Saturday, March 26, 2011

'What I Did For A Duke' by Julie Anne Long -Review-

Read an excerpt: here
It requires a lot of talent to take a beloved and classic literary trope such as the ‘revenge turned romance’ plot and make it into something a reader hasn't read before. “What I Did For A Duke was as surprisingly fresh and vibrant as it was clever and passionate. Right from the beginning you see the plot going one way, when suddenly, Julie Anne Long takes it to Mars and back. The story quickly enthralls and readers will become emotionally invested in the outcome with each turn of the page.

The book starts off with the scandalous and dicey liaison between Ian Eversea, one of the notorious Eversea brothers of Pennyroyal Green, and the formidable Duke of Falconbridge’s betrothed, Lady Abigail.  The Duke of Falconbridge, Alexander Moncrieffe, is painted throughout society as being a cold and dangerous man one wouldn’t want to trifle with. He is known to be relentless in his bids for vengeance against those who dare cross him; so when a bare-arsed Ian looks up from his spot in a bare-arsed Abigail’s bed to see Alex pointing a pistol between his brow, Ian knows supreme suffering is sure to come.

Ian’s prediction comes true and manifests itself in the form of constant worry that his beloved sister, Genevieve, will be the unwitting target of the duke’s revenge as Alex infiltrates the Eversea’s weekend party and starts getting a little too close for comfort. (An eye for an eye? A ruin for a ruin?)

One would think that being the instrument in a spurned duke’s plot for revenge would set Lady Genevieve into a fit of vapors. Well, when one's heart has been broken by the boy one has been in love with since forever, one’s mind tends to be distracted from nefarious and paltry seductions. Genevieve has always held a candle for her best friend, Harry Osborne, and when Harry shares his plan to propose to their other best friend, Millicent, Genvieve’s world comes crashing down around her. She is always thought of as the ‘practical Eversea’; she’s pretty enough, but no match for her dazzling sister Olivia; she’s secretly adventurous to a fault, but not as devil-may-care as her infamous brothers.

Society has pretty much made up its mind about the ‘staid and plain’ Genevieve Eversea (just as they have with the Duke) but Alexander would like to beg to differ. The fire he sees in her eyes on the rare occasions that he bring her out of her depression over Harry fascinates him. She’s witty, way to clever by half, and Alex just can’t stop thinking about her. Their mutual attraction may complicate Alex’s plan for vengeance, but what will happen when Genevieve finds out? Will she balk? Or will she find a way to benefit from a little seduction herself? Passions will tangle with pursuit while two guarded, camouflaged souls receive an unmasking and discover a love everlasting.

Rating: 4 Red Roses 

My Favorite Part of the Book: (Aside from the glorious, ardent ending) Was the unexpectedness of it all. I was kept on my toes the majority of the time. I will point out this specific passage because once Alex knew he wanted to have Genevieve in his life always and would propose to her, you see inside his mind and I didn’t pick up on his intentions until I read this scene. And although the love was imminent, when JAL decide to have it culminate, it still took me by surprised. This passage was at the end of a chapter (can you say cliff-hanger?) :

Because he'd known the sort of loss that sent a man spiraling into nothingness as surely as if he'd been dropped out of the sky. He'd felt the wind of the abyss whistling behind him.
And so of course he was afraid.
Because he was staring down yet another loss.
But that didn't mean he was a coward. When he returned to his room he still didn't sleep. For he knew what he would do next, and soon.
And no man slept the night before that sort of thing.

The rhythm of the story and the character’s thoughts were in constant volley and it made for some entertaining reading. I read this part and instantly perked up (for the 100th time) from my position in my reading chair because I got a sense of the character’s plight and felt the heightened tension. That’s called Damn-Good Writing.

I realized while reading that these were very frank, straightforward, and authentic characters. At first, I admit to taking their honesty for cynicism, but the candor was a part of their genetic makeup; It’s what made them GREAT and TRUE characters to me.
After significant intimacies the characters don't instantly say "and then I knew I was in love". They naturally progressed to it after a rickety beginning. Yeah, they became closer afterwards like most couples in a romance novel would, and yeah, they shared personal information they never would with anyone else, but it wasn't: Orgasm= Love= Happily Ever After. And I appreciated that. The heroine wasn’t ready to face the feelings she started to develop for the hero after the sex and reflects:
What she wanted was for things to remain precisely as they had been. She wanted their plan to remain intact and unchanged. She wanted to make love to him at night and pursue Harry during the day.
I must remark on the writing. Not the writing ‘style’ per say, but the actual writing- the word and phrase choice. It was superb. I did feel lost at times with how it was all put together; it felt a bit like a yo-yo at first when remarks were made and moved on to to the next without enough explanation for a first-time reader such as myself. I feel I would have enjoyed this book even more and picked up on things earlier if I’d read the first or even one of the later Pennyroyal Green books.
And I think Janet (aka Robin) from Dear Author hit the nail on the head in her review of the book when she said: When I think about what happens in the book, the answer is both very much and very little.
She is so right. To me, this book had a more internally driven plot where most of the plot movement came from inside the characters head; deciding to embrace themselves as they are instead of how others see them and then taking the risk to embrace the one that saw the real person all along. But for a reader like myself, I am more receptive to plots that move externally. I love lots of action and outward drama, and while this book had these elements, they didn’t shine through as much as the character reflections did and that translated awkwardly for me after a while. It threw me out of my preferred reading comfort zone a bit, but it was expertly crafted to make the overall read one that was entertaining and gratifying. I’ll definitely be reading the first Pennyroyal Green books and will be on the lookout for JAL’s future releases.

Mark my words: Readers will fall hard for these charismatic and fascinating characters and adore the abundance of plot twists. A beautiful and emotional ending ties a nice big bow around this keen and ardent read. It’s a must read- plain and simple.

*Want more JAL? Why not try the first book in her Pennyroyal Green Series, 'The Perils of Pleasure'
excerpt: here

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