I’ve been trying to steer clear of Avon lately, but The Duke’s Guide To Correct Behavior slipped past my defenses. With a vague memory of reading Megan Frampton’s Signet Regency, I was hoping for a traditional historical romance. It was and it wasn’t. There’s a duke, of course, and he’s a reluctant duke. Romance no longer has the new duke jumping happily into his stacks of wealth and piles of power, instead they moan like spoilt children. “Mommy, I wanted the blue castle with the moat, not the grey castle with the ocean. Everything is ruined. I hate you.” There’s a mysterious child, which requires a beautiful governess with an even more mysterious past. What happens when a Hermetically Sealed Heroine meets a Minute Man? We’re going to use Spoiler tags to tell you because TDGTCB has a street date of 11/25/14.
Stop Reading Here To Avoid All Spoilers.
OMG you guys. I wanted this book to be so good and it was so not awesome and now I am sad. (Quick, someone give me stacks of wealth and piles of power so I may resume frolicking.) The Duke is the lost little boy type with nary a whiff of the ladies man about him. He never expected to inherit and feels inadequate to it all, which is fitting because he never does a bit of work. Seriously, the guy spends most of his time sitting alone and staring at walls, one presumes, since he’s never consulting with anyone about running his estates. He’s understaffed at the main house. When he ends up inheriting a ward he hires the first governess he interviews from the first agency he contacts. Fast forward to the modern day and this guy would be hiring babysitters in the liquor store check out lane. (Wait, I want to read that book.)
Lily is the governess so hired. She’s got a super mysterious past that would mean everyone’s ruin if anyone realized who she was. Which makes absolutely no sense at all because she works for an agency that places people with super mysterious pasts in respectable positions. (Just go with it). She meets the ward, Rose. Young Rose experiences about five seconds of grief for the only world she’s ever known before taking to the duke’s life like ducks and water. Lily rushes in and out of the duke’s life, transforming it into a place of beauty and wonder where he saw only idle loneliness and despair, etc. (You know how that bit goes. The interesting part is the middle.) Unfortunately, there’s no middle to TDGTCB. It’s got a great premise and a weak close with only the fluffiest of filling holding the two together. If it weren’t for the promise of sexual dysfunction I would have DNF’d it and moved on about a third of the way in. Lily is a disaster as a governess. She doesn’t understand the job parameters, confusing her position with that of mother and equal and woman of the house. It’s ok, the duke doesn’t know what he’s doing either.View Spoiler »Here are the points of my distress. Lily is hired from Soiled Doves R Us and the duke not only entrusts her with his child, he asks her to instruct him in the social graces. He has no idea if she even understands the world he’s moving into, but she’s got a great rack so why not? She chastises him about his dinner conversations because she has an absolute masterful grasp of polite high society, what with working in a brothel and all. But wait! I already told you that Lily is a Hermetically Sealed Heroine, right? She took her super attractive self down to Pleasure Lane to get a decent job doing accounts and running errands. Lily was completely insulated from the full realities. Because of course she would be! My expectation was that Lily’s life experience was a set up for a sensitive and nuanced resolution of the duke’s premature ejaculation issues. Nope. Magic Vagina. He’s so eager to please her that (through the power of love) he controls himself. They have sex somewhere around chapter 28 and it’s all good.
“Did condoms come in different sizes? She should know, shouldn’t she, having purchased enough over the years? She didn’t think Mrs. Davies had ever offered a different size, but perhaps the clientele of the brothel had been lesser-sized than the duke? Never having seen any examples of the appendage in question until now, she couldn’t answer that definitively. Only she thought perhaps he was larger than usual.” – The Duke’s Guide To Correct Behavior, page 329. Lily.
Girl. Slap yourself. Whatever, Lily is pretty much as dumb as a post so this shouldn’t have surprised me. First she takes a job she’s completely unqualified for. Then she treats the duke like he’s her employee instead of the reverse – barging in on him whenever she pleases, issuing orders, corralling various maids to watch her charge when she wants to run off and do other things. Lily has one person recognize her from the brothel, the same pleasure house where she never interacted with the clientele or pleasured anyone, and she’s got to leave the duke’s employ. (After she gets a taste of lovin’ that is.) This is a big problem, right? The duke wants to marry Lily of the Forged References and Questionable Background but Lily is worried about the Acceptance of Rose in Society and What People Say so how can our HEA get it’s groove on? Enter Queen Victoria, in a role she was completely unsuited for. If they had flash mobs in the Victorian era, this duke would’ve hired seven. « Hide Spoiler
There was a book here, but it wasn’t the book I wanted it to be. Readers currently swooning over Eloisa James and Sophie Barnes will be very happy with Megan Frampton’s The Duke’s Guide To Correct Behavior but I was looking for something a little more Judith Ivory.
*This post originally appeared at Love In The Margins.