The Duke by Katharine Ashe
Book Three of the Devil's Duke series
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Rating: 2 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
Six years ago, when Lady Amarantha Vale was an innocent in a foreign land and Gabriel Hume was a young naval officer, they met . . . and played with fire.
Now Gabriel is the dark lord known to society as the Devil’s Duke, a notorious recluse hidden away in a castle in the Highlands. Only Amarantha knows the truth about him, and she won’t be intimidated. He is the one man who can give her the answers she needs.
But Gabriel cannot let her learn his darkest secret. So begins a game of wit and desire that proves seduction is more satisfying—and much more wicked—the second time around…
What I Liked:
It pains me, to give this book a poor rating. But it also pains me that this book, with all of its feminist themes, contains such a horrible female protagonist who so poorly represents feminism. Amarantha loves to be her own woman - no one commands her anymore - and yet she treats Gabriel with such utter disrespect. It's sickening, especially since this book is written by an author who typically does such a good job in writing feminist historical romance novels.
This book is divided into two sections. The first third or so is set in 1817, when Amarantha and Gabriel first meet, in Jamaica. This part of the story shows them falling in love, through simple interactions. Amarantha has come to Jamaica with her fiance, a pastor, who is from England and is doing missionary work on the island. Gabriel is a naval officer whose ship is docked in Jamaica, and so he is volunteering his services to the people of the island in the meantime. Amarantha never meant to fall for this man, but she did. He asks her to wait for him, to marry him when he comes back. Except he doesn't come back, and Amarantha receives a letter from his cousin that Gabriel has died. She marries the pastor four days later. Months later, she finds out that Gabriel never died. Six years later, Amarantha is widowed and on her way to Scotland to look for a friend from Jamaica who fled to Scotland. There, Amarantha hears about the Devil's Duke, who turns out to be none other than Gabriel Hume, Duke of Loch Irvine. But he is no devil, and even though Amarantha has sworn never to trust a man again, she finds herself falling all over again for the same man who broke her heart.
The literal only good thing about this book, the only part that is redeeming the book for me, is the hero. Gabriel is a saint. When he and Amarantha first meet and fall in love, Gabriel's character shines. He never touches her, he never seduces her, he never says or does anything untoward. And yet he is direct and charming, and also sweet and compassionate. Six years later, Gabriel is even more selfless and kind, and fiercely protective. Gabriel is such a sweetheart, and he deserved a hundred times better than Amarantha.
Let me tell you all about Amarantha.
What I Did Not Like:
Y'all, there is a trend in historical romance that I have begun to hate with a passion. Let me preface by saying that as a twenty-two-year-old educated independent feminist woman, I am 1000000% all for strong independent women who take charge of their lives. Even in a historical context, in which that might seem anachronistic, I'm all for it.
What I am not all for, is the heroine being a complete b***h to the hero. I don't understand how this trend is so popular in historical romance right now. HOW is this a sign of strength and feminism? HOW is it okay to glorify this type of heroine? I understand the alpha heroine type. I do not understand why she has to be a rude, ungrateful swine.
Amarantha is exactly that. When she arrives at Gabriel's home, he welcomes her in (despite the fact that she broke his heart when she didn't wait for him and married the pastor she didn't want to marry). He invites her friends into his home. He goes out and brings her friends to his home. He goes out of his way for her and her annoying friends. And not once does she thank him. Not once does she show any shred of gratitude. Instead, all she does is accuse him, demand answers of him, order him around, like that's her house, and he is her slave. She should know better, given the context of slavery in this book. I am so disgusted. How dare she act sanctimonious and holier-than-thou to a man who doesn't owe her sh*t and still offers her everything he has. How dare she not thank him for the mouthful of tea she drinks, let alone lodging for herself and her friends, safety and comfort? Y'all. Let me walk into my parents' friends houses and not say "thank you for letting me stay here!" no fewer than nine thousand times and just you wait and see how many times my parents will scold me.
What's more, Amarantha blames Gabriel for all of her problems. She blames him for her getting married to the pastor. She blames him for her distrust in men. She blames him for breaking her heart. And yet, SHE IS AT FAULT FOR ALL OF THIS. She says he seduced her. He never touched her, never beguiled her, blah blah blah. She says "he should have known better, she was so young." Girlfriend was, what, eighteen when she left home and ran away with the pastor TO JAMAICA? And met Gabriel, a man who talked to her and occasionally flirted with her but never touched her or did anything untoward or tried anything? And yet, she blames him because she was "so young"? YOU RAN AWAY WITH A STRANGE MAN ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE OCEAN. You're old enough to do that, but let's blame a man for "seducing you" at a tender young age, the same age you ran away, crossed oceans, and engaged yourself to a deceitful snake of a pastor.
