louisa. That's challenging to do. The sparks fly instantly between the two of them. Then the King approaches him. He'll make the Prime Minister thing happen for Simon if he marries Louisa and stops her prison reform work. Wonderful. Simon can have everything he ever wanted.

Except that Louisa has been tricked by Simon once and is determined not to be a fool again. She is also, having seen her half sister die giving birth, determined to never marry. She's a Regency society miss. Birth control talk only happened amongst bordello working girls. If you were married, you got pregnant, especially if the man was a virile Duke looking for an heir.

Yep, despite the pastel cover, this is no frothy read. Childbirth was often a killer back then. Not many Regency romances address this (not romantic, I guess). Politics was also a hot button. And then there's the ethics challenged hero. We find out why he manipulates and schemes but these are still not attributes of your normal romance hero. It takes great skill for an author to make such a hero heroic. Luckily, Sabrina Jeffries has that skill.

Sabrina Jeffries has a zillion other books. You can read about them at This is my favorite though (thus far).


Kimber An said...

Great job, K!

I find it annoying when Historicals don't include accurate portrayels of what women faced in regards to contraception, pregnancy, and/or childbirth. Here in the 21st it's easy to take the Pill, laws against domestic violence, and doctors who wash their hands first for granted. Back then, sex was deadly business for women. And it varied by geographic location. Ancient Egyptian women, for example, had it better than Regency ladies. So, thanks for bringing that up!

I just received an ARC of one of Sabrina Jeffries. Can't remember the title, only the cover art so I know it's not this one.

Kimber Chin said...

Well, there has to be some fantasy element with historical romances. I'd rather not read that the medieval heroine is 12 years old (or younger).

But I agree, these issues can be addressed more often (maybe one at a time so as not to be a total downer)

Kimber An said...

Oh, yeah, I'd gag.