Trashy Read 2011 #4: The Lost Duke of Wyndham, by Julia Quinn
I'm not sure why I love Regency romances so much. I don't have any particular fondness for that point in history, nor do I care much for the ideas of dukes and inheritance and whatnot. In fact, I get down right tired of wealthy heroes with property and servants, in both historicals and contemporaries. So why do I love historical romances by people like Lisa Kleypas and Loretta Chase so much?
It's all due to the inherent escapism the genre provides. Not only am I entering a romance, which is as escapist as genre fiction gets, I'm going far enough back into time that I can suspend all belief of the story's happenings. I don't have the time-period-accuracy hang-ups to keep me from just enjoying the book. Sometimes, someone will say something that makes me roll my eyes and say, "Not back then, silly." But overall, I am willing to completely do away with believability just to have a good story. I want the characters to be well-established, for their motivations and actions to be believable. But when I'm reading this kind of book, that's all I'm in it for - characters and fun. You'll never see me reading super-serious romance (okay, Laura Kinsale excepted) because I'm into it purely for the escapism.
That's why I can read a book like Julia Quinn's The Lost Duke of Wyndham and not throw the book across the room. I don't have to believe in all the silly plot points. I just have to believe in these characters. And I do, even though I don't find them nearly as enjoyable as, say, Daphne and Simon from Quinn's own The Duke and I. I like that Grace comes from a respectable but fairly-low background, and I like Jack's charm well enough. They made a good couple, and I really felt for their predicament. They just didn't win me over as much as I would've liked.
That being said, this is a pretty good book, especially at its basic roots. Jack Aubrey gets recognized by the dowager Duchess of Wyndham as the possible son of her own dead, favorite child. Jack is dragged kicking and screaming into a world of nobility with which he wants nothing to do. The only thing he enjoys about this ordeal is the friendship of Grace, the dowager's companion. The group ends up having to travel to Ireland, the place of Jack's birth, in order to find out if his birth was legitimate. In the meantime, Grace and Jack have fallen in love and feel great pain at the realization that if Jack ends up being the lost duke, he can never be with Grace, as she is not much better than a servant. I was surprised by how much I actually cared about this plot wrench. After all, it's completely true. Of course, everyone gets what they want in the end, and all is well. But I did feel enough anguish on the behalf of Grace and Jack that it made the ending worth it.
Overall, it was a breezy if not terribly fulfilling read. Apparently, there is a second book that takes place at the same time from the point of view of Thomas Cavendish, the man who held the title of Duke of Wyndham before his missing cousin ruined everything. Thomas starts off as being kind of annoying, but he really grew on me by the end, as did his eventual love interest, Amelia. I doubt I'll read this second book (it's gotten some terrible reviews), but I will continue to dive into Julia Quinn's backlist. She knows how to entertain me.
Note: This is the third trashy read (out of four total) I've read this year featuring a hero with some kind of learning problem. And it's the second case of dyslexia. In this book, the hero's dyslexia kind of came out of nowhere in the last quarter of the book, which had me rolling me eyes. But when done right, this is an incredibly effective plot device, as it's a very real problem with which real people struggle. That being said, how often can it be used before it gets to be a cliche in the genre? It's like hero daddy issues, but not as hilariously over the top.
Next in Trashy Reads: Who knows? Erin McCarthy has a new racing book, The Chase, coming out next month. It's safe to assume that I'll be reading that sometime in April or May.