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?
This is verrry interesting, Elizabeth!
As you know, I love Loretta Chase and Georgette Heyer. I don’t love Black Moth, though I think it’s amazing as a first book, but I adore These Old Shades, which is Heyer’s re-working of the same unredeemable duke. I don’t mind a liberal helping of crazysauce with my plots. So your post makes me want to try again with A Duke in Shining Armor. I bought this book last year and have tried a couple of times to read it. Both times I simply wandered off. I just checked on my Kindle. I quit reading at 20%.
I was actually in the ‘I can’t believe Chase wrote this’ camp, because I was bored. I usually adore her disreputable aristocrats who turn out a lot smarter and stronger than they appear. There’s a drunken bridesmaid heroine in her Royally Ever After short stories who might be one of my favorite Chase heroines. So I was sad and surprised to discover that I didn’t care about either of the two main characters and thought the action/slapstick/banter was a substitute for a lack of a story. Funnily enough, I went to the Zon and checked the reviews, and at that stage it seemed like I was the only person who hadn’t thoroughly enjoyed it.
Now I’ll have to give it another try, just to see if I change my mind 😉
I will admit that I took a little bit to warm to the story, and a banter-heavy/caperish plot isn’t going to be everyone’s catnip. I think part of my enjoyment of the story was that when the characters were talking (or thinking) I could often hear traces of other Chase characters that I know and love.
As for These Old Shades – I really enjoyed that one (and Devil’s Cub, which follows) as well. It would probably be easier to list the Heyer’s that I didn’t enjoy (Venetia, I’m looking at you). LOL.
Dang! I love Venetia! It’s the book that brought Heyer to my attention, too, so in addition to loving it, I’m also grateful to it.
Oh no! I actually can’t remember the story at all, I only know I wasn’t thrilled by it when I read it the first time because I put it back on the shelf upside down. I may have to give it another try.
On the other hand, now boring would it be if we all liked exactly the same things?
*holding up hands in surrender*
Okay, Kay, I take it all back. I just reread Venetia and found it delightful. I just have been in a Mood when I read it last.
I was pretty sure I’d read this book back when it came out (honestly, had to go back and look at my Kindle to be sure). While I didn’t care for it as much as Elizabeth did, I also finished it, which says something. I think sometimes now when I start reading a book I don’t like (or doesn’t completely WOW! me), I keep reading and try to pick apart why that is. (Obviously, if I enjoy the book, I’m reading it because I’m immersed in the story.) I think this book lent itself to the more enjoyable kind of story (but not 5 stars…maybe 4?).
I’m re-listening to The Unknown Ajax by Heyer right now. I do a lot of listening with her books because the voice actors they have are amazing and I can easily get into the book. But I digress…Colonel Hugo Darracott is the total opposite from Ashmont. You know from the beginning he’s a good, solid kind of guy. I think Sylvester would be a better example of a duke (or any character, but he happens to be a duke) that needs redeeming, and Phoebe definitely affects the sort of man he becomes by the end of the book.
I love, love, love Unknown Ajax. Often my fave book boyfriends are high-maintenance heroes I’d run a mile from IRL, but Hugo is perfect. He’s clever, kind, competent, and he has a wicked sense of humour. Sigh. And now I want to go and re-read that book.
Well, Elizabeth, it looks like you and I are alone in this crowd for liking A Duke in Shining Armor. I was hooked when the heroine went out the window, and my catnip is banter, so I was totally on board with it all the way.
A couple of things about reviews, though: I think in general Goodreads reviews are quite a bit harsher than Amazon’s. It seems to have built a much judgier environment. I remember zero details, but there was some sort of…issue or problem or something with a book or an author some years ago, which led to unpleasantness and consequently Measures Were Taken. Like people ganged up on someone or a particular book. Sorry! But I remember at the time reading entries on loops about why Goodreads seemed to have that kind of atmosphere.
And, yeah, reviews. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see that you did an empirical study of Chase’s reviews on this book, because in the reviews I’ve had for my own books—yikes. You wonder if people were reading the book I wrote. It’s incredible how readers can have such different takeaways.
Regarding Goodreads, I wonder how many of them are just regular readers and how many are bloggers or advanced readers. I would think those groups would leave very different types of reviews.
I could wish that everyone had learned how to critique books as we did ad McDaniel. So many reviews I read are rather mean-spirited when it’s often not that a book is horrible, it’s that the book was not a good match for the reader.
Ah well, . . . If I ran the universe . . .
I think I’ve only read two Loretta Chase books, and I put her in the dependable category, along with Georgette Heyer. I like her stuff, and I like the blog she does.
I just wanted to riff on the subject of reviews. A really wicked, skewering review is an artform in itself. Dorothy Parker’s takedown of Winnie the Pooh is hilarious. I don’t agree with her opinion, but lord, I find her opinion high entertainment. When I was younger, I had aspirations in that direction, but now that I’m older, it does feel like I’m attacking another person’s living and reputation. I suppose I could preface things with “not my cup of tea, therefore I had an allergic reaction” but that takes away from the power of the venom.
I’ve never seen that review by Dorothy Parker. Off to the internet to find it.
Did you find it? A classic from the New Yorker, and it doesn’t seem to be behind a paywall. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1928/10/20/far-from-well Excellent scathing review, and classic Dorothy Parker.
Hahahahahaha, Not just for her pooh-poohing Pooh, but for the second review in that column. Like you, Michaeline, I once aspired to be as witty and cutting as Ms. Parker, but as I’ve grown older I’ve (also like you) come to prize compassion above wit.
(-: Jeanne, I just loved the way she integrated stuff from review #1 into the second and third, and so on. She’s really got a point about “Elegant Infidelities . . . ” I think. That feeling of irony can really be too twee to be believed. I’d kind of like to take a look at the book, though. Thing about Parker is that she’s so honest. She’s a sophisticate who isn’t afraid to say she can’t pronounce a word. And then she makes that point about good ol’ Anglo-Saxon and the connection to raunch that can be enjoyed.
I recently read Dukes Prefer Blondes by Lorretta Chase. It had an unusual hero – kind of like Hugh Laurie’s character in House, except a lawyer in 1835 – and I like stories with unlikely main characters. It’s hard to read stories in which both mains are gorgeous and talented and etc. My only problem with the book is that there is a story line left dangling and won’t get cleaned up since it was the last in a series.The dangle still bothers me.
The only other Chase book I’ve read is Lord of Scoundrels and I LOVED that one. Looks like I’m adding another book to my TBR pile.
When I was researching I saw something that said Lord of Scoundrels wasn’t particularly well rated when it first came out, as it differed from the more bodice-rippery books that were being published around that time. I was surprised by that, since it seems to be so well liked now.
As for Dukes Prefer Blonds, I read it but don’t remember a thing about it. I’ll have to take another look.