Monday, August 16, 2010

The Duke's Double - Anita Mills

Joanna Sherwood had been hopelessly in love with Adrian Delacourt before he accused her of unfaithfulness and divorced her. Adrian's best friend saved Joanna by marrying her, but when she returned a widow, she learned that her name was still tarnished--and that she still loved Adrian.

This book has been in my TBR pile for a long time. I first put it there because it was a second chance at love story and I like those. However, when I discovered that in this regency set story the h/h get a divorce, then she marries his best friend and after he dies they get back together again I started thinking this might be a bit too much like a soap opera.

I'm afraid that in the end I found just so. The basic plot was that Adrian's mother, the dowager Duchess, had never accepted his marriage to Joanna and so had managed to convince her son that his wife was unfaithful. This sounded a bit odd to my ears because at the time I would have thought anything was preferable then having your family go through a divorce but Adrian's mother seems quite happy with the result. Joanna refused to defend herself - wounded pride and all that - and eventually, when she found herself pregnant, accepted the marriage proposal of the friend who had been cited for adultery with her in the divorce proceedings. They left England for Capri where they have lived happily but now that he is dead Joanna and her two sons return to England. Since her late husband's estate neighbours Adrian's lands they immediately meet even if till then Adrian had not set foot there since his divorce.

I had trouble believing that faced with the initial charges of adultery Joanna had preferred to keep silent instead of denying them. Hurt pride is one thing but this is too serious, in my opinion, to just accept passively. Then, while Adrian was totally influenced by his mother when she discredited Joanna he is now completely free of that influence. I had trouble believing that the Adrian we met in the book would ever be so dependent of his mother and that if he was like that, that he had managed to get totally free of her influence as we now see. I know he has a wakeup call when he sees he has a son (not really a spoiler has this comes up early in the story) but it seemed a change too abrupt to be true. Besides it annoyed me to no end that despite all that he did to Joanna she kept calling him Dree, the affectionate name she had for him while they were growing up and married.

So, my worries about the plot were founded, I couldn't understand the characters and their decisions. And I didn't even mention that Joanna accepts another proposal of marriage after having met the gentleman in question just 2 or 3 times. I kept wondering if another writer would have made me believe in this story, it is an original premise after all, but written like this it just didn't work for me.

Grade: 3/5

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