Amarantha just likes feel righteous and holier-than-thou, and blaming Gabriel is the solution to all of her problems. She broke his heart. And NOT ONCE did she apologize for that. You know what? She has just as much reason to apologize as he does - if not more. She waited FOUR DAYS before jumping into marriage with the pastor. She was so childish and naive and yet she thought Gabriel was the one fooling her, when it was the pastor. You know how mad this makes me? You know how much I want to throttle Amarantha and wrap warm blankets around Gabriel? God, if Amarantha were someone I knew in real life. There would be a throw-down.
Where was I... so Amarantha is an ungrateful, cold-hearted, snobby b***h. If I'm being honest (when am I not), she demonstrated time and time again that she must have lost half of her brain cells while crossing the oceans back and forth, because the amount of stupidity she displayed throughout the book was astounding. Not just with Gabriel, but in general. Take the climax, for example, in which she jumps right into this hare-brained scheme to "save everyone", when in fact she is being selfish and a stupid "martyr". And then of course Gabriel swoops in and sacrifices himself for everything, because he is so much better of a person than Amarantha. I'm so irritated, y'all. I might have thrown Amarantha off a ship if we were travelling together during this time. She had no respect for Gabriel.
Forget man and woman, power imbalances, feminism, etc. Basic courtesy still exists, right? Basic respect for a fellow human being? Amarantha displays none of that. Where the f*** are your manners, sweetie?
Maybe I'm just tired. I really thought this would be a sweet love story, a story of two lowers reunited after many years. Instead, what I get is a dumba** treating a poor sweet man like sh*t, the poor man is still totally in love with her after six years so of course he just rolls over and takes it, she continues to treat him poorly, strings him along, loses herself to lust for a second, retreats, does the lust thing again, retreats, rinse repeat, etc. I felt for Gabriel because after six years he is still pining (is this realistic though? It's almost a little creepy...), but I think he should have moved on. Amarantha is no prize. I wouldn't want to be her friend or family member. I'd probably punch her.
OH! On that note. You know what made me REALLY mad? Amarantha has the nerve to hit Gabriel. I'm talking a full-on open-palmed slap across his face. He didn't say anything to her. He didn't do anything wrong, nothing she didn't agree to. And then out of the blue, she slaps him with no explanation. EVEN IF THERE WAS AN EXPLANATION, THIS IS SO SO SO SO SO SO SO WRONG. HOW can you call yourself a feminist and write a heroine that hits her man? How can you be a feminist protagonist and dare hurt a man (especially an innocent one that didn't do anything to you)? This infuriates me to no end. I'd give this book a sh*t rating for this one thing alone. And then it seemed like it had no place or purpose, because nothing came out of it. Why bother even including it?! It's a bad move!
Okay, I'm done.
Would I Recommend It:
Ha. No. I've had a love-hate relationship with this series. Currently I'm struggling with this author's books - they are incredibly hit-or-miss. I really want to love her books (and I've enjoyed many in the past) because I love what the author stands for (feminism, strong women, kind men, sweeping love story, etc.). I hate this kind of horrible heroine though. If I hate the heroine, I pretty much always hate the book. And this type of heroine, the one that is a feminist-heroine-so-therefore-I must-love-and-worship-her-otherwise-I-am-not-a-feminist-myself but is a terrible person and completely awful to the book's hero... I can't stand this kind of heroine. And I've been seeing this type show up in HR and I hate it. I am not saying that heroines have to be sweet and biddable and blah blah blah. But so many of them are snobby, prickly, rude, selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed, a**holes, especially toward the hero and the hero alone. I do not want to associate myself with those type of toxic women in real life. WHY would I want to read about them? I don't.
Don't bring that kind of feminism near me.
1.5 stars -> rounded up to 2 stars. Let me be clear and repeat myself: it pains me to give this book a poor rating. Because I know the kind of message the author wants to leave in her books, and I know how great her stories can be. But this book... this book sends a bad message. This book is not the kind of feminist historical romance novel I would ever recommend or give to my (not-yet-existent) daughters. You want good feminist historical romances that aren't so toxic? Try Maya Rodale's, Tessa Dare's, Elizabeth Hoyt's, Caroline Linden's. I thought I was getting a sweet romance with this one. I was wrong. Now I need to bleach my brain and read some fluffy YA romances, or maybe an intense sci-fi novel with a sexy romance. Something straightforward without a toxic heroine.
Despite all of this, I will be reading The Prince. I'm hoping I'll be two for four with this series.
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