Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn ***

I didn't like it.

I'm bummed. Julia Quinn is one of my favorite authors, although admittedly I haven't loved everything she's written. But this time I just didn't like it. However - I can't bring myself to actually rate it less than 3 stars because... I'm not sure why not. I didn't hate it.

The hero is Captain Jack Audley. We meet him when he stops a carriage to rob the occupants - dowager Duchess of Wyndham and her companion Grace. The dowager immediately recognizes Jack as the very likeness of her son, dead 29 years. He robs her of a ring which is the twin of one he wears, which proves to him he's related as well. And he admits to Grace his name was once Cavendish, the family surname.

Grace has been the dowager's paid companion since her parents died 5 years ago, leaving her not much but a good upbringing. Her choices were minimal at the time - marry her awful cousin who inherited the property, or...? Even though the dowager is pretty much dreadful from the word go, Grace is grateful because... ok, not sure why, because frankly I'm not sure the cousin option could have been much worse. At least she doesn't have to sleep with the duchess, right?

Somehow I think we're supposed to feel the immediate spark betwixt Jack and Grace during the robbery. The dowager shoves Grace at Jack to hold at gunpoint while she retrieves her reticule from the carriage, and... And... I think that is when we are all supposed to realize they are soul mates.

The next day, Jack finds himself sorta looking around the ducal holdings from afar, just out of curiosity, and there's Grace, several football fields away - but of course, being soul mates, their eyes are drawn to one another and... And... Next thing you know, the dowager has kidnapped Jack. See, she's decided he's definitely the offspring of her dead son which makes him legally the Duke - a title currently being held by Thomas, her other grandson.

Thomas is a likable enough fellow - in fact, he's the hero of the sequel. He's the usual Quinn duke - he fulfills his responsibilities, he knows all the tenants and all that, he's got this fiancée to whom he's been betrothed literally since birth but hasn't set the wedding date, he's got a mistress somewhere, he's almost like a brother to Grace. The fiancée is Amelia, younger sister to Grace's best friend Elizabeth. Amelia is the heroine of the sequel, so we know she's going to get her HEA.

So we now have this obstacle - is Jack the legitimate son of John Cavendish, the dowager's favorite son? And if so, can he marry Grace since she's not of the nobility? They must all journey to Ireland to find the marriage records (nobody ever mentions then finding his birth record to prove he was born of them, by the way...).

Jack spends some time thinking and dreaming about his past to reveal his backstory. His father went to Ireland, married an Irish girl, they had Jack then drowned on their way to England, leaving infant Jack behind with her sister. Jack was raised with his cousins in a happy household, denied nothing, everything was fine. It's not like he ever knew his parents, and he gets a great family to boot. But he has a secret (ok, he's dyslexic - really it wasn't that big a deal and meant zero to me when revealed) that made it impossible for him to get a good education. Instead he joined the military, and I guess he fought in the Napoleonic wars alongside his cousin, who died in battle. Yeah, yeah, guess what, he feels completely and thoroughly responsible for killing his cousin the same as if he'd done the deed hisself.

This part really had me scratching my head. First he thinks he killed his cousin, so he doesn't want to go to Ireland to face his aunt and uncle. That leads me to believe he has not yet faced them since the death. Nope, he took the body home and they buried him in Ireland and had a funeral and everything - so how does he decide he can't face them when he already HAS faced them?? In fact, I guess we're supposed to realize this is why he became a highwayman, out of his great guilt. No - wait - maybe he became a highwayman to be Robin Hood, because it's also revealed that he gives all the takings to disabled soldiers or families left fatherless by dead soldiers.

Oh yeah, don't forget about Grace - well, I think we're supposed to realize how much Grace and Jack are meant to be together while the story unfolds. I missed that part. And I think it might have been the writing.

Short sentences. Lots of them. Lots of short sentences and short paragraphs, repeating the same things. Over and over.

Three word sentences in 2 line paragraphs which say what the sentence before said, repeated. Over. And. Over.

And over. (With lots of parenthetical asides.)

Like it was written by an ADD mind. Wait - maybe that's it - Jack was ADD with dyslexia.

I didn't hate it - I didn't feel the need to toss it in the air - there weren't a lot of typos and grammar errors (ok, there was one place I was positive she meant to say Jack but wrote Grace, and then there was that sentence that had Grace waiting for the awaited something-or-other that nearly had me banging the book against the wall...).

I don't think I can read it again. It's on the Wish List at PBS so I guess I'll post it and share it with someone else. Look, I did my part - I paid (almost) full price for it, which is something I haven't done for a hard copy of a book in a long time. (I did buy it at Walmart, so that sullies the issue slightly.)

I'm thinking maybe 2.75 stars which I'll put as 3.

No comments: