Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Katharine Ashe - I Married the Duke

On the way to marry a prince in a castle, a lady should never:
1. Bribe an infuriatingly arrogant and undeniably irresistible ship captain,
2. Let him kiss her senseless on a beach,
3. Battle thieves at his side,
4. Exchange wedding vows with him, even under the direst circumstances.

But daring, determined Arabella Caulfield isn’t just any lady. And Luc Westfall is no typical ship captain. He’s the new Duke of Lycombe, and to defeat a plot that could destroy his family he must have an heir. Now he knows just the woman for the job . . . and he’s not above seduction to turn this would-be princess into a duchess.

Comment: As you know, recently it was my birthday. This book was one of the gifts I got, one of my book lover's friends picked this one because I like historicals. I had never heard of the author before, so it was really a surprise she could offer me something there was never on my radar.

This story features Arabella, she's the middle of three orphan sisters who have listened to a Gypsy telling them about their origins and if they wanted to know more about it, one of them had to marry a prince. But not any prince, it had to be the right prince who would recognize the ring their mother left with them, the key to finding out who they are.
Once grown ups, the sisters, in particular Arabella, really want to know where they came from. Arabella is now a governess, as the orphans were adopted by a Reverend so their life wasn't luxurious by any means. Arabella wants to travel to meet a prince for she will be his sister's teacher for a while. To do so, she tries to convince a pirate to let her go in his ship, but he only agrees after realizing how sincere she is. The travel is full of adventures and secrets but when Arabella reaches her destiny, will she still want to marry a prince? What about a mere duke?

Well, I have to say this story started quite good. I liked how Arabella stood up to her beliefs and honor and defended those in need I liked her character immediately. Then the hero comes up, he's a duke hidden as a pirate for reasons concerning his possible estate which is in the hands of someone he despises and who might want him dead.
The two of them are attracted to each other and as the plot moved along to the ship I envisioned love developments which would tell us they would fall for each other on the trip. Once they arrived Arabella's destiny their relationship grew and then..everything changed.

Really, I wasn't sure what was happening. I won't go into spoilers, but honestly, the happenings after they got together for the first time got weirder and weirder.
I thought this was supposed to be one of those normal historical novels, but there's a lot of strange things happening after they act on their attraction. They are attacked and forced to marry because the hero is in life danger. Then there's the prince and Arabella doesn't feel a thing for him (obviously). Then the hero's cousin is weird and aparently not very clear to be understood making decisions which don't seem very clever.
Then the heroine finds out about the hero's origins and true title and it starts a sort of bipolar behavior, where she gives in to him and the feelings between them, and suddenly she is like a martyr ready to be cold forever. Really, this story got really weird.
Then the truth about the villain's tastes.
Then the truth about the hero's younger brother's past and why he runs away all the time.
Then the constant changes in heart from both protagonists.
And so on...

After all the weirdness I just went with the flow and wasn't particularly surprised how the heroine loves the hero despite all and tried to save him, whereas he is the one ending up saving her and he got injured but in the final battle we learn it wasn't so simple.
I think this was successful for the first half, more or less, but went downhill from then on. The character's behavior wasn't always believable, the personality they showed wasn't that deep and solid either and the hero's cousin was really enigmatic but not in a good way, which we never know why anyway, so...
The solution isn't complicated but it has some drama which is interesting enough but certainly doesn't change the fact the main couple isn't on the same tune or page most time, so I can't really say I liked them together.

In the end, this book offered many interesting ideas, possibilities, but the execution and final delivery wasn't as good as I expected or as well done as it should.
I appreciate the effort and a good first half, but the inconsistencies, Arabella's different takes on things all the time and the fact this novel had way too many elements - and not all working well in synchrony at that - kind of disappointed me, thus the positive grade but closer to be graded down than up. Oh well.
Grade: 5/10

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