As I may have mentioned a time or two recently, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, both from the local library and my very own TBR pile.
That means that last week, I finally broke down and read Loretta Chase’s A Duke in Shining Armor. The book was published last November, but I held off reading it, not because I didn’t think I would enjoy it, but because I knew once I read it, I’d be desperate for more, with no next-in-the-series on the horizon for a while to come.
Once I finished the book I posted a review on Amazon / Goodreads, as I have been trying make sure to do, regardless of how long the book has been out. Afterwards, I perused what others had written and was frankly rather surprised at the wide-range of reviews people posted. I get that not every reader is going to like every book, as Jeanne talked about in her Did Not Finish post yesterday, but it was baffling – and eventually a bit amusing – to see such seemingly contradictory comments:
- not enough sex / too much sex
- a great piece of entertainment / juvenile
- strong, intelligent, funny female lead / poorly developed, unlikable characters
- the plot was ridiculous . .. really ridiculous, inane / a beautifully developed story
- I can’t believe Chase wrote this / [the story was] full of the insight, warmth, humor and sparkling dialogue that is so characteristic of her stories
It was also interesting to see that the book did not fare as well on GoodReads (3.78 with 2,436 ratings) as it did on Amazon (4.3 with 157 ratings). I wonder if, after so many books in print, Chase reads (or ever read) reviews.
As talked about in yesterday’s post, it was clear that the promise the story made in the first chapter did not match up with the experience some of the readers had with the rest of the book. It was also clear that, for many of the reviewers, the book had been judged in comparison with other books Chase had written and fallen short, rather than being judged on its own – a hazard, I guess, for any author with more than one title in print.
So what did I think of the story?
I really enjoyed it and gave it a 5 – something I rarely do. I also read it twice, which may seem odd, but after I read it the first time and then read the aforementioned reviews, I read it again to see if I had just over looked the apparent lacks they had encountered or if my initial sense of the book held up.
I think I actually enjoyed it more the second time around than the first. I raced through the initial read, wanting to know what would happen next, whereas my second read was marginally more leisurely.
I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t read it and intends to (though if that is the case, don’t read any of the posted reviews, since spoilers abound), so here is just a brief glimpse:
At its most basic level the book is the story of Olympia who, minutes before her wedding to the Duke of Ashmont, has second thoughts (possibly due to the brandy, or maybe not), and escapes out the window. The Duke of Ripley, Ashmont’s friend/best-man (and one of the three “Dis-Graces”) tries his best to catch her and get the wedding back on track, but Trouble ensues.
Ripley had promised to take care of things: hold on to the ring, supply coins as needed, make sure Ashmont did what he was supposed to do.
Retrieving the bride wasn’t in the agreement.
She oughtn’t to need retrieving.
Just because she’d been drunk and crying . . .
“Damn!” he said.
He climbed through the window.
The story is packed with witty, bantering dialog (something I love), and I found it a very fun read. This is the first in what appears to be a series of three books, so there is a small amount of set-up for future stories, but much of the book is just Olympia and Ripley, which after having read a number of big-cast stories recently, was a nice change of pace. I’m quite looking forward to seeing how Chase manages to redeem the most troublesome duke in the next story, who was portrayed in this one as almost unredeemable.
The unredeemable duke brought to mind Georgette Heyer’s Black Moth. If you haven’t ever read it, (and you like Heyer), I’d recommend it. It was her debut novel, published when she was 19, so you may need to adjust your expectations a bit. It too features an unredeemable duke about whom another character in the beginning says:
“I would to God you might fall honestly in love—and that the lady might save you from yourself—my poor Devil!”
By the end of that story, the duke has in fact fallen in love and it has very possibly saved him, or at least begun to change him, though he has not actually wound up with the woman in question.
“Yes—she would not take you, but she has, I think, made you. As I once told you, when love came you would count yourself as nought, and her happiness as everything.”
I have a feeling the same can be said for Chase’s Duke of Ashmont. I guess time will tell.
So – have you read A Duke in Shining Armor? If so, what did you think?