Never Desire a Duke (One Scandalous Season, #1) by Lily Dalton
September 24, 2013
Vane Barwick (Duke of Claxton) has been estranged from his wife Lady Sophia for over a year, but he holds out hope that they can reconcile and put the past behind them. Sophia does not trust Vane, more specifically she does not trust her heart with him for his rumored infidelity and the loss of their unborn child already crushed her heart once. The couple finds themselves snowed in the remote village where Vane grew up, and they have no choice but to spend time together and decide if they really do want to part ways or if they still might have a future together.
As I sit to review this book I am finding it riddled with details that annoy, pieces that don’t fit well, and elements I never really liked. Yet while I was reading this book I was totally enraptured by the author’s storytelling and I simply could not put it down. I suppose this is my way of saying that I would consider this book to be a guilty pleasure kind of read. One that I enjoyed and found charming, yet wouldn’t necessarily recommend, re-read, or grade highly.
What I really liked is that the author took her time building and developing the trust between the couple and the romance. They were both in love with each other, they both want each other, but they hold back and slowly build something richer, more meaningful. It was easy to see why the mistrust and miscommunication built and how a wedge had come between them.
I also enjoyed the adventures the couple embarked upon when a note from Vane’s deceased mother is found. These little treasure hunts and quests were a nice way to bring the couple together but also give the story somewhere to go.
Now for some of the bits that did not work. First and foremost – Sophia strikes me as a spoiled girl playing at being a woman. She repeatedly makes bad choices, likes to run away whenever anything gets rough or she has to face something unpleasant, and she seems to feel that things can, should, and will just go her way.
Of course she overreacted, and in a most irrational and childish manner, but in this moment she did not care.
There is a scene towards the beginning where she is explaining to Vane that they’ll legally separate and she’ll have his baby – but it will be all hers. She thinks she has all the power. Well, nice as that idea might sound in theory I’m pretty sure he (the freaking duke and her husband) has the power. If he really wanted to, pretty sure he could just demand marital rights, and then banish her off to some country estate or something. Not that Vane’s mind goes there. Instead he goes along for a bit with her insane idea for how they can go their own ways.
While she was sweet most of the time, and a character that could be enjoyable, there were definitely moments when I wished she could be smacked. There were things that she did that felt like she was testing Vane, seeing if he would chase her, woo her, follow her like a trained dog. It reminded me of games that teenage girls like to play with boys, not at all like how a woman would communicate with her husband.
Communication, of course, is a big one. When the dust settles what we had here was a couple who had trust and communication issues. There was nothing to forgive. Nothing to be battling over or running away from. For me this took away from the story’s power especially at the end as the characters continued to run in circles around each other instead of just speaking openly.
I mention all of this because I know it will not bother many readers, but it will be a deal breaker for other readers. None of it really bothered me while reading (except Sophia’s antics) but rather are things that came up as I sit and reflect on the book.
Vane, our duke and hero, really came across like a caged beast. I wanted him to unlock the gate and really let loose! I wanted to see him just a little more wild, a bit more raw, and even more direct than he was. I felt like he always had himself on a leash and that was a disappointment. Of course even on a leash – he was a great character that I really enjoyed.
Like the scene where he’s trying to demonstrate to his wife how silly her plan is.
“Your Grace, I would request your company in my bed tonight for the purpose of attempting to conceive my required heir.”
Sophia, naturally, is irritated and fusses at him…
“I apologize.” He stood, his dramatic air falling away. “I don’t have a secretary presently in residence, or I’d submit my proposal for your approval in writing-“ His voice rose to a thunderous volume. “And have it delivered by official courier under the duchy’s wax seal.”
Oh, and later there is a scene where he’s telling Sophia that there is no kissing (her rule), but that he might lick, bite, or suck…
“Correct me if I’m wrong-“ he said quietly. He moved closer, backing her against the wall. His hands smoothed up her arms, feeling warm and strong and oh, so competent. “But I do not recall there being any limitations made on… sucking?”
Yes our friend Vane has quite a history with the ladies, but he’s also totally smitten with his wife and has been since first seeing her. I loved that he never doubted his desire for her and that he always wanted Sophia and only her, and that while apart his fantasies were of her.
One last note – the cover looks a bit holiday/Christmas, and while it is in the snow and there is a brief mention of mistletoe and decorating in general, this story doesn’t really have a strong holiday feel nor did it seem like the tale had to happen the week before Christmas.
If you’re looking for a historical romance that features a second chance for a married but estranged couple, if you want characters with some darkness in their past set in an otherwise fairly light novel then I’d recommend you check this book out.