Review: At the Duke's Pleasure by Tracy Anne Warren

Warning: Potential plot spoilers ahoy...

It's been awhile since I've read the whole 'betrothed since birth' story. It's a common story in medieval romances, but seems to have lost some popularity in Regency or Victorian romances. At least in the ones I've been reading recently.

I try not to read other reviews of books before I write my own because I'm afraid they'll color my opinion. But in this case, I broke my cardinal rule. I have to say that I'm apparently in the minority here. I *loved* this book. I completely understood the motivations of the heroine (Claire)--which were sore points for many reviewers. Yes, she goes on spending sprees. Yes, she acts inappropriately. Yes, she ends up endangering herself.  She's acting out in increasingly dangerous ways as the novel progresses. But what motivates her isn't so much resistance against the betrothal or the choice of groom. I suspect it would be easier for her if she were indifferent to Edward. But having watched her mother slowly die inside from having her love rejected, Claire is determined that she can't follow through with the betrothal and is doing anything she can to get him to jilt her.

I really did like the hero, Edward Byron. Although he started as a bit of a placeholder character, he is very gradually fleshed out. His character becomes more detailed as his reserve is peeled away. He is a very solid character--not flashy, but dependable. A perfect anchor for someone like Claire.  The secondary characters were also good: compelling without overwhelming the main story.

I did have a few problems with the novel, despite my enjoyment. The primary problem was that Claire's father would never have allowed her to be a spinster. Not given his parsimonious ways. So while she's trying to get Edward to release her from the betrothal, she has no back up plan. Which seems..well...dumb. My other problem is that Claire sometimes seems too naive and young. Sure, she's only 21, but there are times in the narrative that she acts more like 16.

Overall, though, this was a nice, sweet historical that I finished quickly. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment and will definitely be looking up the other backlist Byron titles.

My Grade: B

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